LAKEWOOD — The competition got tougher for the Peninsula High swimming and diving team last week, and a few of the Seahawks responded with some of their best performances of the season.
Junior Caleb Riggs won the 100-yard breaststroke, senior Matt Burkey shared the crown in the 50 freestyle, and the Seahawks won two of the three relays Saturday at the Lakes High School pool.
Those efforts helped the Seahawks compile 424.5 points to place second behind Enumclaw (453.5) at the 12-team Class 3A/2A South Puget Sound League championships.
Riggs, who has some of the state’s fastest times of the season in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley, might have held back slightly at the league meet.
But with his spots at the Feb. 15-16 state championships already secure — he met the automatic time standards in both events early in the season — there wasn’t much to gain last weekend.
Riggs cruised to the top 200 IM time in Friday’s preliminary heats but finished in a rather pedestrian 2 minutes, 4.36 seconds. He was nearly five seconds faster in Saturday’s final (1:59.49) but placed second behind Auburn Mountainview senior Cameron Lindsay (1:58.99).
“I was just tired, I don’t know,” Riggs said. “I’ve been doing doubles all week — two practices a day — so I’m just trying to see where I’m at right now.”
He might have been tired, but it didn’t show much on the scoresheet. A time of less than 2 minutes likely will contend for a state medal.
“My breaststroke helps a lot,” Riggs said of the event. “My backstroke is horrible. I broke a minute in the 100 breast before I broke a minute in the 100 back, which is kind of (unusual).”
Riggs showed some top form in the breaststroke final, easily defeating Lindsay in 59.24 seconds, the only swimmer to clear the 1-minute barrier.
In Friday’s prelims, Riggs finished in 1:01.02 and was second behind Enumclaw’s Bennon VanHoof. But he felt there wasn’t much at stake.
“It wasn’t my best,” he said. “I’m saving it for finals. I was just making it into ‘A’ final, and I knew I didn’t really have to try that hard.”
Burkey waged a classic battle with VanHoof in the 50 free final. Burkey led at the turn, but VanHoof made up the difference. They each touched the wall in 22.49 seconds and shared the league title.
Burkey said it’s not the first time he’s been part of a dead heat. He and Joseph Bocchi of Lakes tied last season in the prelims of the 50 free at the SPSL meet.
“But that was a shock,” Burkey acknowledged. “I look up (at the scoreboard) and I go, ‘What?’ It was a good race. I didn’t know Bennon could do that so ... he proved to me what he could do.”
Burkey was chasing Steilacoom junior Ben Scott in the 100 free, and Scott bested him on both days of competition. In the final, Scott won in 49.04, and Burkey came in second in 49.68.
“I know Ben ... is a club swimmer, and I’ve actually become friends with him over the past couple of days,” Burkey said. “The guy’s got good competition, and hopefully I can keep adding on to that, going to districts and state.”
Burkey credits Peninsula coaches Craig Brown, Cathy Barmore and Tor Gilje for his senior-year success, as well as off-season conditioning with the school’s water polo program.
“I’m pushing myself as hard as I can, and the club swimmers on our team are just pushing me along,” he said. “I’m a water polo guy, so making myself swim is a little tough sometimes.”
The Seahawks won titles in the 200 free relay and 400 free relay, and the events should provide plenty of points for the team at the West Central District championships, which will take place Friday and Saturday at Hazen High in Renton.
Burkey, Alex Wenman, Riggs and Donovan Cummings were victorious in the 200 free relay (1:34.07), while Burkey, Wenman, Riggs and Travis Brunson captured first in the 400 free relay (3:24.55).
Wenman, a junior, finished second in the 500 free (5:20.09) and third in the 200 free (1:57.01). Sophomore Paul Friedman scored 364.80 points for second place in the 1-meter diving event, and he already has qualified for state.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.