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Decatur swimmers take first step in state title chase
By CASEY OLSON
Two titles down and one to go for the Decatur High School swim team.
The Gators took another step torward their goal of winning a second state team championship in the last three years Saturday by capturing the Class 4A West Central District title at Rogers High School. The district title comes on the heels of Decaturs South Puget Sound League South Division championship.
Somewhat surprisingly, however, the district championship wasnt fully secured until after the last race Saturday night. The Gators clinched the team title by winning the 400-yard freestyle relay in their best time of the year (3:19.68). Decatur racked up 189 points to beat out second-place Kentridge (173 points) and Rogers (172). Kentridge was the regular season champions of the SPSL North Division and didn't qualify for the 400 free relay final heat, finishing eighth in the consolation race.
Decatur and Inglemoor are expected to be the primary contenders for the state championship Feb. 18-19 inside the King County Aquatic Center. Inglemoor finished second last year behind state champion Thomas Jefferson and Decatur was third. Both Inglemoor and Decatur return every point they scored at the 2004 state meet.
The Gators Big Three was again the difference at the district meet. Seniors Eric Johnson and Erich Matulic and junior Seamus Alger all won individual race finals Saturday and were also part of winning relay teams.
Johnson, who was slowed by the flu, rolled to the 100 breaststroke championship in a time of 1:00.29, outdistancing Curtis Paul Hughes (1:02.84). It was Johnsons second 100 breaststroke win in a row at the district meet.
Last year, he finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Class 4A state meet after winning the district title.
Matulic, who also wasnt 100 percent because of a sickness, won the 200 individual medley and also swam legs on two winning relay teams for the Gators. Matulic beat Kentwoods Kyle Corcoran by five seconds in the 200 medley with a 1:56.86.
But Alger might have had the best overall meet. The junior was a major part of two of the best races during the district meet. Algers individual win came from a second-seeded position in the 200-free final. Alger touched out Jeffersons top-seeded David Bai, 1:44.26-1:44.64. Both times were more than three seconds off their preliminary round times.
Alger also nearly got another win in the 500-free final. After trailing Rogers junior Jeremy Gregory most of the race, Alger and Gregory were virtually tied entering the final 50 yards. But Gregory passed him with about 15 yards left to win 4:40.35 to 4:40.56.
Alger also led off the 200 medley relay that won in 1:42.42, then swam the second leg on the 400 free relay that clinched the team championship. Matulic was also part of both relay wins and Johnson swam the second leg of the 200 medley relay.
Jeffersons Bai also had a solid meet. The junior also finished second in the 100 free final behind Kentridges Greg Hulse. Bai will swim both the 100 and 200 freestyles at state.
Decatur sophomore Stephen Sullivan finished third in the 200 individual medley (2:03.20), fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.45) and swam the third leg in the 400 free relay.
Berths into the Class 4A state meet, which will be held Feb. 18-19 at the King County Aquatic Center, are still up in the air. Any swimmer or diver who has swam an automatic state-qualifying time will compete, which several Federal Way district swimmers have already done.
Also, the top-five times in each event combined from the SPSLs West Central District Meet, as well as the Narrows Leagues district meet will advance to state.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com