Marine Hills vs. Twin Lakes — Swim rivalry is wet and kicking

Swimmers gather in and around the pool at Marine Hills last week during a meet against Twin Lakes. Marine Hills won the yearly summer meet, 366-350. - Jan Hallahan/Courtesy photo
Swimmers gather in and around the pool at Marine Hills last week during a meet against Twin Lakes. Marine Hills won the yearly summer meet, 366-350.
— image credit: Jan Hallahan/Courtesy photo


Special to The Mirror

Federal Way is unique in that it boasts two summer swim teams, both of which participate in the same league. This allows us to indulge in a monumental cross-town rivalry. Every summer the Twin Lakes Penguins splash it out with the Marine Hills Fish and Trees.

How did this competitiveness develop? No one I asked knows for sure. Except that Marine Hills was founded in 1963, according to my MH source Susan Dolland.

Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club golf course was completed in 1969. The Web site information is vague, so I assume that the pool was also completed that year. Families chose which pool to join, creating a generational issue of loyalty and tradition passed from parent to child. My husband swam for Twin Lakes back in the late 1970s, therefore, that is the pool we joined. Marine Hills was nice, but not an option.

Wow, prejudice even happens here in our little community of 85,000 people. Well, that might be a little harsh. Let’s just say deep, strong, territorial feelings abound on both sides.

The pool locations split the kids up. However, many attend the same schools, their parents are friends, and they might swim-year round together for King.

Is this a friendly rivalry, I queried? Absolutely, positively, yes, of course, and no doubt! Parents enjoy witnessing each other’s successes. For instance, there were three Marine Hills pool records broken Tuesday night. That proves how hard everyone was trying. MH graduating senior Tommy Cunningham broke the MH pool boys 18 & under 50-yard freestyle record. The new time of 22.47 bested the old record of 22.50 seconds. Twin Lake’s Scarlett Cann broke the MH pool girls 18 & under 100 freestyle record. Her time was 54.36 seconds, eclipsing the old 1988 record of 55.25 seconds. The MH Girls 18 & under 200 freestyle relay team also beat the old 2005 MH pool record of 1:46.08 with a time of 1:45.86.

It’s a well known fact amongst us summer swim team families that the only meet that matters at all is this one. A friend informed our assistant coach, Alyssa Johnson, that Marine Hills was advertising for a coach, and suggested she apply. After all, she was very qualified, having been a part of Twin Lakes Pool all her life. Mortified, she said with conviction.

“I’d feel like a traitor-like I’d turned my back on my second family. A summer without Twin Lakes is weird for me.”

Lucas Willers, our other assistant coach, shared his thoughts on the rivalry.

“The 15- to 18-year-old relay is competitive. You definitely think about how badly you want to beat Marine Hills.”

Head Coach John Neal tells the team at every practice to train hard to win THIS meet — oh, and also to qualify for prelims.

The hosting swim club alternates pools every year, and interestingly, there appears to be a home-pool advantage. The energy that rises like mist above a familiar pool might cause this phenomenon. Every outdoor league pool has its good points and bad. We feel the same love for our four lanes and compact poolside as Marine Hills does for its five lanes and roomy pool deck.

Denise Willers, our exceptional team manager, offered sincere advice in the weekly Penguin newsletter. “Please bring extra towels, dry clothes, and warm clothes to wrap up in between events. For those new to the team (or have blocked it out of your mind), Marine Hills is really cold and wet. Even on the hottest days. Once the sun goes down it can be miserable, so be prepared.”

I smiled reading that because it is true. However, to be fair in this article, I asked three MH parents working at the meet how they would describe our pool (I begged them to be honest recalling what Denise had written). Susan Dolland graciously said “Cozy and crowded. But we love the cabana (the Garden Room) when it rains”

Two Federal Way teams, with two totally different swimming pool experiences, sharing one common goal — score more points and win.

Tuesday night was rather mellow for the swim meet of the season. July is a month of madness with swim practice every morning and two evening meets a week. It is long nights and early mornings for the coaches and team members. Swimming at 7 a.m. takes serious motivation, and any attempts at sleeping on the deck chairs is thwarted by a cold water spray by Coach John (Coaches occasionally partake in a little shut eye,but they’ve each put in their penguin swimmer years. They’ve earned it).

The last regular swim meet of the summer means that for some, the season is over. All through the night, the announcer gave us an updated score. After event 37, the points were: MH 198, TL 173. A ripple of cheers went up, and long faces down. Determination bolstered the score to: MH 229, TL 223, after event 46. Before the big relays and big possible points, the score was MH 292, TL 276. Our coaches paced the pool deck screaming last minute reminders to the pumped up kids on the blocks. Tension was high. The win depended on the relay outcomes.

Both teams waited shivering in anticipation and yes, the cold and damp after the last event. To keep warm, we packed up our stuff, watched the announcer, and hoped for positive quick results. But it was not to be for our Penguins this year.

Marine Hills took the win. Final score, Marine Hills 366, Twin Lakes 350. They were so excited they all jumped into the pool. According to hearsay, this was their first win of the season. Remember previously mentioned words above? The ONLY meet that matters is TL vs. MH.

Regardless of the outcome, our swimmers have fun at Marine Hills and there is camaraderie because we live here in Federal Way together. During my research on this rivalry subject, I learned that past season records are not kept at the pool office. I asked 10 different knowledgeable people a very simple question.

What year did the Twin Lakes 11-year-long losing streak end with a glorious win over Marine Hills in our own pool? Not one person could give me that factual data. Debates started but ended in shrugs. All that they remember is that we won over Marine Hills, ending our losing streak.

So, in conclusion, no one is keeping the scoring stats, no one is interested in dates, just the simple memory that we won over Marine Hills, ending our 11-year losing streak.

That’s okay, Penguins, we’ll give them this one because they scored 16 more points. But remember, there’s always next year.

Go Penguins go.

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