Gators blow by defending champs


The Mirror

Last season, the Thomas Jefferson Raiders stood atop the podium at the King County Aquatic Center after being crowned the Class 4A state boys swimming championship.

Two years ago, it was the Decatur Gators who celebrated a state title.

The powerhouses met in both teams’ South Puget Sound League South Division openers Tuesday at the Aquatic Center and this time around, it was all Decatur.

“It was on the minds' of the kids. They know they were the state champs last year,” said first-year Decatur coach Rick Dennison. “(Jefferson) did lose a couple kids from last year, but they are still the state champs. It was nice to come out and get a win.”

The Gators cruised past the young and inexperienced Raiders Tuesday, 118-68. Jefferson, who rolled to last year’s state title after finishing 3-4 in the SPSL South, graduated a bulk of their top swimmers. Tuesday the Raiders won only two events — both by junior David Bai.

Bai was the star for TJ, winning the 200 free in a state-qualifying time of 1:45.73 and the 100 free, also in a state-qualifying time (48.99). The 200 free proved to be the race of the day. Bai and Decatur’s Seamus Alger bolted away from the rest of the field, finishing close to 30 seconds ahead of third place. Alger’s time of 1:47.32 was also an automatic state-qualifying time. The Decatur junior also swam a state time in winning the 100 backstroke (55.06). In total, the Gators posted eight state-qualifying times, including a pair each by University of Wisconsin-bound senior Eric Taylor in the 100 butterfly (55.81) and 100 breaststroke (1:02.02) and junior Erich Matulic in the 200 individual medley (1:58.91) and the 500 free (4:46.84).

The Gators also qualified in a pair relays. Decatur won the 200 medley relay in 1:43.59 and the 400 free relay in 3:23.41.

Other Gators winners were John Neal in the 50 free in a time of 24.96 and the 200 free relay team of Neal, Kwon, Tommy Cunningham and Stephen Sullivan, who won in 1:40.59.

“These kids expect to do really well,” Dennison said. “They are working hard. We have a lot of good swimmers.”

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