Boys swimming: Wolves sending two relays, diver Craig to state

Sequim’s boys swimming crew will finish their final 400 meters of the season at the state finals.

So too will Sequim diver Mathew Craig, seeking another spot among the best in the state.

Craig and two Wolves’ relay crews earned spots at the class 1A/2A state meet after solid efforts at the 1A/2A West Central District meet at Hazen High School, Renton, Feb. 9-10.

SHS’s Jax Thaxton, Deven Biehler, Murray Bingham and Alex Berikoff splashed to a 3:47.56 finish in the 400 free relay finals at districts, good for fifth place and a state berth.

For good measure, the team was “wild-carded” into the state meet in the 200 free relay, set for Feb. 16-17 at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

Sequim will take seven swimmers for the relay events — Thaxton, Biehler, Bingham and Berikoff, along with Kaleb Needoba, Zan Graham and Jesse Bobst — and are seeded 19th in both relays heading into the state meet.

They’ll need to improve their standing to at least 12th place to make the second day of swimming, Benitez said.

“We have really fast swimmers and we are hoping to go farther the second day,” Benitez said. “I believe all the kids are excited to go.”

Liam Payne will miss the state meet as he is competing in the all-state band competition the same weekend.

Craig, a senior, took second at districts after posting the top preliminary score. Nicholas Malinowski of Steilacoom (341.9 points) edged out Craig (298.5) for top honors and both advance to the state championship.

At state meets, Craig placed 15th as a freshman, eighth as a sophomore and fourth last season.

This year, he’s among the top five vying for a state title with a group that includes Malinowski, Port Angeles’ Andrew Methner, Bellingham’s Drew Brennan and Ryan Kirschner of Liberty (Renton).

Other district times

Sequim’s 200 free relay team of Thaxton, Payne, Needoba and Berikoff placed eighth in the B final with a season-best 1:40.73.

Sequim’s 200 medley relay placed 11th, with Biehler, Bobst, Graham and Blake Boardman finishing in 2:04.98.

Payne took 11th place in the B final of the 100 breaststroke, finishing in 1:14.46. Bobst was 19th in the same event (1:17.34, a season-best).

Thaxton took 13th overall and just missed the finals in the 200 free with a 53.63 finish, a season-best that was nearly a second better than his seeding time.

In the preliminaries in the 100 free Berikoff was 18th (56.36), Bingham was 20th (a season-best 58.16) and Biehler was 22nd (58.86, also a season-best mark).

In the 50 free, Thaxton placed 16th with a 24.50 finish while Berikoff was 20th (25.64).

Needoba placed 13th in the 500 free (6:13.96, one spot from the finals) and 22nd overall in the 200 freestyle (2:13.72), while Payne finished 22nd in the 200 individual medley (2:37.92).

Boardman placed 19th in the 100 backstroke, finishing in 1:12.09.

With 49 points, Sequim’s Wolves finished 11th of 17 at districts. Kingston, the defending 2A champs, took first with 233.5 points, followed by Lindbergh (176.5), Steilacoom (165) and Olympic (145). Port Angeles was seventh.

“The boys did really well and we represented Sequim so well in how many boys came out and swam,” Benitez said. “It was awesome and great to see more personal records being broken.”

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