SHS girls swim/dive 2014 season preview
Head coach: Anita Benitez (fourth season)
Assistant: Mark Pincikowski
2013 record: 1-6, seventh in Olympic League; two athletes to state 2A meet
Returners: Danielle Barrow (sr.), Jessica Craig (jr.), Victoria Fitzpatrick (jr.), Kayley Lofstrom (jr.), Kailee Price (sr.), Emily Van Dyken (sr.), Anika Van Dyken (so.), Carmen Wilwert (so.), Stephanie Grow (so.), Jaycee Thompson-Porrazzo (so.), Kaylee Ditlefsen (sr.), Megan O’Mera (jr.), Bernadette Dalm (sr.)
Newcomers: Annabelle Armstrong (fr.), Natalie Barker (fr.), Molly Braaten (so.), Breanna Campbell (jr.), Guadalupe Canadas (sr.), Angela Carillo Burge (fr.), Kaitlyn Davis (fr.), Jovelle Dewey (so.), Holly Eiland (jr.), Shannon Gordon (sr.), Dakota Henderson (so.), Zoe Isenberger (so.), Sydnee Linnane (fr.), Anna White (fr.), Aubree Young (fr.), Sara Zarit (fr.)
With one word to describe the season outlook for the Sequim High School girls swim/dive squad, head coach Anita Benitez says, “Inspiring.”
Two state qualifiers return for the Wolves along with a sea of district qualifiers and alternates from 2013.
The difference maker this year, Benitez says is the team is ahead of previous years skill-wise.
“We came in with fewer (athletes) who need to learn how to swim,” she said. “We have a lot of returnees along with a lot of newcomers.”
Thirty swimmers hit the SARC waters this season in a light-hearted environment but with an attitude focused on improving and winning.
“I’ve worked to make this a nice place to be,” Benitez says.
“We’re giving a girl in Sequim something positive to do, something they can do for the rest of their lives and find community in this. That’s something special.”
In the offseason, many of the swimmers, like senior Dani Barrow, who placed 22nd in the 200 IM at state last year, swam as much as they could, Benitez said.
To increase their chances at success, Benitez bumped up practices to six days a week because she felt they needed more time swimming.
“Ten hours a week is a lot of a workout, but my varsity swimmers really want to make it to districts and state,” she said.
So far, Benitez’s strategy is working. Two swimmers and two relay teams qualified for districts already at their first meet on Sept. 11 in Klahowya.
Barrow qualified in four events, the 200M individual medley, 100M breaststroke, and two relays, while freshman Sydnee Linnane also qualified in the 200IM and two relays and almost qualified in the 500M freestyle.
Benitez said she saw a lot of improvement from last year despite the loss, a 104-60 decision for Klahowya. The Wolves picked up event victories in diving (Emily Van Dyken, 158.90 points), the 100M free (Victoria Fitzpatrick, 1:08.62) and 100M backstroke (Jessica Craig, 1:18.92).
Kira Crane, Kelsey Crane and Madison Heaman led Klahowya with two event wins each.
Craig, a junior, is about 1.5 seconds off from qualifying in the 100M backstroke for districts and Fitzpatrick, also a junior, is near qualifying times in the 50M and 100M freestyle. Craig placed 16th last year at districts in the 100M breaststroke.
Sophomore Thompson-Porrazzo joins Barrow, Craig and Linnane on the 200M medley and 200M freestyle relays and is another athlete that Benitez thinks could qualify for districts in the butterfly later in the season.
Benitez is finding the talent pool for the Sequim swim team is deeper than years past with five of seven districts alternates returning including Stephanie Grow, Megan O’Mera, Kailee Price, Thompson-Porrazzo and Anika Van Dyken.
“It’ll be a crapshoot who is on the varsity relays,” Benitez said. “It could change on their attitudes, times and swims.”
This year’s diving squad, again led by Mark Pincikowski, could see even more success than previous years, too.
Senior Emily Van Dyken, who returned to the 2A state swimming and diving championships for a second time last year to place 22nd, is a likely candidate to go to state, Benitez said along with freshman Anna White and sophomore Jovelle Dewey.
New divers Kaitlyn Davis and Sara Zarit could make an impact, too.
“All of our divers have a good chance to do to districts this year,” Benitez said.
Sequim hosts North Kitsap at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, at SARC for its first home meet and travels to Bremerton on Sept. 25.