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State champion Gators look like team to beat --- again
By CASEY OLSON
There are very high expectations for the Decatur High School boys swimming and diving program. But thats what happens when you win two of the last three Class 4A state championships.
The Gators return a strong nucleus from a team that won the 2004-05 Class 4A state title in the most exciting fashion possible. With one race remaining, Decatur, Inglemoor and Stadium were locked in a winner-take-all race in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The three perennial swimming powers were within one point of each other for the meet lead and the state championship Stadium and Inglemoor were tied with 151 points and Decatur had 150. They were also side by side on the starting blocks as the top-three qualifiers in the race. The Gators wound up winning the race and the state title by just eight-hundreths of a second.
The 2005-06 edition of the Gators might be a little deeper than last year, according to second-year coach Rick Dennison. We are a younger team with versatile talent. We will see how far that gets us.
Decatur brings back senior Seamus Alger and junior Stephen Sullivan. The pair were both a part of the winning 400 relay team, as well as the Gators state championship 200 medley relay team. Alger returns as one of the top all-around swimmers in Washington and posted a state-qualifying time in every individual event last season. Sullivan returns as one of the best breaststrokers in the state. Also back are sophomores Tommy Cunningham, Chris Ngy, Robert Sobus and divers Grayson Sabin and Travis Disbrow. Newcomers RJ OFarrell, Keith Arns and Brian Trantina will also add depth.
This team needs to work harder than the team last year, Dennison said. We want to get more finishers in the three- and four-spot. We have a lot of firsts covered. The two, three and four finishers are the ones that win the meet.
But Decatur did lose plenty of talent from the state championship team. Erich Matulic is currently swimming at the University of Florida and Eric Johnson is at Wisconsin. Johnson won the Gators only individual state title a year ago in the 100-yard breaststroke and both were huge parts of Decaturs two relay wins.
We will have a good season, Dennison said. We have a quality team with several year-round swimmers and a couple that can be state champions in their events. We are excited about the possibilities.
The Gators had a huge meet yesterday against Curtis (after press time). The winner should be the favorite to win the SPSL South title.
The Raiders fell to 1-6 in the SPSL South last season after winning the Class 4A state championship during the 2003-04 season. But Jefferson should be an improved dual-meet team this season thanks to the all-around ability of senior David Bai.
As a junior, Bai finished up in third place in the 100-yard freestyle at the 4A state championships in an impressive time of 46.94 and was fourth in the 200 free in 1:42.54. Bai was also a big contributor during the Raiders championship season.
Other big point scorers for TJ should be senior Paul Tomko and sophomore Jay Barfield.
The Todd Beamer boys swimming and diving program is still looking for its first SPSL South victory. The Titans have finished 0-7 during both of their seasons in the South.
Helping the Beamer program this year will be the return of Jon Hiett to the team. The senior sat out last season to concentrate on club swimming after rolling to the Class 4A state championships as a sophomore. Hiett should be one of the top swimmers in the league this year and won two individual events and was a part of two winning relay teams in the Titans opener Tuesday.
Beamer should also get some points from sophomores John Wanot (backstroke), Kyle Cassinerio (back, free) and Kyle Christensen (all around), as well as freshman newcomer Aron Bower.
The Eagles return several swimmers from a team that finished last year with a solid 4-3 record in the SPSL South Division under Carla Boone. Leading the list of returners should be senior Shelby Stokes (all around), junior Eric Ball (all around) and sophomore Cameron Moak.
Also helping out will be seniors Bret Stol, Andrew Woods, Duncan Cawker, junior Andy Racus and sophomores Justin Willis and Chris Olson. Newcomers Stephan Russell, Pasha Holcomb and Jason Wert should also provide some points for Federal Way.
The Eagles were dropped in their SPSL South opener by Puyallup last week and had only two first-place swims in the 200 medley relay and Moak in the 200 free. Federal Way also got a victory from Brett Scarpello in diving.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com