Olympia swim coach Mel Smith will tell you fast times in the pool equal good grades in the classroom.
For the second straight year, Smith’s team won the academic state championship for 4A girls swimming. Olympia had a cumulative grade point average of 3.7.
“Swimmers know they have to be focused,” Smith said. “They have to take advantage of study time. And they do.”
The Bears are one of four teams from the Olympia area to be named academic state champs. Capital was the only school that was a two-time state winner. Capital girls swimming and boys cross country had the best grade point averages in the state for their sports in 3A.
Tumwater girls cross country, coached by Rich Brown, was the 2A state champs with a 3.91 GPA – fifth best of the 36 teams recognized.
“The ability to work hard in swimming transfers to the classroom,” Capital swim coach Burke Anderson said. “The two go hand-in-hand.”
Capital’s swim team, led by returning state qualifiers Amanda Clark and Hansi Willoughby, easily won league and district titles. They grabbed seven firsts at district and won with 306 points, 109 more than runner-up Foss. Clark and Willoughby were both double winners.
Along with its district title, Capital has a cumulative GPA of 3.88.
“It’s a special year,” Anderson said. “They’re special kids.”
Capital boys cross country, coached by Jerry Miller, had a cumulative GPA of 3.77.
Capital’s boys swim team has also won the academic state championship.
“The idea is we’re in a competitive environment,” Anderson said. “Kudos to the kids. They work hard.”
Of all the teams recognized, Clarkston High School’s girls 2A cross country team had the highest GPA this fall with a 3.97.
Olympia, led by Kathryn Culhane, Clara Heffernan and Miranda Early, will compete in its district swim meet Friday and Saturday at Rogers High School. Capital’s district meet begins next Friday at Hazen High School.
To encourage studies, Smith names his own all-academic team at the end of the season. Swimmers must have a 3.5 GPA or higher to make it. He gave awards to 26 of his 35 swimmers last year.
“It’s fun to coach talented and committed young ladies,” Smith said. “We’re proud that both Capital and Olympia received the all-academic award for swimming.”