UNIVERSITY PLACE — For all of their success during the past three seasons, including a couple Narrows League titles and two top-10 finishes at the state meet, the Gig Harbor High boys swimming and diving squad had something they’d yet to accomplish.
The Tides won their first Class 4A West Central District championship since 2010, capitalizing on superior depth in the 500-yard freestyle and individual titles from stars Evan Indahl and Erik Nielsen on Saturday at the Curtis High School Aquatic Center.
Gig Harbor scored 294 points to edge Kentridge (272.5), which got two titles from junior Chase Bublitz, and Curtis (267), which nearly got the title in its home pool behind two victories from junior Brian Woodbury.
Indahl and Nielsen have headlined the Tides’ efforts all season, and they did their part again during the two-day district meet. Indahl, a senior, won the 500 free and 200 individual medley titles, while Nielsen, a junior, captured first in the 50 free and second in the 100 free.
But Gig Harbor showed it has the depth to capture a district title and possibly compete for a state crown Feb. 15-16 in Federal Way.
In the 500 free, Gig Harbor will send three athletes to state. Indahl’s first-place time of 4 minutes, 48.07 seconds was well ahead of runner-up Grant Meyers of Mount Rainier.
Gig Harbor’s Kellen Furrer dropped 10 seconds from his preliminary heat to take third in 4:55.48, while teammate Jackson Curtis placed fifth (5:03.76). The top six athletes in each event received automatic allocations to the state championships.
“That was a big point-builder, and probably the strongest scoring for any event from any team,” Tides coach Mike Kelly said.
Furrer, a junior, will make his first trip to state in an individual race. He also qualified in the 200 free, dropping three seconds from the prelims to place sixth (1:51.40).
He was pleased the Tides hit one of their preseason targets by winning the district title.
“Toward the middle of the season, we looked at this goal, and we were like, ‘We have this. This is going to be ours,’ ” Furrer said.
“It means a lot. Our seniors did this their freshman year, and they were all excited to be able to do this again. Our team is awesome. I love everyone on the team.”
Nielsen proved he belongs in the conversation among the state’s best sprinters. In the 50 free, he recorded Washington’s fastest time of the year, finishing in 21.88 seconds to edge Stadium’s Andrew Lackman by 12 one-hundredths of a second.
“It was a hard race — Drew’s always a scary guy to go against,” Nielsen said. “Going off the block, I’ve been having trouble with my reaction times and my flip turns all season, and that was one of my best reaction times so far.”
In the 100 free, Nielsen couldn’t quite keep up with Bublitz, who won state crowns last season in the 50 free and 100 butterfly.
But Nielsen held his own, finishing in 48.15 to Bublitz’s 47.33.
“When I realized I was kind of keeping up – at least close enough to where I could see him – I got excited and I was just trying to break 48,” Nielsen said. “I didn’t, but I still got a best time, so that’s always great for me, and it was an honor to race against Chase.”
Gig Harbor earned state allocations in all three relay events and should have a chance to win medals in two of them.
In the 200 free relay, Daniel Arroyo and Tommy Liu set a good pace on the first two legs to put the Tides in front. Furrer was passed slightly on the third leg, setting up an anchor-leg showdown between Nielsen and Bublitz.
Bublitz out-touched Nielsen at the finish, and Kentridge (1:31.72) won the relay by eight one-hundredths of a second.
In the 400 free relay, the Tides took third as Arroyo, Curtis, Indahl and Nielsen finished in 3:19.54.
Gig Harbor also snagged the final allocation in the 200 medley relay. Indahl, Griffin Doane, Liu and Curtis placed sixth in 1:45.50.
“I had to mix up the lineup so it would give us some strength,” Kelly said, “and kind of rolled the dice that we would make it on allocation, and that’s what happened.”
Junior Bastian Weyn, who previously qualified for the state diving competition, earned 15 points at the district meet with his fourth-place mark of 285.60 points.
“It was just one of those meets where everyone was encouraging each other, everybody knew that they had to focus on what they could bring individually to the team, and it all built into a district championship,” Kelly said.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.