Fans at this year’s WIAA Girls State Swimming and Diving Championships might have witnessed a passing of the torch.
Richland junior Lisa Bratton accepted her first-place medal in the Class 4A 200-yard individual medley from 2003 event champion Ariana Kukors.
After graduating from Auburn Mountainview High School, Kukors went on to swim for the University of Washington — and the U.S. Olympic team.
Bratton, who competed this past summer at the U.S. Olympic Trials, appears well on her way to equally great accomplishments.
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Her winning time of 2 minutes, 1.53 seconds bumped Kukors, now the world-record holder in the 200-meter (long-course) IM, down to sixth place on the all-time state meet list.
Later on, Bratton won the 100 backstroke in 54.85 seconds, her second All-America automatic time of the day. Right before her final relay, she was named the Class 4A Swimmer of the Meet.
“It was a great honor,” said Bratton, who adds another one to her résumé as the Tri-City Herald All-Area Swimmer of the Year. “I knew winning my backstroke, I had a chance to get it because I was on a couple of high-placing relays, but I wasn’t really thinking about that going into the meet. I was thinking about my individual swims and what we do as a team, but it was the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae.”
Bratton’s victories, as well as efforts by fellow Herald first-teamers Nicole Weinman and Vanessa Whattam, helped the Bombers take second in the Class 4A team standings.
Hanford’s Stephanie and Lisa Tixier, who led the Falcons to a fourth-place Class 3A finish, also were named to the Herald first team with Walla Walla’s Emma Timm-Ballard, Prosser’s Hailey Rankin and Southridge diver Danielle Freund.
Even though Bratton has competed in hundreds of races and practices hours a day with the Bombers and her club team, the Tri-City Channel Cats, she admits to getting jitters before high-level meets. Her prep coach, Kathy Piper, says she coordinates workouts with Bratton’s club coaches to ensure she’s ready come race time.
“You can still make a mistake,” said Piper, the Herald’s Coach of the Year at Richland and Hanford. “You can slip on a backstroke start or still miss a turn. Everything has to come together in the race. Even though she won by half a pool length in the 100 backstroke, she focused on her start and focused on her turns.
“She was excited not to get the No. 1 seed because it’s different when people expect you to win. She got disqualified in a meet because she false-started. She’s still a kid. She’s still gonna make mistakes. She’s still learning. That’s the beauty of working together. Everybody contributes to make her the best athlete she can be.”
Though Bratton likes to shake up her program and swim different events during the regular season, she plans to defend her titles in the 200 IM and 100 back at the 2013 state meet.
“Those really are my strongest swims,” Bratton said. “I don’t really see why I’d want to change it up.”
Judging from the stacks of college letters Piper receives for Bratton, who will swim at next week’s Winter National Championships in Austin, Texas, lots of coaches know of her abilities. Bratton hasn’t chosen a school yet — she’s researching colleges in Texas and Arizona — but there’s one destination in mind for 2016.
“She’s an incredibly talented swimmer,” Piper said. “I look forward to seeing her at the next Olympics.”
Lisa Bratton, Richland, junior
Nicole Weinman, Richland, senior
Vanessa Whattam, Richland, senior
Emma Timm-Ballard, Walla Walla, junior
Stephanie Tixier, Hanford, senior
Lisa Tixier, Hanford, junior
Hailey Rankin, Prosser, senior
Danielle Freund, Southridge, junior
Coach: Kathy Piper, Richland/Hanford
Mylie Oberg, Hanford, junior
Sarah Olsen, Richland, senior
Alyssa Musick, Richland, freshman
Katelyn McLaughlin, Southridge, senior
Abby Crowley, Walla Walla, senior
Alexis Murphy, Kennewick, freshman
Hailey Murphy, Kennewick, senior
Cassadie Moore, Sunnyside, sophomore
Danielle Brandon, Kamiakin, junior