Boys swimming: Wolves quartet sets school 400 free relay mark in district prep meet

Some records are made to be broken, or so the saying goes.

Others are meant to be ripped right off the wall, apparently.

Sequim High’s boys swimming team capped off the Olympic League meet in Port Angeles on Jan. 30 with what head coach Anita Benitez called an “emotional” final event, a school record-breaking 400 free relay.

Freshman Kaleb Needoba, sophomores Deven Biehler and Jax Thaxton, and junior Alex Berikoff not only set a personal best in the event by about six seconds, but their 3:49.34 effort broke a mark set in 2013 by Wolves Eric Prosser, Doug Dunbar, Steve Dewey and Kiano Stoppani.

Not to be outdone, SHS senior Mathew Craig set a school mark in diving in the same meet with 360 points and looks to qualify for his fourth consecutive state meet finals as Sequim prepares to send a dozen athletes to the West Central District meet in Renton, Feb. 9-10.

“It’s been our training all year, what we’ve been building up to all year,” Benitez said of the record.

In addition to the record-setters, the Wolves also posted 12 individual personal bests, and 23 overall including split times in relays, at the Jan. 30 divisional meet.

Needoba cut 12 seconds from his 500 free time and qualified for districts with a 6:01.84, and added a district-qualifying swim in the 200 free with a 2:11.69, a personal record by six seconds.

Thaxton swam the 200 free for the first time this season and also qualified for districts with a 2:09.44 effort.

Others setting personal bests at the divisional meet include: Blake Boardman (29.19), Zen Graham (27.79), Jordan Hurdlow (31.07), Michael Mattern Hall (33.74), Anthony Cortani (29.55) and Sean Weber (28.65) in the 50 free; Murray Bingham (1:00.29) and Mattern Hall (1:23.71) in the 100 free, and Sam Frymyer in the 100 backstroke (1:18.28).

A team united

Record-breaking swims can come from some unlikely sources. Consider that a year ago, half of the Wolves’ 400 free relay squad wasn’t swimming, and hadn’t for years.

“I played basketball and soccer but I’ve never been good at anything,” Biehler said last week. “(But) I found swimming has been my forte.”

The Sequim High sophomore said Graham, now a teammate, encouraged him to join the team.

“I didn’t have anything else to do,” Biehler said. “It ended up being fun.

Needoba said he was into swimming until about five years ago when he gave it up. That is, until he jumped back in this winter.

“I really like to swim; it’s a sport I feel I thrive in,” he said.

The pair have differing tastes in favorite events; Biehler likes the 100 free, a sprint, and has a distaste for the 200 individual medley (“I almost threw up,” he recalls from the last time he swam it), while Needoba prefers a bit of distance with the 500 and 200 free events.

Both, however, seem to relish swimming on a team that feels like family.

“I’m an only child, so these guys are like my brothers,” Needoba says.

That cohesiveness on this year’s team even helped as the Wolves looked to break the 400 free relay record last week.

“Friends (cheering), motivating you — that helps a lot,” Biehler said.

Benitez said she promised the team that if they managed to break the school’s 400 free relay record she’d give them a “play day” the following day, on Jan. 31.

So instead of churning through their usual routine last Wednesday, the Wolves splashed about with grins in the shallow end of the pool at the YMCA of Sequim.

“I’m so proud of you,” Benitez told her squad, “but we’re not done.”

District qualifiers

A dozen Wolves from the Sequim High boys swim/dive program have posted qualifying times for the West Central District meet, set for Feb. 9-10 in Renton. They are:

Alex Berikoff — 200 medley relay, 50 free, 100 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay

Deven Biehler — 200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay

Murray Bingham — 200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay

Blake Boardman — 200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 100 back

Jesse Bobst — 200 free relay

Mathew Craig — Diving

Sam Frymyer — 200 medley relay, 200 free relay

Zen Graham — 200 medley relay, 200 free relay

Kaleb Needoba — 200 medley relay, 500 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay

Liam Payne — 200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 100 breast

Jax Thaxton — 200 medley relay, 50 free, 100 free, 200 free relay, 100 back, 400 free relay

Sean Weber — 200 medley relay, 200 free relay

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