OLYMPIA — Tim Ward’s goal since his freshman year was to break the school record in the 100 backstroke.
While the Olympia senior hasn’t accomplished that goal just yet, he did manage to guarantee a place at the Class 4A state meet by posting a qualifying time.
The Bears captured the overall team title at the fourth annual South Sound Relays on the strength of Ward, Andrew Wright and Matthew Kamimura at The Evergreen State College on Saturday.
Ward opened the meet by swimming the lead on Olympia’s 400 medley team. He finished with a time of 55.72 seconds in the 100 backstroke leg, qualifying him for the state meet.
“Every time you swim the goal is always to put up a state qualifying time,” Ward said. “It’s nice to get it this early. It will always be in your back pocket.
“I’m still hoping to get that school-record time of 53.9. I still think I have a chance at it.”
The Bears amassed 407 points over the 11 events, giving them quite a cushion over runner-up Shelton, which posted a tally of 328.
Steilacoom’s strong showing netted the Sentinels a total of 311, securing the third-place trophy for the 2A squad.
Lakes (254), Central Kitsap (242) and South Kitsap (211) completed the order of finish.
The event, however, was missing the local flavor it has boasted the last several years.
Absent from the event were the remaining four larger schools with swim programs from Thurston County – Capital, North Thurston, River Ridge and Timberline.
“We invited all the schools,” Olympia coach and event organizer Mel Smith said. “And we will continue to invite all the local schools every year. The schools are either 2A or 3A and some didn’t want to compete against the bigger schools.”
Olympia took home three individual titles, winning the 200 breaststroke (2:11.94) with Wright and Kamimura, the 200 freestyle with Kamiura, Wright, Jonathan Mazella and Randy Jones (1:37.03) and the 800 freestyle with Alex Hougan, Ben Matthews, James Waltz and Coleton Welsheimer (8:34.27).
The 800 freestyle produced the meet’s closest finish with the Bears edging the Lakes (8:34.62).
“You don’t think about how close it is when you’re swimming,” said senior Welsheimer, who swam the final leg. “You just stay focus on what you’re doing. When I finished and looked up my teammates were celebrating so I figured we finished in a pretty good place.”
Steilacoom won five of 11 events, the most by any school.
The Sentinels finished fourth at the Class 2A state meet last season – the best finish in school history – and seemed to have parlayed that success over to this year.
“We are way ahead of where we were last year,” Steilacoom coach Kathy Casey said. “We have already qualified all three of our relay teams for state. Last year at this time we had one team qualified.”
Senior Benjamin Scott, state champion last year in the 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke, teamed with Daniel Cook to capture the 200 butterfly (1:53.74) before joining brother James Scott, Andrew Gonzales and Andrew Lamb to win the 400 medley (3:47.30).
Lamb and Gonzalez won the 200 freestyle (1:45.39), while James Scott and Chris Grandinette took first in the 200 medley (2:05. 35).
The Sentinels capped the meet by winning the 400 freestyle relay, benefiting from Benjamin Scott’s lightning-quick anchor leg. He took the team from third place after three completed legs of the event to a three-second victory. Steilacoom’s final time was 3:33.73. Olympia was second with 3:36.86.
Shelton won the 200 backstroke (2:01.75) behind Harrison MacAlevy and Dalton Green, and the 100 freestyle with Sean Kealy and Brock Weinmann (47.83).
The Lakes team of Collin Campbell and Boone Williams won the 400 freestyle (4:00.72).