Andrew Blanchard is a lot of things to a lot of people: A son, a student, a brother and a friend.
But when the Richland senior steps into King County Aquatic Center this weekend for the final two days of his high school swimming career, hell be most proud to call himself a flyer.
If you ask people, (the butterfly) is the hardest stroke to do. I built my body to be a flyer. Its a fast-paced stroke, and its a hard one, but Ive enjoyed doing it over the years, Blanchard said.
Though hes also qualified in the 100-yard backstroke as well as the 200-yard Intermediate Medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay, hes looking forward to making one last splash for the Bombers program in his top event, the 100 butterfly.
I could swim right now, Im so excited, Blanchard said, doing his best to explain the anxiety and anticipation in the week leading up to the Class 4A Swimming and Diving State Championships on Friday and Saturday in Federal Way. Imagine adrenaline 24/7. Youre calm, you can talk, but 30 minutes before your race you go into a focused state. Before the race, you can feel your heart pumping before youre even in the water.
Whatever youve been training for the last six months is what youre going to do in about 50 seconds.
Blanchard, a three-time district champion in the 100 butterfly, has spent the last four seasons helping build statewide respect for the Bombers swim program. After five consecutive top-seven finishes at state including third-place finishes in 2008 and 2011 Richland has a team that can swim with the best of them.
We stress tradition, and Andrew has been great for carrying things forward, Bombers coach Kathy Piper said. Hes grown up right before our eyes.
For the last four years, few have been able to match Blanchard, who has followed in the footsteps of former Bombers greats Cody Roberts, Tyler Pickett, Nick Connors and Eric Blanchard, Andrews older brother. Connors won a state title in the 500 freestyle last season, but Roberts won three one in the 100 backstroke and two in the butterfly between 2008-09.
Cody was a flyer like I am, Andrew Blanchard said. He was exceptional. He set a state record (47.81) his senior year thats still holding. I wanted to get as close as I could to his time.
Blanchards best of 52.34 is well off Roberts mark, but was nearly three seconds better than the next-best time in the area (Hanfords Jeevan Philip clocked a 55.31).
Blanchard also has a chance to accomplish a rare feat at state to make a top-eight finish in an individual event all four years. He has an astounding recollection of his state performances in the 100 fly. He can recite his finishing time in the state final, for each of the last three seasons, right down to the last tenth of a second.
I like to memorize peoples times. I can look at someones time once and probably memorize it., he said with a smile. My freshman year I took eighth place in 54.86 (seconds). Sophomore year I swam 53.70 for fifth. My junior year I was fifth with a 52.70.
This year I hope to be third with a 51.50. Thats my goal.
He doesnt hold much hope of a state title though. Not with Eastlakes Edward Kim in the water.
You never know what can happen. (Kim) could have a bad start or get DQd (disqualified), Piper said. We just want to stay within ourselves.
Blanchard hasnt decided yet exactly where he will attend college, but hes leaning toward Pacific University (Forest Grove, Ore.).
They told me if I went there Id be a strong asset to the team, he said. That would be exciting.
More exciting is the prospect of finishing his high school career with another podium finish in the 100 fly.
The stress relief is one of the greatest joys of being an athlete, he said. Working so hard for that long, and then achieving your goal. Its like, I finally did it.