Desire and dedication.
That’s what Kamiak High School head swim coach Chris Erickson said it will take for South Whidbey’s Kinsey Eager, Ally Lynch, and Bella Northup to succeed. In a cooperative agreement between Kamiak and South Whidbey, the trio will swim competitively for the Falcons while practicing with the Knights and using their facilities.
The partnership became official following Kamiak School District’s board meeting on Monday. The girls began practice with the team Tuesday and will compete in their first meet on Sept. 10 at Kamiak.
“We’re so grateful and appreciative of them,” said Eager, a junior at South Whidbey High School. “They don’t get any benefits from it because we’re swimming for our own team. It’s really cool.”
Eager admitted she was a bit worried about how the Knight swimmers would react to the newcomers, but that faded quickly when they were welcomed with open arms.
“The whole team was super nice and really encouraging and supported us,” Eager said. “It’s going to work out a lot more than we expected.”
While it was an accomplishment in itself to be taken under the wing of the Knights — the school’s boy’s team has won three state titles in six years — it’s also the beginning of a daunting reality.
Eager, Lynch and Northup will commute to Kamiak six times a week for practice while trying to balance their school work and other responsibilities.
Sophomores Lynch and Northup will also be enrolled in driver’s education, which requires them to wake up at 5 a.m.
They’ll then leave during fourth period to catch the ferry and head to the hour-and-a-half-long practices under Erickson.
It’s all a part of the gig of being a swimmer, Erickson said.
“Swimmers are a little crazy anyway,” he said. “Swimmers are typically good students and good at time management. It’s (a) big (task), but not insurmountable. Sacrifices always have to be made.”
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Northup said. “We’re used to doing it only a few times a week, which I think will be a lot better for us too because we’ll be a lot more in shape.”
The girls trained two to three times a week throughout the summer at the Useless Bay Country Club pool and Island Athletic Club.
Erickson said that the volume of the girls’ training tops that of many of his Knights’ swimmers.
“I think it’ll be rewarding for them and the coaching staff as well,” Erickson said in early August. “We’ll incorporate them into our team and treat them basically as us.”
The trio has trained with Chris Anderson and Kristi Eager — Kinsey’s mother — who coach the South Whidbey Stingrays swim club.
Anderson, a four-year varsity letter winner and Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference finalist at Seattle University, has every bit of faith the girls can pull it off.
“I think they’ll do pretty well. It will definitely be a challenge,” Anderson said, who is also an Island County deputy prosecutor. “I think talent-wise and ability-wise they are all on par with what a high school swimmer should be. It will take getting some used to the number of practices and the amount of time they’re spending in the pool.”
The girls agreed that it will be an advantage moving forward together in their endeavor rather than having to do it on their own. The trio have been swimming together for the past eight years. Competition amongst themselves has never been an issue.
“We push each other to go faster,” Lynch said. “We’re like, ‘OK, she’s a little bit ahead of me, I need to go faster.’ We’ve always kind of leaned on each other swimming together.”
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association only offers swimming at the Class 2A, 3A and 4A levels, so while the school normally competes at Class 1A, the girls’ swim time standards will be in correlation with Class 2A qualifying times.
The South Whidbey swimmers will sport their own Falcon blue swimsuits when competition begins.