North Kitsap, Kingston swimmers starting to believe

North Kitsap High School boys 400-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley swimmers (L-R) Josh Despard, Ben Breakey, Troyce Musick, Tyler Rencher, Ian Christen and Kyle Eggers have qualified for the West Central District III finals, held Feb. 12-13. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
North Kitsap High School boys 400-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley swimmers (L-R) Josh Despard, Ben Breakey, Troyce Musick, Tyler Rencher, Ian Christen and Kyle Eggers have qualified for the West Central District III finals, held Feb. 12-13.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

POULSBO — The North Kitsap and Kingston high school swim teams used a three-week hiatus to train hard in hopes of postseason success.

North has set the bar high for 2010, hoping to win the league title that narrowly eluded them last year.

“Their goal is they want their share of the Olympic League championship,” Head Coach Greg Braun said. “The guys are starting to believe they can actually do it. That’s the difference between where they were at the start of the season and now.”

The key to winning the league title, Braun said, is to get past the first-place Port Angeles Roughriders. In the Vikings’ last meet before the holiday hiatus, on Dec. 15, they lost to the Roughriders, 95-88.

“That was a real squeaker,” Braun said.

The two teams meet again in the second-to-last competition of the regular season, on Jan. 26. The Vikings will have their work cut out for them. Port Angeles has a group of divers, while North has none, meaning all points awarded in the diving events automatically go to the Roughriders.

With or without a league championship, at least six Vikings will compete in the West Central District III finals this year, held Feb. 12-13 at Hazen High School in Renton. Tyler Rencher put up district meet-qualifying times in the 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard individual medley and 500-yard freestyle swims earlier this season. Josh Despard also qualified in the 50-yard freestyle swim. Both Rencher and Despard were part of a 400-yard freestyle relay team including Ben Breakey and Troyce Musick that qualified for the district meet. Ian Christen and Kyle Eggers of the 200-yard medley relay squad will join their teammates at districts.

Braun said the swimmers still have a way to go if they hope to make it past the district meet and into the state tournament this year. Rencher said he and his teammates are working to cut down their times by staying mentally focused on their goals and taking on increasingly difficult training exercises, which their coaches call “impossible sets.”

“I’m really excited about what they’re doing as a team and how they’re working together,” Braun said.

As for personal goals, Rencher wants more than just his handful of district-qualifying times.

“I want to get on the record board really bad for the 100 butterfly. I’m two seconds away,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot on my form, and a lot is endurance. What it really takes is the power to push yourself. Two seconds is in my reach, it’s just, can I reach for it?”

Rencher’s best time in the 100-yard butterfly is 1 minute, 0.14 seconds. He needs to make significant cuts to beat Geoff Phoenix’s 1998 record of 58.34 seconds.

Kingston swimmers growing as a team

The Kingston High School swim team is taking its second season in stride.

Last year, the Buccaneers didn’t have enough swimmers to compete in every event. This season, they have a roster 38 names long, including the junior varsity squad.

“My goal has been to fill every event,” Head Coach Laura Saunders said.

Saunders added the team’s other chief goal is to send most of its varsity swimmers to the district meet.

“It’s hard, because everyone on the team is so new,” she said. “Getting them in and getting them to know how to compete is our challenge. It’s not only the fact that they need to get in shape, it’s key features like kick turns and stroke techniques. And knowing what to expect at a race.”

Only one swimmer, freshman Dylan Szerlog, competes year-round. Most of the rest of the team has limited experience. Jason Kramberger, a senior in his second year of competitive swimming, is the only Buc to qualify for the district finals so far this season. He will compete in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke events.

Saunders also expects senior Jake Kvistad to qualify for the district meet in the 500-yard freestyle event. Kvistad is the fastest in the school in that event, but was not eligible to compete until mid-December because of a lack of preseason practices. Saunders believes Kvistad and his fellow distance swimmers look promising.

“We actually have quite a few distance swimmers this year,” she said. “A lot of guys that are swimming those are swimming well.”

Kramberger said with a bit of hard work he and his teammates have a good shot at making it to the district tournament.

“My personal goal is to get one of our relays to place at districts and to place in the top three at districts,” he said.

In the meantime, both the Kingston and North Kitsap teams face a tough Olympic League schedule to finish the season. Kramberger’s own philosophy sums up what swimmers on both teams need to do in the coming weeks.

“I just try and improve myself,” he said. “Just practice hard and swim all-out at the meets and go as hard as I can.”

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