Erik Nielsen takes concentration to a whole new level.
When he swims the 50-yard freestyle, the Gig Harbor junior literally doesn’t breathe until his race is over and he has seen the clock.
On Saturday, he recorded the fastest Class 4A time – 21.88 seconds – in the state this season at the West Central District Championships at the Curtis Aquatic Center.
“Overall, it felt strong and I felt good,” he said. “I was excited about the time.”
Nielsen said that because he doesn’t take a breath during the race, it’s difficult to gauge how close his competition is. Instead, he focuses on his own speed.
“The 50 is a hard race because everything has to be perfect,” he said. “If you mess up one thing, you can lose the whole race.”
Nielsen’s performance – he also finished second in the 100 freestyle – helped Gig Harbor win the district title with 294 points. Kentridge finished second, with 272.5, and Curtis’ 267 was good for third.
Tides coach Mike Kelly said that he was happy with his team’s overall performance. The top six in each event advance to the state meet in two weeks.
“We really had scoring going in every event, and that’s what it takes to be champion at the end of the meet,” he said. “Some events were stronger than others (but) a lot of our success was from the prelims (Friday) and how we set ourselves up.”
“These meets aren’t all about people who get first – it comes down to the fifth and sixths,” he said. “In sixth place, you get one point, and you can win by one point.”
Curtis junior Brian Woodbury broke the pool record in the 100 backstroke in 51.35. He set the previous record last season.
“It feels good,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what I can do at state.”
Woodbury noted that he broke the school record just minutes after swimming on Curtis’ 200-freestyle relay. He also won the 100 butterfly in 55.11.
“I swam three races in 20 minutes,” he said. “But it’s good motivation to go fast.”
Stadium won the 400-freestyle relay (3:16.06 seconds), while Kentridge took the 200-medley (1:42.82) and 200-freestyle (1:31.72) relays.
Kentridge junior Chase Bublitz said that the latter win was especially sweet given that they beat Gig Harbor by eight-tenths of a second.
“That was really exciting,” he said. “We came into this like, ‘This is going to be a great race’. Gig Harbor has a great team this year. I knew it was going to be close, so I wanted to bring my A-game.”
Bublitz, who won the 200 freestyle in 1:43.01 and the 100 freestyle in 47.33, called his individual performances “pretty good swims after a long week of training.”
Other individual winners were Gig Harbor senior Evan Indahl in the 200 individual medley (1:56.96) and 500 freestyle (4:48.07) and Stadium freshman Josh McClurg in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.71).
Auburn Riverside senior Ben Blanchard won the diving competition, with a score of 300.6.