Gateway: Sports

Gig Harbor’s boys swim team just won a district title. Up next, a top 10 finish in the state meet?


The Gig Harbor High School boys swim team enters this weekend’s Class 3A state swim meet with momentum.

The Tides are coming off a West Central District III title, scoring 241.5 points, edging Stadium (225), Wilson (162.5), North Thurston (153) and Timberline (111).

“We were very excited to win that,” said Gig Harbor swim coach Mike Kelly. “It was a total team effort. … We had a successful prelims. We always preach that you have to do it in the prelims to do it in the final. We had multiple great swims. In the morning, we had a lot of people drop time. Some really significant drops that put people into scoring positions.”

Gig Harbor also set two school records at the WCD meet, held at Mount Tahoma High School on Feb. 1-2.

The Tides’ 200-yard medley relay team of Billy Oates, Carson Eliasen, Andrew Sexton and Michael Derouin broke the school record in the event, which had stood for 18 years. The group clocked in at 1 minute, 39.22 seconds.

At the beginning of the season, Kelly had Derouin in the backstroke portion of the race, Oates in the butterfly and Sexton in the freestyle. Three meets into the season, Kelly decided to shake it up, moving Oates to backstroke, Sexton to fly and Derouin to freestyle.

“When I first told them (about the switch), they looked at me like I was weird,” Kelly said. “I told them just to try it. I told them to go for that school record.”

The group dropped a couple seconds, fresh off the switch, and has stuck with the arrangement since.

“They were hungry and they smashed that school record,” Kelly said.

The team has been boosted this season by the addition of Oates, a Bellarmine Prep freshman who swims for the Tides and immediately elevated the competition in practice.

“With the arrival of Billy, it made (Sexton) work even harder,” Kelly said. “They’ve just been pushing each other.”

Oates also set a school record in the district meet, with his coming in the 100 butterfly. He clocked in at 51.05 seconds.

“His performances speak loud and clear to the rest of the team,” Kelly said. “They get excited. You can feel that energy. There are other athletes in the crowd also, just waiting to see what he’s going to do next. He definitely is bringing a new energy and excitement to the Tides program. He brings a more positive look at success.”

Kelly said it’s probably the best boys team he’s had since 2009, when the Tides took second place in the state meet.

“This is a solid team,” Kelly said. “We need a little more depth with our high-end swims. Some of those previous teams, like the one in 2009, we had finalists in almost every event. Just a really good mix of athletes, including divers.

“With this year’s group, I’m confident with our relays and think we should have a good crack at being in the top 10. That would be fantastic for us when you’re going up against schools like Bellevue, Lakeside, Bainbridge, etc.”

In addition to Oates, Gig Harbor will most likely compete in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays at state. Eliasen will compete in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley, Derouin will compete in the 100 backstroke and Bryce Brabham will swim the 100 freestyle at the state meet at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

The meet is Friday and Saturday, with the Class 3A finals beginning at 2:10 p.m. on Saturday.

Jon Manley covers high school sports for The Peninsula Gateway and The News Tribune. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Manley has covered the Gig Harbor sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.