Bellevue heavy favorite to win Class 3A swim title
The Wolverines have depth and enough talent to capture first boys swim championships since 1999.
Special to The Seattle Times
State boys swimming
Where: King County Aquatic Center
When: Friday (prelims) — 3A at 9:45 a.m.; 4A at 2:30 p.m.; 2A at 6:15 p.m. Saturday (finals) — 3A at 10 a.m.; 4A at 2:30 p.m.; 2A at 6:30 p.m.
Quite simply, can anyone stand up to the juggernaut that is Bellevue this week?
3A / Three to watch
Abrahm Devine, Sr., Lakeside, 200 IM and 100 butterfly: He will forego the 500 free, where he is two-time defending champ, to add fly.
Tommy Thach, Sr., Kennedy Catholic, 200 freestyle and 100 back: Three-time state champ as freshman and sophomore, back with top seed times as a senior.
Dean Nguyen, Jr., Franklin, 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke: One of two double winners at Sea-King district meet, brings top seed times to state in both events.
Does Newport have enough to repeat, or can Issaquah or Kamiak make a run?
4A / Three to watch
Shelby Lee, Sr., Kamiak, 200 free and 100 back: Brings top seed time from districts to state in 200 free and second in 100 back.
Andrew Pana, Sr., Newport, 200 IM and 100 free: Top seeded qualifier in 200 IM and fifth in 100 free.
Mitchell Crossen, Sr., Rogers (Puyallup), 50 and 100 freestyles: WCD champ in both events and top-seeded qualifier in 100 free.
Which of three teams separated by the narrowest of margins will prevail — Sehome, Archbishop Murphy, or Anacortes?
2A / Three to watch
Stephen Boden, Sr., Archbishop Murphy, 500 free and 200 IM: Goes for third consecutive 500 freestyle title.
Eric Olsen, So., Anacortes, 100 free and 100 breast: Top qualifier in the 2A free and third in breast.
Elliott Forde, Sr., Archbishop Murphy, Diving: District 1 winning score of 477.30 would crush meet record of 427.20.
Andy Hay got an inkling early on that he might be dealing with something slightly different this winter.
“I haven’t done anything differently,” the Bellevue boys swim coach said. “There’s no magic. All this success has come from the internal motivation of each of the boys.”
The Wolverines begin preliminary competition at the 3A state meet, along with the rest of the schools in the classification, at 9:45 a.m. Friday at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. Bellevue does so as a prohibitive favorite to win its first boys state swim title since 1999.
It is a moment the Wolverines have been building toward all season, and beyond. A win this weekend would cap a three-week postseason period in which Bellevue already has added three titles to the trophy case.
The Wolverines beat Mercer Island on Feb. 3 in the KingCo Dual Meet Championship. Four days later, the Islanders were the runner-up at the KingCo League meet. Bellevue finished in front of Mercer Island again on Valentine’s Day at the Sea-King District meet.
And if the state psych sheets hold this weekend, the Wolverines will again outscore their KingCo rivals, 378-228, at state.
“This is the year we feel we should get it,” junior Dan Prang said. “We have a lot of contributors.”
Prang will swim the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, as well as be a part of two of Bellevue’s three 3A-leading relay teams this weekend. A week ago, Prang found himself swimming in the consolation final of the 100 free at districts after his 49.73 seconds in the prelims didn’t make the Top 6 for the championship.
Prang, though, went out and won that consolation final in a 3A-state-qualifying time of 48.10, and thus enters state with the third-best seed time in the 24-man field.
“From the very start, these guys have been cross-training,” Hay said. “They were asking questions about good diet, sleep, good training exercises. I’ve never seen that from a high-school group. I knew these guys were special.”
The state title also would culminate the progression for Bellevue’s program since Hay took over four seasons ago. The Wolverines placed sixth at state in Hay’s first year, third two seasons ago and second to defending champ Mercer Island last February.
The only participant at state for Bellevue this season that has been a part of the entire run is senior Marco Stanchi. The man who has earned a scholarship to Stanford — to play water polo — will swim the 100 free and 100 backstroke at state, along with a pair of relays.
“We’ve just been getting stronger and stronger,” Stanchi said. “This is our most talented team. And the biggest thing is confidence. When we come together, we’re unstoppable. We’ve just ridden that momentum.”
Stanchi is one of four swimmers that won the state water polo title for Bellevue last November, beating Mercer Island in the semifinals and Curtis of Tacoma in the championship game.
The others will try to continue to keep Bellevue going forward — junior Zach Rossman and his brother, freshman A.J., along with sophomore Cameron Hayes.
“I hadn’t really thought about it,” Hay said of the high proportion of polo players to help the swim team success. “But it did cross over for talent. They had a whole season of training. There’s a base there.”
Along with talented swimmers, the combination has proven a juggernaut for Bellevue. A.J. Rossman is Bellevue’s top qualifier (fifth overall) in the 200 individual medley, one of three events in which the Wolverines have qualified four swimmers.
Another of those events is the 500 free, where freshmen Nathan Shao and Andrew Boden each are among the Top 12 qualifiers. In all, Bellevue has 24 individual swims for the 3A prelims, all three top-ranked relays, and diver Chase Jones competing.