Wherein boys prep swimming is concerned, this past season yielded yet again an impressive display of heart and talent in the Columbia Basin region.
On the 4A side, Richland's fledgling program maintained forward momentum thanks in no small part to the continued dedication of coaches Kathy Piper and Randy Willis as well as a solid core of returnees, including senior Eric Blanchard and juniors Tyler Pickett and Nathaniel Weinman, who helped lead the Bombers to a fifth-place finish at state.
Blanchard, our selection for All-Area MVP, emerged as team leader, qualified for state in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 back events and contributed to the 200 free (seventh, 1:31.13) and 400 free (sixth, 3:18.33) relay teams.
"He's an extremely versatile swimmer," Piper said of Blanchard. "He'll swim whatever you need with a smile on his face. He's a great team leader and gets the boys pumped up. ... He had a tough year, a lot on his plate and he handled it really well."
Weinman placed seventh in the 500 free (4:45.10) and also contributed energies to the 200 and 400 free relay teams, and Pickett finished fifth in the 200 individual medley (1:58.05) to emerge as the Bombers' top finisher in any event.
"They've inherited a very good team," Blanchard said of Weinman and Pickett. "I have no doubt they have what it takes to make the team better than what it's been in the past."
On the 3A side, Hanford -- also coached by Piper and Willis -- was buoyed by the achievements of senior Daniel Tixier and sophomore B.J. Deatherage.
Tixier capped his prep career with a sixth-place finish at state in the 100 fly (53.58) but Deatherage's accomplishments are of special note, as he placed seventh at state in the diving event despite the fact that the Falcons have no ready access to a diving board.
Kennewick once again showed its mastery of the lanes with a second-place team finish at the 4A state tournament with a pin count of 6,965 -- just 18 shy of state champion Emerald Ridge.
But All-Area MVP Shanice Brice, a Moses Lake junior, made a solo demonstration of the winning possibilities of the Chiefs program.
Brice, selected in January as CBBN Bowler of the Year, rolled a strong series (1,065 pins) to place third overall in 4A state individual competition. And she has seen potential in the Moses Lake bowling squads, both present and future.
"We had a pretty big turnout for girls that wanted to bowl, girls that actually wanted to do this," Brice said. "Some-times we'll get girls that take it seriously. I think we'll have a good year next year.
Lions junior Brittany Blackketter placed seventh in the individual competition with a pin count of 1,030.
Kennewick coach Oscar Garnica was pleased with his team's show of solidarity, collecting its third straight CBBN 4A title en route to state. He's confident that the Lions will continue its winning ways.
"I think this season went well. Once again, the biggest thing every year is that the girls played together as a team. They only lost one game and dominated districts.
"Next year we're hoping to do the same," Garnica said.
Columbia Basin gymnasts took notable strides this season as two qualified for the state finals in February at the Tacoma Dome.
The Kamiakin program provided much of the star power for the region. The Braves romped to league and district championships en route to the state meet, where freshman Michelle Fletcher placed fourth in the vault (9.4) -- and earned a solid 12th overall in the all-around (35.625) -- to earn All-Area MVP honors.
Teammates Kayla Curtis and Danielle Cuevas, both juniors, also turned in solid performances.
Curtis finished fifth in the floor (9.525), and Cuevas had strong prelim scores in the floor (9.375) and bar (8.125) events.