Alex Wright and Everett Werner are no strangers to competition.
The two Olympia High School seniors are big names in Washington’s club swimming scene, and both have signed on to continue their careers at Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
After committing to their respective college programs last year, both swimmers decided to compete for their high school team. And for the first time, they will swim at the Class 4A state swimming and diving championships, which begin Friday at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“We thought it would just be fun to come out here and do it,” Werner said. “We decided individually, but both for pretty similar reasons.”
Wright is headed to Virginia Tech as the No. 5 recruit out of Washington for the 2018 class. Werner will join Duke as the No. 8 recruit out of the state.
Both swimmers are ranked in the top 300 nationally on CollegeSwimming.com, which lists Wright as No. 153 and Werner as No. 294.
Still, Wright says the stage these two accomplished swimmers will compete on this weekend brings a grand feeling.
“The high school stage always feels bigger,” Wright said. “More people seem to come out and watch, and it always gets a lot louder than a club meet. It’s definitely more exciting, I think.”
Wright is the top seed in the 200-yard freestyle and 500 free, and close to All-American consideration times in both events.
Werner is the No. 4 seed in the 200 individual medley and No. 8 seed in the 100 butterfly.
Both swimmers are members of Olympia’s 200 medley relay (No. 8 seed) and 400 free relay (No. 6 seed).
“For them to come here and mesh with the team well has been a really fun experience,” said junior Jordan Kamimura, who swims on the 200 medley relay.
“We feel pretty confident. We know what we’re capable of, and we’re only getting faster. Our chemistry has been really good at the end of the season.”
Wright and Werner focused exclusively on club swimming during their first three years of high school, with grueling schedules designed for individual improvement.
And both agreed swimming for the Bears during their final year has added an enjoyable team atmosphere club swimming doesn’t offer.
“When you come here, it’s a team,” Werner said. “You’re swimming for something, which is a lot of fun.”
“I think something that’s been great about this entire season is all of these different friendships I’ve made,” Wright said. “If I didn’t swim high school, I wouldn’t have known some of these guys, but they’re so awesome.”
Both have enjoyed high school practices, teaching techniques to some of the younger swimmers, and participating in relays.
“It definitely has increased my passion for the sport, and has made it more fun,” Wright said. “It’s different coming to a high school meet where you swim on all of these relays.
“You get to these league and district meets, and you have guys relying on you. You know you have to step up, and it’s a good challenge.”
Olympia shocked the rest of the West Central District earlier this month, picking up a pair of district titles in the 200 medley relay over Kennedy Catholic and 400 free relay over team champion and host Curtis.
Wright also won a pair of individual titles in the 200 free and 500 free, while Werner won the 200 IM.
“They’re really fun to swim with,” said sophomore Andrew Liu, who competes with Wright and Werner on the 200 medley and 400 free relays.
“They push us because they’re really fast, and when we swim with them we ride on their energy.”
After this weekend, Wright and Werner will likely meet again in conference competition at the collegiate level.
They swam together in club for the majority of their childhood and teenage years, and will take that familiarity to the East Coast.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Werner said. “We’ve been racing for a lot of years, and we’re going across the country to race each other again.”
Werner was looking at several Ivy League schools, UC San Diego and the Air Force Academy before choosing Duke.
Wright visited 11 schools last spring, stretching from Maryland to Missouri, and eventually decided on Virginia Tech.
Just a state line will separate the two swimmers in college.
“I don’t know how often we’ll see each other, but it will be good to see a familiar face when I’m on the pool deck,” Wright said.