Hong wins state title


Associate editor

Decatur senior Sandy Hong isnŽ’t usually the fastest swimmer in the first 100 yards of a race. SheŽ’s not even the fastest for 200 or 300 yards.

Ž“When I swim, I usually donŽ’t go out well in the beginning,Ž” Hong said.

But give her enough water to swim through and Hong will eventually work her way past her competitors and into first place.

ThatŽ’s exactly what she did Friday on her way to a state championship in the 500-yard freestyle race at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. She swam the event in 5:00.24.

Ž“Other people usually go out faster,Ž” Hong said. Ž“I was feeling good being able to keep up with them. I try to keep an even pace, then toward the middle of the race people start to die off.Ž”

Hong finished second at last yearŽ’s state meet in the event to a swimmer who was a senior. That meant Hong was a likely candidate to be a state champion this season. But Hong knew she would be the new target other swimmers would be aiming for this year.

Ž“I didnŽ’t really think about (trying to win state this year) last year,Ž” Hong said. Ž“I knew there was always going to be a shot this year. But I knew it was going to be close. Before state even started, I was really nervous for it. In the finals, I knew there wasnŽ’t going to be as huge of a gap as there was in the prelims.Ž”

In the preliminary race at state, Hong cut almost three seconds off her seeding time. ThatŽ’s not unusual, as swimmers usually taper their training schedule to be rested for the state meet.

But her closest competitor in the prelims, Gig HarborŽ’s Madeline Klobuchar, cut seven seconds off her seed time. That meant the finals likely would be even closer.

In the finals, it was Alexis Buckley of Walla Walla who was HongŽ’s closest competition.

Ž“I saw the girl I was racing, Alexis, and the whole race she was right next to me,Ž” Hong said. Ž“The last 50 I was pushing pretty hard.Ž”

Hong cut two seconds off her prelim time and five seconds off her seeding time to finish nine- tenths of a second faster than the second-place Buckley.

Ž“It felt pretty good,Ž” Hong said.

Hong also took fourth in the 200 freestyle, swimming in 1:54.42.

Hong plans to race in the U.S. Open swimming championships in Minneapolis this summer.

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