Skyline girls setting torrid pace again in pool | Prep sports feature

The Spartans, winners of three straight state titles from 2009-2011, have a number of swimmers already qualified for postseason competition this season.

From the outside, the 2012 season might have looked like a disappointment for the Skyline girls swim and dive team.

After capturing three team championships in a row, bolstered by a host of individual and relay titles from 2009-2011, the Spartans were fifth last season as Newport took the crown at the 4A state meet.

But for head coach Susan Simpkins, the notion of last year as anything less than a success is laughable.

“It was hard last year to not win against just because that was what they were used to,” she said. “But we still had a really great season.”

While her team was unable to make it four straight last year, this year’s group already includes five state qualifiers in five events and more than two dozen others still with postseason aspirations as KingCo or district qualifiers.

Simpkins and senior Yui Umezawa, one of those state qualifiers and a team captain, said the experience of the triumphs and misses during the past three seasons has shaped her confidence in the team and herself.

With mentors like Katie Kinnear (UCLA), Maria Volodkevich (Air Force) and Andi Scarcello (Denison) all capturing state titles during her own introduction to the program as an underclassman, Umezawa said the desire to raise the bar came with the knowledge it had already been set at an almost unreachable level.

“The swimmers who have left made me feel like I wanted to take their spot and step up to the plate,” she said. “I have grown so much.”

While they didn’t take the team scoring title in 2012, Umezawa and fellow senior captain Stephanie Munoz teamed with then-seniors Volodkevich and Scarcello to win the 200 yard medley relay final at the state championships and saw a host of others, including a pair of divers in Alyssa Holt and Erin Taylor, gain state experience.

Simpkins said even though they left King County Aquatic Center with less hardware than they had become accustomed to in recent seasons, getting many of this year’s core competitors seasoned on the state’s biggest stage should pay dividends this season.

“They have all been working really hard, and it is showing in their times,” she said. “They know it is coming toward the end.”

After the KingCo Invitational meet tonight at the University of Washington, Skyline will finish the regular season at Boehm Pool next Tuesday against Ballard before gearing up for the postseason, where more than half the team has already swam a qualifying standard for either KingCo, district or state competition, a first according to Simpkins.

“We have been very fortunate to have the depth,” she said. “They are focused and really motivated.”