Gig Harbor boys swimmers moving ahead after dominating league meets

Posted on January 28th, 2022 By:

The Gig Harbor boys swimming team finished 6-0 in league meets this season, nearly doubling the scores of its opponents. The Tides take their winning streak to the Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center today at 2 p.m. for the South Sound Conference championships.

To say that the Tides have been dominant would be an understatement. Mike Kelly has developed a swim program that would make any coach proud. Since the inception of the South Sound Conference in 2015, his Tides have won five out of six league titles. Kelly began his career at Gig Harbor in 2001 and won multiple Narrows League crowns before the Tides joined the SSC. He is also the coach of the Tides girls water polo teams that have won seven state championships.

London Coats

London Coats Photo courtesy of Mike Kelly

Although Gig Harbor is unbeaten in league matches this season, it will all come down to today’s results to determine the league champion.

“We’re in a very good position, but, as always, the test will be in the water,” Kelly said of the chance of that happening.

The Tides boast several accomplished swimmers, but a few stand out. Drew Huston has the best times 100 butterfly and the 200 individual medley times in the SSC this season. His brother Grant has the top times in the 200 and the 500 freestyle events. Ryan Nagata has posted blistering times in the 50, 200 and 500 freestyles, and is ranked No. 1 in the league in the 100 backstroke. London Coats will participate in the 200 IM and is ranked as the fastest 100 freestyle swimmer in the league.

What does it take to become an elite Tides swimmer?

“Good genetics, dedication, determination and flexibility of both the body and an athlete’s schedule,” Kelly said.

He would know. Kelly  competed for several years with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, a top-drawer club program that has won several national championships, and swam collegiately for the powerhouse USC Trojans as a sprinter, where he was selected as an NCAA All-American.

Kelly has dedicated much of his life to swimming and coaching and been successful at both. He credits two accomplished assistant coaches.

Drew Huston

Drew Huston Photo courtesy of Mike Kelly

“I’ve been lucky to have Cathy Barmore, who was the former successful Peninsula High School head coach, and Diana Litsh, who was a very accomplished swimmer for Peninsula High, where her mother was the longtime diving coach,” he said. Both assistants have put in countless hours with athletes, and Gig Harbor’s winning tradition has been a result of their and coach Kelly’s efforts.

With an excellent, experienced coaching staff that boasts high-level accomplishments and dedicated swimmers who wake up early and spend countless hours perfecting their techniques, it is not hard to understand why Gig Harbor has been so dominant in the pool.

Swimming and actually any kind of racing requires a special kind of mindset. A swimmer might spend an extra eight hours in the pool any given week to shave a minuscule two-tenths of a second off their best time in an event, to improve only a blink of an eye. Unless an athlete is hyper-focused, that much work for so little improvement wouldn’t be worth the effort. That’s why it takes more willpower to be a swimmer. Driven swimmers know that if they put the work in for five weeks straight, that two-tenths of a second every week will add up to a full second which will be the difference between winning and losing.

For years people have been interested and thrilled to watch participants race. There is just something about it. Racers know the thrill to chase or be chased. From the early days in Athens when participants raced on their feet for their countries to riders on explosive thoroughbred horses. From automobile drivers to snow skiers, crew members on Lake Washington to swimmers reaching for the pool’s edge in the Olympics. From pilots and sailors racing across continents, bicyclists churning up the mountains of France or even, in its purest form, children at the schoolyard who race daily to the fences, all have one thing in common. They want to know who combines speed with stamina to get to the finish line first.

The common thread for successful participants is they share the mentality that second place is never good enough. Even though in a swim meet second or third place will help the team accumulate points that could bring a championship and is a worthy goal, there is still at the core of any great racer the need, desire and pursuit to be victorious.

It is that desire that will be on display today at 2 p.m. on Bainbridge Island where these young men will be chasing their individual and team goals and trying so hard to touch the wall first and be crowned a league champion.

After today’s meet, Gig Harbor’s top swimmers will compete in the district tournament Feb. 4-5 at Mount Tahoma High School. From there, some Tides will be in search of a state championship Feb. 18-19 at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

2021-22 South Sound Conference results

Dec. 2 — Gig Harbor 134, Capital 48

Dec. 9 — Gig Harbor 119, North Thurston 67

Dec. 16 — Gig Harbor 117, Peninsula 68

Jan. 13 — Gig Harbor 117, Timberline 59

Jan. 20 — Gig Harbor 122, River Ridge 63

Jan. 21 — Gig Harbor 121, Central Kitsap 62