Getting his kicks in the water again

Garrett Carson’s flirtation with basketball rekindles Olympia swimmer’s zeal for the pool

mwochnick@theolympian.comDecember 6, 2012 

It’s hard to be happy when you’re cut from a high school sport, but not making the boys basketball team helped Garrett Carson revive a passion – for swimming.

As a freshman at Olympia High last winter, Carson was eager to try basketball. He already was an accomplished swimmer at the club level with Evergreen Swim Club, but thought it might be time to trade laps for layups.

“I was sick of swimming,” Carson said.

The switch never worked out. Carson was cut from Olympia’s boys basketball program during tryouts.

Disappointed, he switched gears after being persuaded by Ken Rice, then-assistant coach of the Olympia boys swimming team and a former coach with the Evergreen Swim Club, to give high school swimming a shot.

Carson couldn’t have scripted his first varsity season any better, qualifying for the Class 4A state swimming and diving championships in two events.

“I went a lot farther than I thought I would,” he said. “I’m happy everything turned out the way it has. When you go to state, you can’t be anything but happy.”

Carson swam in the 100-yard butterfly and 200 individual medley at state, placing 21st (57.67 seconds) and 23rd (2:10.05), respectively.

This season, with one meet – the Aberdeen Relays – under their belts, Carson has one of 11 district-qualifying times for the Bears going into today’s dual meet at North Thurston.

Olympia boys swim coach Mel Smith, in his sixth season, had his highest turnout with 29 swimmers. Carson’s versatility gives Smith options for entering his sophomore in the relay events. The Bears hope to qualify for state in all three relays – the 200 medley, 200 free and 400 free. Last year, Carson was the Bears’ only state-qualifying swimmer.

“He can do everything,” Smith said of Carson. “He’ll be a critical part in what we’re hoping to do this year and end up with three relays at state.”

Olympia’s depth is spread through all four grades, including 11 freshmen. The Bears made a statement early by winning the relays in Aberdeen, which featured host Aberdeen, North Thurston, Capital, Shelton, and all three Lacey teams.

“We are extremely deep,” Carson said. “Most of the guys swim year-round. It’s amazing to watch the potential we have this year. I’m hoping we can get better and better.”


Nathan Anderson, sr., North Thurston


Garrett Carson, so., Olympia

100 butterfly, 200 individual medley

Peter Emmons, sr., Timberline

100 butterfly, 100 backstroke

Scott Harn, sr., North Thurston

sprint freestyles

Wes Murry, sr., Olympia

sprint freestyles


North Thurston moved up to Class 3A after a dominating two-year run in 2A. The Rams welcome back eight state-qualifying swimmers to a team that has gone 18-0 in duals the past two seasons and had a third-place finish at the state championships. … Class 4A Olympia has a balanced team spanning seniors to freshmen and already has 11 district-qualifying times. The Bears’ 29 swimmers are the most coach Mel Smith has had in his six years. … Timberline returns three of its four swimmers who were part of the state-seasoned 200 medley and 400 relays — seniors Peter Emmons, Eric Smith and Conner Powers. Emmons also swims the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly. … Capital and River Ridge look for qualifiers this season after sending none to the state meet last February.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 @MegWochnick

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