Ben Matthews wasn’t thinking about meet records. Heck, even the thought of winning wasn’t on the mind of the Olympia High School junior.
He just wanted to get to the swim meet without being too late.
Matthews worked the morning shift as a lifeguard at the Briggs YMCA before bolting over to The Evergreen State College to join his fellow Olympia boys swim team members at the fifth annual South Sound Relays on Saturday.
“It was iffy on whether or not I was even going to make it on time,” Matthews noted. “I did, but I didn’t have a chance to warm up. Everything was on the run.”
With not a moment to spare, Matthews arrived just in time for the meet’s second event — the 2x200 meter freestyle.
And he didn’t slow down just because he got there.
Matthews and fellow junior Alex Hougan broke the meet’s longest-standing record, stopping the clock in 3 minutes 59.72 seconds to claim the event.
“I was pretty surprised (at the final time),” said Matthews, who swam second, setting fractions of 26.49, 56.44 and 31.80 before finishing in 1:03.77. “I didn’t think I was going to be here on time. So to end it this way isn’t bad.”
The winning time was more than 21 seconds faster than runner-ups Vaughn Christensen and William Taylor of Steilacoom (4:21.24) and eclipsed the meet record of 3:59.84 set in 2011 by North Thurston’s Nathan Anderson and Tyler Ridgeway.
“We found out yesterday we were going to swim together,” said Hougan, who finished his leg of the event in 1:02.40. “We’re both long-distance swimmers. We’ve been rivals for a couple of years now. It’s fun to get to team up and swim a relay that’s completely different than what we are used to competing in.”
The victory helped the Bears successfully defend their team title by registering 723 points over the meet’s 11 events.
Steilacoom, which claimed four events, finished second with 691 points, while Shelton was third with 646.
Mark Morris (517 points), Kentwood (496), South Kitsap (484), Lakes (411), Kelso (393), Aberdeen (344), Central Kitsap (312) and R.A. Long (91) completed the order of finish in the team standings.
The Bears also won the 4x800 meter freestyle with Zabdi Hernandez and Henry Nordhorn joining Hougan and Matthews to claim the event in a time of 8:17.53.
The 2A South Puget Sound League Sentinels’ strong showing included a pair of meet record-breaking times as Connor Roman and James Scott set benchmarks by winning both the 200 medley (1:57.37) and 200 breaststroke (2:05.78).
“I think that shows that swimming isn’t about the overall size of the school,” said Olympia coach and meet organizer Mel Smith, “but the quality of swimmers. We have a good mix of 4A, 3A and 2A schools here. It makes for an exciting meet.”
The South Kitsap duo of Dylan Macabitas and Andrew Johnson broke the meet’s mark in the 200 backstroke, winning in a time of 2:00.15.
This year’s meet marked the largest in terms of total teams with 11 and number of participating swimmers.
The original concept was to provide a unique all-relay meet for the local schools.
However, five years in and Olympia remains the only participating school from the seven high schools that are located within the Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater.
Newcomers this year included Mark Morris, R.A. Long, Kentwood and Kelso.
“I think it shows how popular of an event this is,” Smith said. “We’ve had some local teams leave, but other teams have jumped into their spots. We have 10 lanes and 11 teams here. So we have more teams than ever before. We are going to have to change the trophies. Originally, the logo had the state of Washington with a star on Olympia. Now we have to add stars to Kitsap, Pierce, Cowlitz and King counties. The interest has really grown.”