The Richland Bombers could have stuck feathers in their swim caps after the WIAA Girls State Swimming and Diving Championships concluded Saturday. Instead, they grabbed a flower from their hotel lobby and placed it atop the trophy they brought home after winning their first state title.
The Bombers left Federal Way as Class 4A co-state champions with Jackson of Everett. It’s the first state swim title for a Mid-Columbia squad, and the first time since Inglemoor and Garfield in 2007 that two teams have shared the championship.
Richland and Jackson both finished with 169 points, and two-time defending champion Newport of Bellevue took third with 168. Wenatchee was fourth with 164 points, likely lamenting its disqualification in Friday’s 200-yard medley relay preliminaries.
“It’s a dream come true,” Richland/Hanford coach Randy Willis said. “It’s something in the back of your mind that you always want or are thrilled to think about, but a lot of things have to come together all in the same season and time for you to have a chance to do it. We had a chance a couple years ago, but it’s not very often that you can get all the components. It wasn’t probable after graduating (five-time individual state champion) Lisa Bratton. Typically, a team that wins does have a swimmer of that or very close ability that they can win a race or anchor a relay to wins, but we had girls reaching out and outperforming and believing everywhere, and they just wouldn’t quit. They kept coming.”
The Bombers’ previous best finish was second in 2012, when Bratton, then a junior, won the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke. But without Bratton, now at Texas A&M, the Bombers relied on sheer team strength to climb atop the podium this year. They got competitors into 11 of 12 events for Saturday’s finals, including diving, where junior Kelsea Hinkley placed fourth.
Freshman Claire Schaef was fifth in the 200 freestyle, and her second-place finish in the 500 free gave the Bombers 17 points and a 101-100 lead over Newport after eight events.
Richland extended its advantage to 15 when its 200 free relay team — Schaef, junior Lauren Hall, sophomore BreAnn Bell and senior McKenzie Schroder — took third.
But the lead shrank to two points when Newport’s Maddie Rainey finished third and Hall was 14th in the 100 backstroke. Richland sophomore Katie Schroder beat out Newport’s Jenny Huo for 12th place in the 100 breaststroke and gave the Bombers a 141-138 edge over the Knights entering the last event, the 400 free relay.
Jackson won in 3 minutes, 37.98 seconds, giving the Timberwolves 40 points and boosting them from fourth to first overall. Wenatchee took third (3:40.24) for 32 points, and Newport added 30 points to its score with its fourth-place time of 3:40.49.
But that wasn’t enough to overcome Jackson or Richland. Schaef, Hall, McKenzie Schroder and junior Alyssa Musick picked up 28 points for the Bombers by finishing fifth in 3:41.87. They entered the race seeded sixth.
“(Willis) didn’t want anyone between us and Newport,” said Schroder, who was seventh in the 200 free and ninth in the 100 free. “We had to be there if we wanted to win, so we were like, ‘All right, let’s try to stick with Newport and see where we’re at.’ ”
When it was announced that Richland and Jackson tied for the title, “we were all just extremely excited,” Schroder said. “Lots of group hugs and screaming. It was a moment we won’t forget.”
Walla Walla sophomore Mackenzie Hale was 16th in the 500 free, and Sunnyside’s Cassadie Moore finished 14th in the 100 breast.
In Class 3A, Hanford was 12th in the team standings. Lakeside of Seattle won the title, ending Mercer Island’s five-year reign.
Hanford’s Kayla Lasater wrapped up her final state dive meet with a career-best fifth-place finish. Kamiakin junior Saige Polanik took 11th, and senior teammate Erin Crow was 16th. Southridge’s Allison Huske, one of two freshmen to make the finals, placed 14th.
The Falcons’ 200 free relay team of Maddie Elliott, Kayla Burnight, Janae Sullivan and Megan Gelston took seventh in the championship final (1:43.92). That group also was 11th overall in the 400 free relay.
Burnight (50 free) and Elliott (500 free) finished 15th overall after their respective consolation finals. Other area swimmers in the top 16 were: Kamiakin sophomore Madison Thurber (13th, 100 back); Kennewick junior Alexis Murphy (16th, 100 breast); and Southridge senior Rachel Schafer (16th, 100 fly and 100 back).
(winners and area competitors in top 16)
(winners and area competitors in top 16)