The Gig Harbor High School boys swimming team lost only once during the regular season, and it was against a talented Curtis team.
The Tides got a chance for payback Saturday, but Curtis came out on top again.
Nevertheless, Gig Harbor finished second during in the Class 4A West Central District III meet at the Curtis High School Aquatic Center. The Vikings finished with 370 points and Gig Harbor had 361. Kentridge placed a distant third at 241.
“We lost to a really good team,” Tides head coach Mike Kelly said. “They had exceptional depth and really worked as hard as we did, if not harder, to put themselves in a good position (Friday) at the prelims. They had some really standout swims from people you would have never expected.
“When you lose to a good team, you hate losing, but when it’s to a good team, there’s no disappointment in that.”
Gig Harbor posted many outstanding individual and relay times. Senior Erik Nielsen, who has been eyeing the school record in the 100-yard freestyle since last season, when he was 0.08 seconds away at the state prelims, finally broke through with a first-place effort of 47.03.
“I told myself that I needed to get it next year,” Nielsen said. “I’ve been trying — I tried at leagues, and I was really close. Getting it tonight was just everything that I ever imagined. Now that my name will be on the board for the Gig Harbor Tides, it just means a lot to finally be up there.”
Kelly praised his senior leader.
“He’s just been really raising his performance level as we get deeper into the season, and he’s much more mature than he has been in the past,” Kelly said of Nielsen.
Nielsen said was pleased with the Tides’ effort.
“Of course it’s disappointing, but winning isn’t everything in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “Our guys did phenomenal. Pretty much everyone had a best time. Just in that, I congratulate my swimmers for that. We tried our hardest, and Curtis was just too good of a team, and that’s fine. They worked hard, just as we worked hard.”
Gig Harbor also won the 200 free and 400 free relays, at 1:30.29 and 3:14.46, respectively. The 400 relay was one of the most exciting races of the night, with Kentridge placing second in a photo finish at 3:14.48.
“I knew Kentridge was going to be coming after us,” Kelly said. “I told the guys at morning practice to be ready to go at 3:15 or faster to win it. They ended up rising up to that challenge.”
Nielsen said he would like to see the team improve on relay exchanges between now and the state meet, which will be held Feb. 21-22 at the Weyerhaeuser Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“We need to work on being a little bit more unsafe,” he said. “You basically get as close as you can to when they touch to when you leave, that time difference. Jacob Stone was like a 0.08 (second) exchange, and that was really good, and then we need to work on that a little more as a team.”
Kelly said the team had a great day, but he’s always looking for technical improvement.
“I’m always getting on the athletes for breath control,” he said. “When I see a 50 freestyler taking one breath, I’m still kind of amazed that you need to do that, ’cause when I was sprinting, I never took a breath. That continues even in master program.
“It’s not that hard; it’s a psychological thing. You have to kind of ween them off that concept that I need to breathe. So, anything more than once is making my head spin.”Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.