Fall sports preview: Benitez returns to lead SHS’s girls swim team in ‘22

Despite several seasons away from her Sequim High girls swim team coaching role, Anita Benitez returns to a program boasting strong numbers and a healthy roster of returnees in 2022.

“We have a fun team, and we have a lot of talent on this team,” said Benitez, who led the Wolves from 2012-2017.

“I’m more confident [as a coach, now],” she said.

Having a roster of more than 20 swimmers back in the pool this fall doesn’t hurt.

Last season, under the direction of Britt Hemphill, Sequim went 4-4 and placed 10th at West Central District meet. Sequim put two relays (200 medley, 200 free) and one athlete (senior Lauren Sundin) in the class 2A state 2A meet.

Benitez said she wants to focus more on bettering times than meet wins and losses.

“My focus is for them to set individual goals and to make lifelong swimmers,” she said. Years later, she said, her swimmers won’t remember their times but will remember their team experiences.

Julia Jeffers competes in the 200 individual medley as the Wolves take on Port Angeles in 2021.

Julia Jeffers competes in the 200 individual medley as the Wolves take on Port Angeles in 2021.

Returning to the squad are a number of veteran swimmers, including senior Hi’ilei Robinson, who qualified for districts in four individual events and competed in two at districts as a junior — placing 11th in the 100 free and 14th in the 50 free.

Also back is sophomore Melia Nelson, who as a freshman was a part of three district qualifying relays and placed 16th in the 100 butterfly at districts in 2021.

Robinson, Christina Caples and Kari Olson are team captains this fall.

Olson said captains lead team activities such as stretching, leading the team cheer and picking out suits.

A senior, Olson is competing for the Wolves for a fourth year,

“I like being in the water,” said Olson, who noted she prefers either short (50) or long (500) freestyle races.

She said it was frustrating competing in COVID-era seasons.

“We had to wear a mask — obviously not while we were swimming — and they’d get soaked,” she said.

The Wolves, sans masks, open the season against East Jefferson on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at their home venue, YMCA of Sequim.

Sequim is at Kingston on Sept. 21 and at Bremerton on Sept. 28 before hosting Klahowya on Sept. 30.

Fall sports preview:

Girls swimming

Head coach: Anita Benitez (seventh year overall)

Assistant: Donna Thompson-Porrazzo

2021 record: 4-4, 10th at West Central District meet; two relays, one athlete to state 2A meet

Returning swimmers: Christina Caples (sr.), Hi’ilei Robinson (sr.), Kari Olson (sr.), Julia Jeffers (sr.), Melia Nelson (so.), Krista Charters (jr.), Karlie Viada (sr.), Natalie Cross (jr.), Addison Long (so.), Keira Morey (so.)

Newcomers: Alex Amaya (so.), Naomi Beglyakov (fr.), Kate Brouillard (fr.), Tricia Day (so.), Annie Elefson (fr.), Hermione Grafton (sr.), Beatrice Grezzi (jr.), Selina Meyer (fr.), Francy Moscatelli (jr.), Violet Phillips (fr.) Mia Pozernick (sr.)

2022 SHS girls swim schedule

Date Opponent Time

Sept. 14 East Jefferson 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Kingston 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Bremerton 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 30 Klahowya 3 p.m.

Oct. 5 at Port Angeles 3 p.m.

Oct. 7 at North Kitsap 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 12 Bainbridge 3 p.m.

Oct. 21 Olympic 3 p.m.

Oct. 26 Last Chance Meet, Port Angeles 3:30 p.m.