Stadium High School sophomores Gabriel Nickels and Bryce Soriano became fast friends when they met about two years ago, and they’re now pretty fast swimmers.
Both had plenty success during Friday’s preliminary races at the state swimming and diving championships at the King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way. Nickels qualified second in the 500 freestyle with a time of four minutes, 37.33 seconds and fifth in the 200 freestyle in 1:43.26. Soriano was second in the 200-breaststroke (58.36) and fourth in the 200 individual medley (1:57.07). They were both also part of the 400 freestyle relay team that qualified in seventh place and the 200-medley relay team that qualified fourth.
“I felt pretty strong about today,” Nickels said. “I’m just going to go home, eat some pasta, play some video games and let it all sink in and see how we do tomorrow.”
Stadium coach Dave Baughman as much as the two pull for each other, they pull for their teammates, too.
“Now, they’re trying to break the relay records, because now it’s not just about my swims, it’s about my team swims,” Baughman said. “They’re really looking at and hopefully getting after those things that are historic in the school that they attend.”
The camraderie of the team is one of Nickels’ favorite parts about high school swimming.
“I think it’s really cool just to be with the other swimmers and just have fun with them,” Nickels said. “We’re not the only ones that make up the team, obviously. I think it’s really cool to focus on our goals, but also help the other swimmers with their goals too.”
Nickels and Soriano’s impact on the program is hard to ignore, but Baughman said they’re just next in line in a long lineage.
“Bryce comes in and he’s top-five ever in his events, but he came in following Logan Rysemus, who went on to LSU,” Baughman said. “(He) set our school records, set LSU school records and got NCAA division cuts, so I wouldn’t say (they) revitalized (the program), I would say they’re the next great swimmers in the history of our program.”
Soriano recalls meeting Nickels when he moved to the Tacoma area from Vancouver before high school. Instantly, he felt a bond.
“When I first met him, I was like, ‘I wonder if he’s going to do high school swimming,’” Soriano said. “He did, and I’m glad he came here.”
Nickels and Soriano had an immediate impact on the Tigers’ swimming team. Soriano finished fourth in the 200-individual medley and seventh in the 100-breaststroke and Nickels finished sixth in the 500-freestyle at last year’s state meet.
“I definitely think it was really cool to have two freshmen that were already making the big finals at state,” Nickels said. “When we first met each other we obviously knew that we had a lot of potential. I think it is really cool to have two really strong components on the team.”
Nickels and Soriano are looking to improve on last year’s finishes at this year’s 3A state meet. Much of the success the two swimmers have had comes from time spent in the pool.
“They’re just great guys with a fantastic work ethic,” Baughman said. “They swim for clubs in the area and they put in the yards and the hours that it takes to be as good as they are.”
Their success has carried over into their sophomore season. Just two weeks ago they helped lead the Tigers to a district championship.
“I think (winning districts) gave us a lot of confidence going in (to state),” Nickels said. “We knew that we were the best around our area, and it’s really fun to see all the different schools from across Washington.”
Wilson senior Evan Chard qualified second in the 200 IM in 1:55.21. He also qualified fourth in the 100 backstroke in 51.88….North Thurston senior Jeffrey Harn also had a successful day on Friday, qualifying tied for third in the 50 freestyle (21.75) and fourth in the 100 freestyle (47.55).
Olympia senior Alex Wright, a Virginia Tech commit, qualified first in the 500 freestyle in 4:34.02. Wright also qualified second in the 200 freestyle in 1:42.17. He entered Friday’s preliminaries with the top time in the state in both events.
Everett Werner, Wright’s senior teammate and Duke commit, qualified third in the 200 IM in 1:53.79. He also qualified fifth in the 100 butterfly in 51.38. Both times were high school bests for Werner.
Wright and Werner were competing in the state meet for the first time in their high school careers. For the past three years, both swam for club teams only before deciding to join their high school team.
“It’s really fun being here with the team,” Werner said. “It’s kind of getting us ready for what college is going to be like where we’re with a bunch of guys our age.”
Steilacoom senior Steven Froehle came into the 2A 50 freestyle prelims with the top time in the state this season at 21.95 seconds. Froehle was the only swimmer in his classification to enter the state meet with a sub-22 second time. He qualified third in the event (21.80), finishing behind Highline senior Tyler Goodspeed (21.65) and Olympia freshman Dietrich Meyer (21.68)