The Mid-Columbia Conference/Columbia Basin Big Nine split has given a new look to boys swimming.
With six teams -- Davis, Eastmont, Eisenhower, Moses Lake, Sunnyside and Wenatchee -- competing in the CBBN, Richland, Walla Walla and Hanford have had to take a different approach to filling out their schedules.
After today’s Eastern Washington Invitational in Walla Walla, the three MCC teams will compete during the regular season against Class 2A schools Prosser, Pullman, West Valley (Yakima), Cheney and Selah.
“It’ll be very telling, this meet,” said Walla Walla coach Katharine Curles, who has organized today’s invitational. “I don’t know the coaches, and I like making new friends. It’ll be a season full of surprises for the guys and with every single team we see.”
On the flip side, facing Class 4A and 3A competition is just fine for Prosser coach Amber Burnett.
“It certainly helps the swimmers that are competitive to start out with some good competition,” she said. “It will motivate them to work harder and try harder.”
Class 4A Richland lost Nick Connors, who won the 500-yard freestyle in his final state meet and now competes for Seattle University. But the Bombers still have Ashton Pollick, the B final winner in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke, and Andrew Blanchard, the fifth-place finisher in the 100 butterfly.
Class 3A Hanford has its own state championship contender in junior Will Wertz, who took fourth last season in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 100 free.
Because of the lack of an indoor pool in the Tri-Cities, the Richland schools will be on the road all winter. Also, divers must travel to Yakima for practice, even as the sport is growing in popularity here.
“I’ve got eight divers,” Richland/Hanford coach Kathy Piper said. “I don’t even have a diving board, but the kids just want to have fun and compete. They’re good, athletic kids, and you don’t want to say no to kids that are athletic and want to help you out.”
Walla Walla does not have any divers, but the Blue Devils are loaded with 48 swimmers, including Patrick Giedeman, a state medalist in the Class 4A 500 free last season.
Over at Prosser, the Mustangs return Will Burgett, who last winter finished seventh at state in the Class 2A 100 breaststroke. Fellow junior Tim Bowen also is a returning state swimmer, while Sam Kawakami has the potential to get there in his second season.
Burnett, who co-coaches the girls team with Kerry Warden, took over the boys squad after Scott Whittington and his wife moved on in their RV to the Texas coast in September.
“I’ve always been a swimmer on a personal level, but I was a little hesitant,” Burnett said. “I was hoping there’d be a male in the community who’d step up who might have a little experience, but I was excited because I knew a lot of the boys who were swimming, and I knew they’d be fun to work with.”
Adding to the fun element is the fact that Grandview now has its own team. Othello, however, will not be in the mix. Ben Taff, who swam for one season in a co-op arrangement with Moses Lake, has graduated.
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RETURNING STATE SWIMMERS
Ashton Pollick, jr. (9th in 200 IM; 9th in 100 back; 6th in 200 medley relay; 6th in 400 free relay); Andrew Blanchard, sr. (5th in 100 fly; 6th in 200 medley relay; 15th in 200 free relay; 6th in 400 free relay); Corey Bradshaw, jr. (200 free; 500 free; 15th in 200 free relay; 6th in 400 free relay); Taylor Armstrong, sr. (50 free; 15th in 200 free relay); Mitch Piper, jr. (1-meter diving)
Patrick Giedeman, jr. (11th in 200 free; 8th in 500 free; 15th in 200 medley relay; 16th in 400 free relay); Russell Skorina, so. (15th in 200 medley relay); Josh Bumgarner, sr. (16th in 400 free relay)
Will Wertz, jr. (4th in 200 free; 7th in 100 free; 10th in 200 medley relay; 6th in 200 free relay); Andrew Peacock, sr. (10th in 200 medley relay; 6th in 200 free relay; 100 breast); Jake Douglas, sr. (15th in 100 fly; 10th in 200 medley relay; 400 free relay); Jeevan Philip, sr. (100 fly; 400 free relay); Tanner Collins, jr. (100 breast)
Tim Bowen, jr. (8th in 200 medley relay; 7th in 200 free relay); Will Burgett, jr. (7th in 100 breast; 50 free; 8th in 200 medley relay; 7th in 200 free relay)