By Nathan Jendrick
FEDERAL WAY, Wash., USA, July 15. IT was a night for all ages on Day Four of the Speedo West Sectional Championships. Fast swims, multiple titles, meet records and Trials cuts were the recipe for the day. It was a busy night and for all the spectators in the stands, there were some amazing sights.
The night began with King Aquatic Club ace Arianna Kukors picking up another sectional title. This time, she broke away from the field to take the 100-meter backstroke in 1:04.20. Finishing behind her in 1:04.91 was Thunderbolt’s Lindsey King. Kukors had a demanding schedule on tap so the question would remain, how well could she hold her speed? Time would tell.
First up, though, came a two-lap sprint for the men on their backs. Having already won the 200-meter backstroke earlier in the meet, King's Trent Staley was poised to take the event after coming in top-seeded after a morning swim of 58.95. Staley shot off the wall at the beep and gradually built a steady cadence with his arms and a smooth, rhythmic kick. He flipped at the wall, his feet touching in 27.99, just ahead of Kurt Hardesty (STAR) who was tagging along at 28.35.
But after the halfway point, Staley launched into high gear and left white water and the competition in his wake. Looking strong going into this summer’s Nationals, Staley touched for his second individual championship of the meet in 57.24, well ahead of Chris Good (DU Hilltoppers) at 58.41. Hardesty fell back to third in 58.87. Staley's time was a new West Sectional meet record, breaking the former record of 2000 Olympian Tommy Hannan, set last year.
Having only a few minutes to cool down, Kukors was next up with the challenge of the 400-meter freestyle. She had the top morning swim but faced a heat full of depth this evening. The lead in this A final changed hands several times, but it was Kukors who came out on top with a strong final 100, touching in 4:19.23. Behind her was Joni Zimmerman (AFOX) at 4:21.19.
On top of the men's side of the middle-distance freestyle event came Tyler Storie (Cat) in 4:01.02, ahead of Tacoma's Ryan Verlatti, a 2005 World University Games team member, who finished in 4:04.34. The real battle in this heat was between Verlatti and eventual third place finisher Carl Jones (TCCC) who was barely touched out, coming in at 4:04.44. Storie's younger brother, Logan, finished fifth in 4:07.18.
Next came the most watched swim of the evening. The women's 100-meter breaststroke had an Olympic flavor to it, but also one finely aged with experience and yet a zest for the future. Megan Jendrick took the event in 1:08.55. At age 16, Jendrick won two gold medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. She will be competing at U.S. Nationals this summer, and heading directly to Turkey afterward, joining TSC's Verlatti and her coach, Sean Hutchisen, as part of the World University Games.
Two places behind Jendrick, following second-place finisher Jessica Embick (1:12.55), was the athlete that even the winner cheered for during the A final introduction. Forty-year-old Susan von der Lippe (pictured, with Jendrick) of Loveland Swim Club from Colorado, touched in 1:12.64, good for third place. The winning time in the 100 breaststroke was also a new meet record, breaking three-time Olympian Amanda Beard's former mark. Jendrick split 31.82 at the 50-meter mark, just off her own American record of 31.34. With a strong U.S. contingent heading into the World Championships, Nationals and World U's this summer, which includes Jendrick, Jessica Hardy and Tara Kirk, both of Jendrick's American records (50 and 100) could face some serious competition.
In the women's 100 butterfly, 16-year-old Morgan Scroggy continued a good meet, taking the event in 1:01.39. A match in age, 16-year-old Mark Dylla won the men's side in 55.90, two-tenths in front of Johnny Byers (WSU) at 56.10. Another swimmer who continues to age gracefully and seems to just get faster as he grows older is 44-year-old Dennis Baker (DDSC) who swam in tonight's 100 fly B final. He finished in 58.10.
The events completing the night were the men’s and women's 800 freestyle relay. The King women, Arianna Kukors, Emily Kukors, Megan Jendrick and Courtney Eronemo, were still smoking as they bested the field in 8:26.85. The Arizona Desert Fox crew of Joni Zimmerman, Christina Riggins, Katerine Raatz, and Alexandra Clarke, finished in second at 8:32.79. On the men's side, taking the team swim was Tacoma Swim Club. A fast charging anchor leg from Ryan Verlatti took the lead on the final 50 and stopped the TSC clock in 7:47.69, barely ahead of the King men who completed the event in 7:48.03.
Saturday is the final day of the meet, with the 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle, 400 medley relay and the 1,500 freestyle being contested.