Boys swimming: Tides’ 200 free relay team wins title, showcases both youth and experience

of the GatewayFebruary 26, 2014 

FEDERAL WAY – The Gig Harbor Tides won the 200-yard freestyle relay state title on Saturday and finished third as a team during the Class 4A portion of the state swimming and diving championships at Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

Erik Nielsen, Jackson Curtis, Jacob Stone and Dale Williams combined to complete the relay in 1 minute, 27.91 seconds.

Williams, a freshman, got the relay off to a fast start with a 22-second first leg. Nielsen, a senior, knew the Tides had a great shot after that.

“I knew it was going to be a win from when Dale finished, because if any one of our guys got a best time from their splits from (Friday), then I knew we were just going to get it right away,” Nielsen said. “The second I saw Dale got a 22, it got me pumped up, and it got all the other guys pumped up.”

Once Stone and Curtis swam their legs, Nielsen brought it home. He edged out Issaquah sophomore Jason Klein, who gained on Nielsen near the end.

Issaquah finished in second in 1:28.08, but Williams said he had no doubt about the result.

“Honestly, I have a lot of faith in Eric,” Williams said. “When he dove in, and I saw where we were relative to him, that’s when I knew that we were definitely gonna win it. I just always know that Eric is going to put up a solid relay split.”

Gig Harbor head coach Mike Kelly said he didn’t know the Tides would win until Nielsen touched the wall.

“When Eric left, I had a high level of confidence that he was going to bring home the win, but in the end, it was still just a mere tenths of second,” Kelly said.

Each member of the relay team swam splits in less than 23 seconds.

“I think a lot of our strength in that relay came from not only Eric and I, but also in Jackson and Jacob,” Williams said. “They both put up very solid splits. Everyone really contributed to that win.”

Gig Harbor tied with Kentridge for third overall with 169 team points. Newport won the state championship with 215 points and Issaquah was second at 171.

Kelly said at the beginning of the season he hoped for a top-10 finish. On Saturday, he said placing third was the result of months of hard work.

“We are extremely excited for the kids, because they worked their rear ends off through the course of the season and had to tolerate me constantly on them to work harder and harder,” Kelly said. “Sometimes they would look at me like, ‘Why, why?’ Then they get to this meet, and they realize that the intensity in training pays off in the intensity of the meet.”

Nielsen provided another highlight when he finished second in the 100 freestyle in 46.72. Eastlake phenom Edward Kim won the event with an automatic All-America time of 43.90, just off Ugur Taner’s 1992 state record of 43.73.

Nielsen, who knows Kim through various events throughout the years, playfully hoped Kim would skip the event.

“I was actually hoping he wouldn’t swim the 100,” Nielsen said. “But the fact that he did swim it actually helped me swim better because not only could I pace myself a little better off of him, but also I could draft off the wake he was making. In a roundabout way, he helped. I got a best time and lowered the record for our school even more.”

Kelly said the Tides will miss Nielsen as he moves on to the next chapter of his life.

“He’s a great person, well-balanced,” Kelly said. “His leadership this year was the foundation on which we built all our success. Eric has been the strength throughout the season for the Tides by the way he handles himself in the pool and on the deck and in the classrooms, and he’s just beloved by all his peers, and they see that hard work pays off. That’s always a great example.”

Williams will lead a young core for several years. The freshman appeared in several finals on Saturday.

“If you looked at a lot of those heats, Dale was the only freshman in there,” Kelly said. “He is really poised and concentrates, and his focus is as strong as I’ve seen in a freshman. He really has the potential to be an even greater swimmer. As they say in Jamaica, ‘Better must come.’ So, I think you’ll see his name at the top next year and the years after that.”

Williams said it was just another meet.

“Honestly, it didn’t feel all that different than some of the meets I’ve done for club swimming,” he said. “I was focused at a very high level, and you had to perform in prelims to make it into finals, so honestly it wasn’t as big of a surprise for me as I thought it would be.”

Yet Williams said it was different from club events a few ways.

“It still had all the great aspects of a high-school meet, like camaraderie with your team and really working to take down school records and fun stuff like that, but in terms of actual mental approach, it was no different than a lot of the meets I’ve swam at before,” he said.

On the 1-meter diving board, senior Bastian Weyn capped off a solid season when he finished second with 390 points.

“I’m very satisfied,” Weyn said. “I came in seeded fourth, so I was kind of expecting fourth place. I’m very satisfied with second.”

Weyn said he thought his district performance might have been better. He finished with 386 points in that competition.

“I thought I was going to get a lower score, but I felt pretty good,” he said. “I was pretty shocked when I heard I did better.”

Weyn, who started diving as a hobby, finished ninth last year, one spot away from the podium.

“I didn’t think I was going to come this far, but I’m glad I did,” he said. “I think I’ve progressed a lot. I don’t know what I’m going to do next year, but it means a lot to me.”

Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at jon.manley@gateline.com.

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