First-year Stadium High School girls swimming coach Amanda Sprinker had a tall order.
She had to find the best way to blend 15 new ninth graders in with a veteran returning group.
With a week remaining in the season, it is clear the formula is working out swimmingly.
Winners of seven event finals, including the first five in a row, the Tigers captured their first Class 3A West Central District title Saturday night at Mount Tahoma High School.
With 312 points, Stadium edged Gig Harbor (271) for the team championship. Both schools were longtime 4A WCD members.
“The freshman have really blended seamlessly in with my veterans,” said Sprinker, a 2008 Stadium graduate. “This (district title) is huge. It really solidifies us as a contender in 3A state.”
The Tigers’ first race in their showdown against Gig Harbor set the tone for the night.
The quartet of Taylor Kabacy, Shianne Lindh, Kaycee Simpson and Ashlea Liljar set a meet record in the 200-yard medley relay, winning in 1 minute, 50.01 seconds — smashing the previous mark of 1:51.83, set in 2005 by Kennedy Catholic.
Gig Harbor’s runner-up time (1:50.70) would also have been a meet record.
Then came the run by the Tigers’ ninth graders.
It started with Kabacy’s comeback victory in the 200 freestyle over Timberline’s Hannah Barker, the race favorite.
Barker led until the final 50 yards. That is when Kabacy turned on the jets.
Kabacy also won the 500 free a half-hour later in 5:08.72.
Liljar was equally as impressive for the Tigers, winning the 50 free (24.74).
Of course, it does help when your leader is still your best swimmer. Simpson qualifies as that.
And the Stadium senior was also a double-event winner in the 200 individual medley (2:09.14) and 100 butterfly (58.12).
“We had a lot of seniors graduate (last spring),” Simpson said. “But these girls (ninth graders) have come in, and it feels like last year’s team is still intact. They’ve made such an impact.”
The Tides broke the meet record in the 200 freestyle relay, winning in 1:41.25. The previous mark was 1:41.83, set by Mount Rainier in 2008.
Barker had a mixed-bag day in the district finals. She won her second career district 100 backstroke title. She captured the 4A WCD crown in 2015.
On Saturday, she won it with a personal-best time of 57.53, which was slightly faster than her school record of 57.79, set in the 4A district meet a year ago.
“In club, I’ve always been a backstroker,” Barker said.