Cat swimmers put team first

Splashing her way into third place in the 100 butterfly, Annegret Klinger claimed a time of 1:27.46. - Cynthia Woolbright
Splashing her way into third place in the 100 butterfly, Annegret Klinger claimed a time of 1:27.46.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

They know they’re young. A lot of them don’t have competitive swim experience behind them, and the Oak Harbor girls swim team is perfectly fine with that. These water-friendly Cats are in it together and that’s their focus.

“We’re just working on getting the confidence levels up for the girls who have never swam competitively before, and assuring them what they’re doing is good,” said team captain Kyla Meuer.

These are the unselfish words of a senior who is looking at a state swim meet follow-up this year after placing second in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 freestyle at state last year.

Despite those impressive individual credentials, Meuer is focused on the team. “I’m not even looking at me individually until November. It’s still really early in the season, and we have until late October to get our state time cuts in,” she said.

Early, yes, but that still hasn’t kept some of Wesco North’s big dogs from charging toward Oak Harbor in an early season schedule that has surely put the new girls through some trial by fire. They faced Sehome in a non-conference matching Sept. 17 for a 114-69 loss. Snohomish beat the Cats Sept. 19, 128-57.

Thursday Oak Harbor raced Lake Stevens, currently in the number two spot in Wesco North, and came away with their closest finish this season, with Lake Stevens on top 96-76.

But the scores aren’t as important as improvement. All the Cats want to right now is to race, lower their individual times and work as a team, according to Meuer.

Against Lake Stevens, a powerhouse in their league, the inexperienced Oak Harbor team almost seemed oblivious to any intimidation factor Lake Stevens tried to splash their way.

Sophomore Natalie Fraciose dropped ten seconds off her 500 free Thursday, swimming into third with 7:38.12, right behind the media hyped Hozail sisters of Lake Stevens. In a sport where hundredths of a second can make the difference between first and third, Franciose is proud of her accomplishment.

“I was just aiming to keep my pace steady in the middle and I’m happy with how I did,” Franciose said.

Oak Harbor’s team of Meuer, sophomore Missy McIntyre, Franciose, and sophomore Cassie Klieman claimed first in the 200 medley relay in 2:19.63. Lake Stevens had the number two spot, and another Oak Harbor team of Annegret Klinger, Stacey Kallender, Amy Rose and Ashley Werring came in third with 2:31.04.

Last year’s state title holder in the 100 breaststroke, sophomore Missy McIntyre, took the 100 breaststroke against Lake Stevens with 1:17.62, also finishing first in the 200 IM with 2:28.23.

A “hyped” McIntyre praised the presence of divers on the team, because the Cats “haven’t had them for a while.”

Krystal Dennewitz earned a final score of 73.10, throwing out a full arsenal of six dives at the meet, and being the only non-exhibition diver. Lauren Schulock’s 69.10 was exhibition only for the Cats.

For captain Meuer, who just wants her team to race and work together, she put down impressive early season times of her own, winning the 50 freestyle in 28.02, and the 100 backstroke in 1:10.47 in front of Lake Steven’s Manahel Hozail at 1:20.61.

They know they have some strong swimmers in Meuer and McIntyre. And Oak Harbor knows they need to work on team unity to bring together a young team together — Meuer and McIntyre are two of the first to address the fact.

That’s probably why some of the loudest applause of the meet was for Oak Harbor’s Nicole Nagel who swam into the finish of the 50 meter freestyle well after her teammate Kyla Meuer, but Meuer, the first place finisher, was helping to lead the applause.

Coach Emelie Sullivan is “just seeing what best fits right now,” and the next chance for the Cats to see what fits comes against Ferndale, at home, Tuesday, Oct. 1.

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