Last year, the Kennewick Lions sent their first relay team to the Class 3A state swimming championships, a confidence boost for a squad that had lagged in the CBBN standings.
That momentum has followed them into this season.
On Saturday, the Lions placed in the top half of the Mid-Columbia Invitational at Kennewick's Serier Pool. Though the team didn't pick up any individual wins, it beat out Southridge and Kamiakin for town bragging rights.
Not only does Kennewick have three-time state qualifier Hailey Murphy for one more year, but it has brought two more Murphys into the fold: her twin sisters, Alexis and Blair.
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There are a lot of high-achieving swim families in this area, and three meets into their high school careers, Alexis and Blair have shown that the Murphys are no exception.
Alexis won the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke to help Kennewick tie with Kamiakin last Tuesday, and Blair swam to a victory in the 500 free in the season opener against Southridge and in the 200 free against Kamiakin. At the Mid-Columbia Invitational, Alexis was third in the 500 free and fourth in the 100 breast, while Blair finished fifth in the 50 free and seventh in the 100 breast.
Kennewick also has senior Jacque Ines and junior Samantha Lester back from last year's state team in the 200 free relay. Lester is a sprinting dynamo, having won the 50 and 100 free against Southridge and Kamiakin, while Ines was a part of the winning 200 medley and 400 free relay teams against the Braves.
With 10 athletes, the Lions have one of the smallest teams in the Mid-Columbia Conference, but they are making coach Erin Holmes' heart swell with pride. Though the Lions dropped their season opener to Southridge, 99-84, Holmes said she cried afterward because she was so proud of what her swimmers had done against a much larger squad.
If the Lions keep rolling like this, Holmes might want to keep the Kleenex handy.