T-Birds making a splash

2A STATE SWImMING: Sullivan, Hack lead a strong Tumwater squad as state championships begin Friday

Contributing writerNovember 8, 2012 

When goals were being set at the start of the season, Tumwater High girls’ swim coach Laurel Smith didn’t have to provide any input regarding her 400 freestyle relay team.

A plan of attack had already been established. They already knew what they wanted to achieve.

“They met before the start of the season and discussed what they wanted to accomplish and what they needed to do to accomplish those goals,” Smith said. “They have been extremely focused since day one. I’m not sure how much guidance I’ve provided them. I’ve just sat back and watched.”

The team of Abby Sullivan, Lorraine Hack, Anneke Stoker and Kylie Otton head into the Class 2A state girls swimming championships, which begin Friday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, as the favorites in the 400 freestyle relay.

The quartet is coming off a victory at the District IV meet where they completed the event in 3 minutes, 44.6 seconds – the fastest time this season for any 2A squad.

“Everything has just been amazing so far,” said Sullivan, who will also compete individually in the 100 free and 100 backstroke this weekend. “I can’t tell you how much fun we’ve been having.”

Sullivan, a senior and the lone club swimmer on the team, is no stranger to state titles.

As a freshman, she captured the 2A 200 free title.

“She’s about as fast a swimmer as you’ll find,” Smith said. “Plus being a club swimmer it really is like having another coach out there.”

Sullivan didn’t swim for Tumwater during her junior year, instead electing to focus her time in the water with Tacoma Swim Club.

The decision, ultimately, paid off as Sullivan drew the attention of several high-profile colleges before verbally committing to Wyoming earlier in the season.

“Not swimming for Tumwater last year was one of the hardest decisions I had to make,” Sullivan said. “I think it was the right one, but it was incredibly tough. Coming back has been incredible. I think I’ve grown up a lot. I know what I want now. I’ve set goals and worked hard to achieve them.”

While Sullivan came from a swimming background, fellow senior Hack emerged from a completely different form of it – that being synchronized swimming.

Hack took up synchronized swimming seven years ago when she and a friend decided to give it a try at the Olympia YMCA.

She excelled quickly at the sport, competing for Olympia Synchro and Seattle Synchro Swimming teams and twice earning spots on the U.S. National team.

“She’s just a gifted athlete,” Smith said. “The thing is it takes a lot of body control to be (a) success at synchronized swimming. I really think that made it easier for her to transition into this sport.”

Hack shined at the District IV championships, beating her previous highmark in the 200 individual medley by nearly three seconds and finishing second to Hockinson’s Julia Sanders, the three-time defending champion. Hack also posted a season-best time of 59.36 in the 100 butterfly.

“Districts was definitely surprising for me,” Hack said. “I was very pleased with how I did. Hopefully, I haven’t peaked just yet. We have one more meet.”

In addition to being one of the teams to beat in the 400 relay, the T-Birds will also be difficult to defeat in the 200 medley relay.

Tumwater captured the district title in the 200 medley relay with Sullivan (backstroke), Stoker (butterfly), Hack (breaststroke) and Kylie Otton (freestyle), stopping the clock in a season-best time of 1:56.9.

“It’s kind of hard to believe it’s almost all going to be over,” Hack said. “We’re just trying to make sure the season ends on a good note.”

Stoker will compete in the 100 and 200 free, while Rachel Howard (diving) and the 200 free relay team of Maleah Bailey, Alex Cumings, Winter Herron and Marguerite Henderson give the T-Birds a strong chance to finish in a top placing at the meet.

“Obviously, a state championship is what everyone wants,” Sullivan said. “We’re no different. But this team has already accomplished so many goals and achieved so much. If it doesn’t happen, it won’t take away from all the positive experiences we’ve had this year.”

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