Bratton's 2 state titles lifts Richland swim team 2nd-place finish

By Katie Dorsey, Tri-City HeraldNovember 11, 2012 

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Two seemed to be the number of the day for the Richland Bombers on Saturday at the WIAA Girls State Swimming and Diving Championships.

Two Class 4A state titles for Lisa Bratton.

Second place for Nicole Weinman in the 500-yard freestyle and the 400 free relay.

And a No. 2 overall finish for the Bombers.

As the swimmers celebrated their triumph, it also was a crowning achievement for longtime Richland/Hanford coaches Kathy Piper and Randy Willis, who never had a Bombers team place in the top four before this weekend.

"The girls just battled and battled," Piper said. "They didn't give up. It was fun to watch. This was a special group of girls to coach with Randy and Melissa (Stommel, dive coach)."

Newport (Bellevue) won the Class 4A crown with 217 points, displacing three-time defending champion Skyline. Richland had 183.5 points, and Cascade (Everett) took third with 169.

Mercer Island extended its Class 3A team title streak to four years, while Lake Washington claimed the 2A championship.

Bratton helped pave the way for the Bombers' historic 4A finish, defending her 200 individual medley title with an All-America automatic time of 2 minutes, 1.53 seconds.

She then came out in the 100 backstroke and beat top seed Kaela McKee of Jackson with another All-America auto time of 54.85.

"Even though I've been to these high-level meets, I was still so nervous," said Bratton, named the 4A Swimmer of the Meet. "You never know what the other people are going to do. It's fear of the unknown."

And yet, the Bombers knew what they had to do.

Weinman finished the 500 free in 5:05.11, behind Felicity Cann's blistering 4:57.78 for Stadium. She also took fourth in the 200 free.

Fellow seniors Sarah Olsen (sixth, 100 butterfly) and Vanessa Whattam (seventh, 100 free) helped Richland inch up the standings, as did freshman Alyssa Musick, who picked up nine points by winning the 100 fly consolation final in 1 minute flat.

"It was such a great season," Olsen said. "We weren't even on the podium last year, and then we took second. Our 400 relay team (Whattam, Olsen, Weinman and Bratton) has been together for three years, even though Lisa's a junior. It was so emotional."

Bratton was the lone state champion among the Mid-Columbia swimmers, but there were several brushes with the top of the medal podium.

Hanford took fourth in Class 3A with help from Mylie Oberg, the seventh-place finisher in the 500 free, and Stephanie and Lisa Tixier, who finished in the top four in all their races.

Other area individuals in the top eight included Walla Walla junior Emma Timm-Ballard (4A 200 free and 100 back); Southridge junior Danielle Freund (Class 3A 1-meter diving); and Prosser senior Hailey Rankin (Class 2A 100 fly and 200 free).

Stephanie Tixier capped her prep career with her second consecutive runner-up finish in the 50 free and another third-place showing in the 100 fly, while junior Lisa Tixier was third in the 200 IM and fourth in the 100 free.

"I never expected her to be a 100 free sprinter," Stephanie Tixier said of her younger sister. "She was always a distance girl. I'd tell her to keep working as hard as she can in it because she can do it."

The Tixiers both swam on the two-time defending champion 200 free relay team, but the Falcons were unable to make it three in a row, taking third behind Mercer Island -- the new state-record holder with a time of 1:37.12 -- and Bainbridge. The Falcons also lost their 400 free relay crown to Mercer Island, which won in an All-America consideration time of 3:33.41.

After the race, the Falcons stood together to accept their team trophy, a memory that will stand out for Stephanie Tixier as she graduates to college swimming next fall.

"We were all part of the team, even those who didn't swim," Tixier said. "It's really awesome."

* Katie Dorsey: 509-582-1526; kdorsey@tricityherald.com

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