It didn’t take the Gig Harbor High girls swim 200-meter medley relay to find its footing.
In the first meet of the season against Central Kitsap earlier this month, the relay — consisting of seniors Ursula Andren, Alana Ponce, Olivia Lott and sophomore Tatum Benson — posted a state-qualifying time of 1 minute, 55.21 seconds.
“It was exciting,” said Andren, who did the breaststroke leg of the relay. “It was unexpected but also excepted because we had been working so hard.”
Qualifying for the state meet in the first meet of the season isn’t an easy thing to do. But for this veteran-heavy group, this isn’t its first rodeo. Four years ago, Andren and Ponce came into the school as already high-level swimmers. They contributed to a state championship relay team as freshmen.
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Now, they’re all grown up.
1:55.21 state-qualifying time set by the Gig Harbor High girls 200-meter medley relay team
“It’s amazing to see how fast time goes,” Gig Harbor coach Mike Kelly said. “I remember them as freshmen, and then you blink, and they’re seniors and well-season veterans. They’ve matured a lot in those four years.”
Now, Andren and Ponce are captains, and stars for the team. Kelly looks to them to mentor younger girls on the team. This year, the Tides swim team is fielding more than 50 girls.
“They just have an appreciation form their peers on the team,” Kelly said. “Just having that as a foundation is really a great starting point for a team, having some well-tested veterans in your lineup. A lot of our girls are freshman and sophomores, and they really get some good examples from Alana and Ursula in their workout intensity and how they approach racing.”
Andren does the breaststroke; Ponce, the backstroke. Lott, who was one of the best water polo players in the state this year, does the freestyle leg of the relay. But sophomore Tatum Benson, who does the butterfly leg of the relay, may be the X-factor in the race.
“Her fly (against Central Kitsap) was amazing,” Andren said. “She’s crazy.”
“She’s really strong,” Ponce said of her younger teammate. “When she does her butterfly, it gets us pumped up to finish our relay and make the time.”
The entire relay team feeds off the energy Tatum brings to the race.
(Tatom Benson’s) butterfly leads us into the freestyle, so we’re just all jacked up at that point and I think all of us are swimming the race together even when we’re not in the water.
“Her butterfly leads us into the freestyle, so we’re just all jacked up at that point and I think all of us are swimming the race together even when we’re not in the water,” Andren said.
The team isn’t content with just qualifying for state, though. All four girls want to continue to drop time in the race before the postseason.
“We’re all dedicated to cutting our times down,” Ponce said. “There’s a teamwork aspect, too. Everyone has to be working together to make that time.”
They plan to hold each other accountable, especially in practice. Right now, Kelly said the relay is likely in the top five in state. If it can keep improving steadily, it has a chance to be a state title contender.
“They could contend at the end of the year,” Kelly said. “When you get to the state meet, anything can happen. It comes down to hundredths of a second sometimes, which is the difference between first and second.”