The first meet of the year is in the books for Gig Harbor High's boys swimming and diving team, and it was a terrific start in many ways for the Tides.
In Tuesday's 113-72 victory over Rogers (Puyallup), the Tides got individual qualifying times for February's state meet from Evan Indahl and Erik Nielsen, and the pair also teamed with Jackson Curtis and Daniel Arroyo to post an automatic state standard in the 400 freestyle relay.
Indahl, who's shooting for state titles in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle, got off to a flying start against Rogers, and has already wrapped up state berths in both events.
But it was the day's final event — the 400 free relay — that really hit a high note for the Tides. Arroyo's improvement over the past year has been evident, Indahl and coach Mike Kelly said.
"Erik and Jackson and I swim year-round, but Daniel doesn’t, and he’s our key piece that we really need to stand out," Indahl said.
"Daniel’s a big, strong kid," Kelly said, "and if you look at where he was this time last year, he’s a good four or five seconds ahead. He works really hard, tapers really well (in training), and so it wouldn’t surprise me for him to get close to (an individual) state standard as we get closer to the district meet.”
Seeing the Tides record strong results in their first meet was a morale boost for the program, Kelly indicated.
“Rogers had a real good team," the coach said. "They came out and swam us well, and the season has started. We’re excited. It’s been hard.
"We got an extra week of training in this year due to the calendar year, and so just doing laps back and forth and not having any competition until today, you didn’t really know what the team was capable of. But now you can start seeing an outline of what you’ve got and what you can develop, and make some good swims.”
Here's the story on the Gig Harbor swim and dive team that will appear in the Gateway's Dec. 12 print issue:
It wasn’t a big surprise for Gig Harbor’s two star swimmers to end their first competition of the season with some state-qualifying times.
It was a jolt, however, when the Tides’ 400-yard freestyle relay team accomplished the feat, an exclamation point to a 113-75 victory over the Rogers (Puyallup) Rams on Tuesday at the Gig Harbor High pool.
Tides senior Evan Indahl started the season where he left off last winter, qualifying for February’s Class 4A state championships in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle. He won state medals in both events last year.
Indahl’s winning time of 1 minute, 59.02 seconds in the 200 IM easily broke the state standard of 2:04.50. In the 500 free, his first-place mark of 4:49.71 was more than 12 seconds faster than the qualifying time.
Despite his individual display of dominance, though, his favorite part of the meet was the relay team’s performance.
After Erik Nielsen swam a lead leg of 50.01 seconds — good for a state berth in the 100 freestyle — Daniel Arroyo and Jackson Curtis followed with strong swims and set up Indahl for the anchor leg. Indahl hit the finish line at 3:26.04, putting the Tides under the state standard by 0.46 seconds.
“We really came together,” Indahl said, “and just the fact that we whipped out this state time that took us two months to get last year, it just really shows that we’re going down the right path.”
“It takes a lot of stress off of us at the end of the year in terms of worrying about making that time,” Tides coach Mike Kelly added.
Nielsen, who set a preseason goal of winning the state title in the 100 free, just missed an automatic qualifying mark against Rogers with a winning time of 50.15 seconds.
But swimmers can meet postseason standards for individual events with their relay splits, and Nielsen got the mark he needed.
“I was originally supposed to lead off (the relay), but I knew that he would have a better leg and he could benefit from it,” Indahl said. “He was put under pressure, and he definitely came out strong.”
Kelly projects Nielsen will cut another three to four seconds in the event by season’s end, and that should put him in position to compete for the state crown.
“Typical sprinting event — things are make or break by hundredths of a second,” the coach said. “I’ve been working him really hard, so to have him throw down a fast time like that is really a good indication of where he’s going to be at the end of the year.”
Arroyo, a senior, also deserves credit for the Tides’ relay success.
“He’s really shown a lot of dedication,” Indahl said. “He decided to insert himself in the (water) polo program over the summer to keep himself conditioned, and it’s definitely paid off.”
Gig Harbor won eight of 12 events against Rogers. Kelly saw positive signs throughout his lineup, and singled out Griffin Doane, the team’s most promising freshman.
Doane was disqualified in the 200 IM after he made an illegal transition between strokes, but put together a solid time in the 100 breaststroke. The Tides could use him in the latter event after losing state qualifier Matthew Collins to graduation.
“He’s got a big learning curve ahead of him, but it’s a great place to throw down for your first swims,” Kelly said of Doane.