High School Sports

2014 high school girls swimming preview: Relay winners, repeat ambitions for Gig Harbor

When it comes to personality, Gig Harbor High School’s standout sophomore swimmers are very different.

But all three are in agreement about one thing: They never expected to win a title in their first appearance at the Class 4A state girls swimming championships at the King County Aquatic Center last season.

That’s exactly what Ursula Andren, Anna Furrer and Alana Ponce did, winning the 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute, 47.52 seconds. Their performance helped the Tides to a third-place finish in the team standings.

Carolyn McCann, who did the butterfly leg on the relay, is now swimming at the University of Michigan. The remaining trio is determined to defend its title.

“Carolyn was a big part of our relay,” said Andren, who swam the breaststroke portion, “but we’re all working really hard so we can keep that title.”

Furrer, the freestyle anchor, felt similarly.

“I think we work really well together, so if we put in the effort I think we can do it,” Furrer said.

Tides coach Mike Kelly said the three sophomores contribute to the “core strength of the team.”

“They’re all very different, and unique characters in their own right,” Kelly said of the three 10th graders. “What they have in common is that they will give you a best effort … They’re always willing and open to suggestions for how to improve themselves.

“They’re really fun to coach because they work hard, and I think they love competition.”

Andren and Furrer both swim for the Tacoma Swim Club. Ponce, an All-American water polo player who played on Gig Harbor’s 2014 state title team, never swam competitively until last year.

In fact, she had never even attended a swim meet.

Ponce said when she was tapped to do the backstroke on the relay, her first thought was, “Oh Mike, what are you doing? Why are you putting me in this?”

With time, she grew more comfortable, but she is still somewhat disbelieving at what she accomplished.

“It was so amazing to be part of that relay because I had never done anything like that.”

Furrer said being the final leg of the relay is a personal confidence booster.

“The adrenaline is running through you and you’re like ‘I know I have to win this,’ ” she said. “(At state), when I flip-turned, I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m really far ahead,’ but I knew I had to keep it going.”

Kelly said he expects stronger-than-usual competition within the 4A Narrows League this year, especially from Olympia and Stadium. The trio in turn sets a good example for its teammates.

“They’re the beacon of light for the girls to see what hard work does and what you can do if you really train hard and prepare for your races,” he said.

“They are definitely looked up to by their peers on the team and as an inspiration.”

Furrer said there are several reasons why she is glad to have a year of experience now — mainly because she was able to learn and grow from swimming with the state’s best last November.

“And, the freshmen have to do the lane lines — and do more work than everyone else,” she added jokingly. “I like being a sophomore now.”