In the blink of an eye, a Thomas Jefferson swimmer experiences the triumph of postseason qualification.
At the All-City boys swim meet on Dec. 20, four high schools of Federal Way battled for the city honors. Thomas Jefferson took the win earning 134 points, while meet host Todd Beamer narrowly took second with 86 points, as Decatur finished with 85 points. Federal Way finished with 57 points.
During the 50 freestyle, junior Aaron Nguyen became the first swimmer from Thomas Jefferson High School to earn his ticket to state.
Upon learning he made a state-qualifying time, the cheers of excitement from TJHS swim captain Nguyen echoed throughout Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.
A state cut time for the 50 freestyle is 22.25. Nguyen swam a 22.14, which is also a mere 0.10 off from the Thomas Jefferson school record.
“I’ve been going at it for the past couple meets and I’ve been hundredths off,” Nguyen said. “So to finally get it, it’s kind of a relief to have it now so I don’t have to worry about it.”
This swim season isn’t going as well as Nguyen had hoped, he said, but he strives to make the state cut times in all his events, including the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
“For 100 butterfly I’m .03 away and 100 backstroke, I’m at least a second away,” he said.
Last February, Nguyen broke his own school record in the 100 butterfly at the state meet with a time of 52.70 seconds. He also helped lead TJ’s 200 medley relay team to a new school record of 1:40.26.
TJ boys swim head coach Tori Head knows timing is everything in this sport.
“It’s important for swimmers to earn their state qualifying times early in the season to have ample amount of time to do workouts revolving around technique,” she said. “I want my swimmers to feel prepared for their postseason races.”
This is Head’s first year as head coach for the boys at Thomas Jefferson, but third overall as a boys swim coach, and she is also the head coach for TJ’s girls swim team. Head is entering her second year coaching the Twin Lakes Penguins Summer League Team with the Greater Seattle Summer Swim League, and is a swim coach for the pre-senior 1 and masters for King Aquatic Club.
“When one of your swimmers achieves a goal, gets a qualifying time, or learns to swim a stroke properly, you can’t help but to be excited for them,” she said. “They are becoming a better athlete in the water and you get to be a big part of that.”
Thomas Jefferson’s boys swim team leads the North Puget Sound League with a clean 4-0 record, 4-1 overall. Although swim team numbers are a struggle for all four Federal Way high schools this season, experience fills in the gap.
“We have a lot of club swimmers, a lot of guys who have swam before,” Head said. “Their dynamic is pretty good this year, which is cool.”
Aside from the talent among the team, the “goofy” personalities of the Raiders squad also makes for an enjoyable season, Head said.
“Straight up, they’re the goofiest team I’ve ever coached but they’re so fun,” she said.
Be sure to keep an eye on these athletes making ripples and records in the pool:
Junior Brandon Truong has already set qualifying district times in the 200 free (1:57.74) and 100 fly (58.87).
Marcus Ku has currently one league qualifying time for his 100 yard backstroke, but he is only two seconds away from a district cut time, said TBHS head swim coach Jen Larsen.
Michael Sinn is also a league qualifier in the 100 yard butterfly, and the Titans are also pushing to get their two 200-yard relays to districts as well, Larsen said.
Thomas Jefferson faces Auburn Mountainview at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Auburn Pool (516 4th St. NE, Auburn).
The next time all four Federal Way high schools battle again will be at the NPSL meet held Jan. 25 at the Auburn Pool.