Boys swimming: Benitez steps down from SHS head coach position

After two seasons of leading Sequim High’s boys swimming squad — including a 2018-19 campaign that saw four school records fall — Anita Benitez is stepping down as head coach.

Benitez, who also coached the SHS girls swimming program from 2011-17, said the time was right to move on to pursue other coaching interests.

“It’s just time … to go create other (non-school) programs,” she said last week.

A Spanish teacher at Sequim High, Benitez took over the boys’ program in 2017-18 following the retirement of Linda Moats, after Moats helped start the program and began coaching it in 2000.

This past season, Sequim’s boys saw a turnout of about 20 swimmers and saw three relays and one individual (Jax Thaxton) earn state meet berths.

The Wolves set two records at state, including the 200 medley relay of Thaxton, Kaleb Needoba, Liam Payne and Alex Berikoff (1:49.69) and the 200 free relay of Berikoff, Payne, Zen Graham and Deven Biehler (1:37.70). Earlier in the eason Sequim’s 400 free relay team of Berikoff, Graham, Needoba and Thaxton broke the school mark with a 3:43.42 time, while Thaxton also broke the school standard in the 50 free (23.48).

“It was a beautiful season,” Benitez said.

In recent years, the boys team had seen a dip in roster numbers but Benitez began recruitment early and in that first year brought out 14 boys who had never swam competitively, along with a few returners. That team put two relays into state and earned a league meet win against Port Angeles — the team’s first win over the rival Roughriders in 18 tries dating back to 2003.

But wins and losses weren’t important for Benitez, as she said she focused more on individual efforts and growth.

“I don’t care about winning — I had kids who were not swimmers or not swimmers year-round. We were breaking records left and right,” she aid. “Some of my best kids weren’t club swimmers. They were kinds who came and learned to be swimmers.”

Benite said a good high school coach understands that, apart from the physical training, prep sports is an opportunity to help youngsters with social and emotional learning.

“We talked (as a team) about personal bests,” she said. “It’s a matter of coaching these kids into adulthood.”

She noted that the Wolves had success in the pool and out, boasting a cumulative 3.244 grade-point-average.

“I had such good times,” Benitez said. “I’m going to miss all of it. I miss the girls, too.”

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