Nielsen, Williams lead Tides past Stadium

Boys swimming: Senior captain and freshman leader propel Gig Harbor Tides to 7-0 record

of the GatewayJanuary 22, 2014 

The Gig Harbor Tides swimming team continued its undefeated season Thursday with a 124-60 Narrows League win over Stadium, pushing its record to 7-0.

Senior captain Erik Nielsen, a freestyle specialist, notched the top spot in the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 49.80 seconds. Nielsen also swims the 50 and 100 freestyle events.

“It’s always nice to swim a wide variety of strokes and distances,” he said. “I went into it thinking more about my pace work, and using that to model for my 100 event on how you can gauge how fast you can go out, to come back in, what speed and how much energy you have.”

Gig Harbor head coach Mike Kelly had high praise for Nielsen, who has won the coachess’ award in past years. The honor generally goes to a team member who exemplifies a good work ethic.

Nielsen sets the tone for the team.

“He brings a lot of leadership,” Kelly said. “He was picked as captain by his team, and he’s done a great job with his leadership on the deck, in the pool. Erik is just a super kid in the sense that he always gives you his best, even if he’s not 100 percent that day. He’s giving you 100 percent of what he’s got. That’s just a great example for other kids.”

Nielsen’s experience and work ethic has already proven advantageous, rubbing off on a talented freshmen class that’s led by Dale Williams.

Williams’ highlight was a first-place finish in the 50 free on Thursday. His 22.72 was about two seconds faster than anyone else in the event. The time was short of his best of 21.9, but Williams was still pleased.

“It’s not quite my best time, but it’s close, and given the fact that we’re in the middle of training right now, that’s perfectly fine,” he said.

Kelly said Williams is the leader of the younger class.

“His potential is to be top five at state in both of the events he’s going to swim,” Kelly said. “He’s just got a real good mental attitude, great physical composure, and he trains hard. Again, people see that hard work pays off, and they start to train a little bit harder, and we’re seeing the results of that in some best times in the meets.”

The emergence of the freshman class has the Tides poised for a big finish at the Class 4A state meet next month. Before the season, Kelly and some of the swimmers were eyeing a top-10 finish. While Kelly stills says that’s attainable, the team has the potential to place even higher.

“We’re going to try to shoot for top three,” Nielsen said. “Third would be phenomenal, and I don’t think that’s too much of a stretch.”

Williams hesitated to make a prediction, but he said a top-three finish is definitely a possibility.

“I think we have a really, really solid team this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we do at districts and state in the couple weeks to come,” Williams said.

Kelly said he’s looking forward to what’s next.

“There’s still opportunities for us to improve, and, as coaches, we’ll keep striving to improve our athletes and get them ready,” he said. “We’ve been working them really hard, so to see the times that we’re having right now, I’m really excited about the rest period and tapering up for districts and state.”

Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at jon.manley@gateline.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.

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