Brooke Kuebler did not wake up Saturday morning thinking she was going to become a Class 3A West Central District girls swimming champion.
“I was expecting third or fourth place,” Kuebler said.
But there the sophomore from North Thurston was, chasing down the leaders with superb closing speed in the 100-yard freestyle finals at Mount Tahoma High School, including race favorite Alana Ponce, of Gig Harbor.
And in the final 25 yards, she outkicked everybody to win in 55.48 seconds — just ahead of runner-up Kelly Tran, of Wilson (55.55) and Ponce (55.73), who placed third.
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Kuebler even outkicked the expectations of her longtime coach — Jak Ayers.
“It was a nice surprise,” Ayers said. “She has been working really hard.”
Timberline standout Hannah Barker had a mixed-bag day in the district finals. She won her second career district 100 backstroke title. She captured the 4A WCD crown in 2015.
On Saturday, she won it with a personal-best time of 57.53, which was slightly faster than her school record of 57.79, set in the 4A district meet a year ago.
“In club, I’ve always been a backstroke-er,” Barker said.
But as the top seed in the 200 freestyle, she was chased down by Stadium ninth grader Taylor Kabacy.
“I was expecting it,” Barker said. “She is a bring-it-home finisher, and I typically have to take it out faster (in the beginning).”
Barker did lead much of the way, but just not by a wide enough margin. And in the final 50 yards, Kabacy nudged by her to win in 1:54.21 – the second-fastest mark in the state this season.
Barker was second in 1:55.55.
“I am good for the first 150 (yards),” Barker said. “I just need to work on that last 50.”
North Thurston’s Maya Lawson-Rivera, who was a two-time district winner a year ago, was beaten in the 200 Individual Medley finals by Stadium’s Kaycee Simpson.
Simpson built a lead early, and won in 2:09.14. Lawson-Rivera (2:12.40) held off Central Kitsap’s Taylor Sims (2:12.62) for second place.
Lawson-Rivera also was the runner-up in the 100 breaststroke. Gig Harbor’s Ursula Andren won in 1:05.29, nearly two seconds faster than the North Thurston senior (1:07.24).
Stadium ended the Rams’ reign as 3A WCD team champion, winnings its first district title in school history.