As she touched the wall, part of Alana Pries did not want to look up.
Emerald Ridge’s top swimmer knew she was in the mix, just like she had been in every sprint race the past three seasons at the Class 4A state high school swimming championships at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
This time, Pries had a better feeling. This time, as she turned her head to stare at the big-screen scoreboard to see who had won the 50-yard finals showdown, all she looked for was one number next to her name.
The senior finally hauled in the big prize as the state meet closed Saturday. Using her long, fluid strokes and her lanky frame, Pries barreled past race favorite Elisa Fang of Newport of Bellevue over the last 25 yards to win her first 4A title in 23.80 seconds.
“I actually watched my finish, and I wondered if it was good enough,” Pries said. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up or anything, so I looked at (the scoreboard). It took me a minute to figure out what (place) it was — you know, I wear glasses, and I had to squint to see it.”
That is when a mixture of joy and relief — raw emotion — began to well up in Pries’ eyes. She had long waited for this moment. And she long wondered if it would ever arrive.
“Getting first is a pretty big deal,” Pries said.
It was a banner day for the 4A South Puget Sound League. Kentlake’s Laura Williams won the school’s first 200 individual medley title by winning in 2:05.72.
And the Puyallup High girls captured their first 200 freestyle relay title (1:40.16), but were nudged out at the wall by Jackson in the 400 freestyle relay finals, 3:37.98 to 3:38.21.
That come-from-behind relay victory catapulted the Timberwolves into a tie with Richland for the 4A team championship with 169 points. Two-time defending champion Newport of Bellevue finished one point short of joining the lead pack — with 168 points.
It was the closest finish in a team title for girls swimming in state history.
As for the 200 IM finals, all the talk focused on Stadium’s Kaycee Simpson, the top qualifier. And by the end, it was the Falcons’ senior to registered a personal-best time by nearly five seconds to grab the championship.
And the key sequence? Surging in the breaststroke leg — and eating a hearty, home-cooked breakfast.
“Eggs, potatoes, bacon and toast,” Williams said. “It was perfect.”
Puyallup also won its first state relay title since 1999, and also came from behind to nab the 200 freestyle relay title.
With a 24.9-second split on the third leg of the relay, Mackenzie Mergel put the Vikings in the lead.
"I was like, ‘Get to the wall, get to the wall,’" Vikings anchor Lindsey Muiznieks said. "And then I dove in."
Muiznieks finished it off with her 24.14 split to earn her school the close victory over Wenatchee (1:40.64).
The Vikings set another school record in the 400 freestyle relay – in 3:38.21 – but this time Muiznieks was chased down at the wall by Jackson’s Madison Pressler to deny the SPSL South champions another state title.
Sea-King District rules the roost — again: One school (Lakeside of Seattle) won its first state team championship. And the classification’s top swimmer (Bellevue’s Kim Williams) will leave the high school ranks with seven individual 3A titles.
Buoyed by the second-fastest 200 free relay time in state history (1:37.38), and an unexpected title from Emily Prentice in the 100 backstroke, the Lions pulled away late from five-time defending champion Mercer Island, 333-279.5.
“It is extremely satisfying,” Lakeside coach Rob Sjoberg said. “All the way across the board, we swam better than yesterday, and achieved a lot of our goals. I could not be more proud of these girls.”
Williams set a pair of 3A meet records in the 200 IM (2:00.35) and 100 breaststroke (1:01.80). The Stanford signee came within a whisker of the all-time breaststroke mark of 1:01.33, set by Gig Harbor’s Carolyn McCann last season.
“I cannot believe it is over,” Williams said. “I feel it went by really fast.”
Locally, Lakes’ Monica Smith led the 100 butterfly with 25 yards to go, but was overtaken by Mercer Island’s Sabrina Kwan and Holy Names’ Sophia Chien, who shared the event title in 57.66. Smith was third in 58.36.
Life in the 3A Sea-King District was difficult for Liberty High School. Life in Class 2A became much easier.
Liberty swept all three relays, setting two state-meet records in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relays, and cruised to its first team title.
Archbishop Murphy’s Danielle Booth won the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.64, spoiling the return of Fife’s Meredith Sawer, the event’s 2012 champion who missed much of last season with a rotator cuff injury.