So much of the concentration at state events — and in the case this week at the WIAA high school girls swimming championships — is winning.
For North Thurston High School, the journey has been as much about reclaiming what was lost as it was about challenging for a big trophy.
A year ago at this time, Rams’ standout Arielle Howell had no idea that in a few months, she would suffer through a long bout of mononucleosis — something that kept her out of swimming for an extended period.
Even Saturday, at the end of the state meet at the King County Aquatic Center, Howell said she still feels the effects of it in her strength and energy level.
Howell, a junior, placed eighth in the Class 3A championship finals of the 100-yard freestyle race. She finished in 56.21 seconds.
Her time was a tad slower than her preliminary mark from Friday — 55.32.
“Today I felt a little weak in the pool,” Howell said. “This season, I have been building back up my strength after I got sick, and I have been working back toward my best times.”
Jak Ayres, the longtime coach of the Rams, could see it, too, from poolside.
“(Howell) is moving along,” Ayres said. “Today — the second day — (fatigue) showed up a little bit. In the second 50 of her race, she was not showing that snap that she has. She has a really, really beautiful stroke.”
Better days should be ahead for the reigning 3A Narrows champions. Howell will have an entire offseason to regain her strength. And they have an emerging ninth grader in Maya Lawson-Rivera, who reset her own school record in the 100 breaststroke in the consolation finals Saturday.
She won the race in 1:07.34, eclipsing her 1:07.94 time from Friday.
“It was a great meet,” Ayres said. “We are pretty happy.”
She stayed in fifth place for much of the 200 free, and finished with her weekend’s best time. But in the 500 free, despite coming out of the first 50 in second place she fell off the pace — and ended up nearly five seconds slower than her qualifying time.
And younger sibling, Alexandria, posted the exact time from Friday — 59.30 — to take sixth in the 100 butterfly. She is just a sophomore.
It was the Bears’ highest finish in an individual event since 2010 when Clara Heffernan took third in the 500 free in Class 4A.
In Class 2A, W.F. West's Gabrielle Godlewski placed sixth in the 200 freestyle finals in a season-best 1:59.94, and Black Hills ninth grader CeCe Pennella finished 10th in the 1-meter diving competition with 260.75 points.