Seniors Stephanie Muñoz, Yui Umezawa pace Skyline
October 8, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Stephanie Muñoz and Yui Umezawa have accomplished a lot during their swimming careers, but their ambitions have grown even larger at the start of their senior seasons at Skyline High School.
Muñoz and Umezawa were major factors in Skyline’s 122-63 victory against district rival Liberty on Oct. 1 at the Julius Boehm Pool, and the results they’ve posted in the Spartans’ first four meets have them on pace for an outstanding finish at the Class 4A state championships in November.
Against Liberty, Umezawa captured first place in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 18.31 seconds) and 100 backstroke (1:01.40) Her times were slower than her season-best marks, but she’s already turned in a state-qualifying mark of 1:00.34 in the backstroke and is within a second of qualifying in the 200 individual medley.
Umezawa has competed at the state meet in each of her first three seasons at Skyline, but has yet to win a medal in five individual events. She didn’t post her best marks against Liberty, but said she felt very good about her performances.
“I had goals going into my races, making sure I got 15 meters underwater for my backstroke, and I was really proud of myself,” she said. “Going into my races, I’m not always about the time. I always have little goals of something I want to do for every race, and as long as I carry those out, I’m really happy with my time.”
Muñoz, who won state medals as a sophomore and junior, has started the 2013 season stronger than any before it. She broke the state time standard in the 100 butterfly by previously swimming 1:00.18, and she won the event against Liberty in 1:02.32.
“I’m really happy with that,” she said. “It’s my first year where I’ve actually made my time before (the league meet), so I’m excited.”
Versatility is one of Muñoz’s strengths. She swam the 200 and 500 freestyle events at state as a freshman. As a team captain, she’s looking to inspire growth in her younger teammates. One of Skyline’s goals is to dethrone defending state champion Newport at the upcoming KingCo Conference meet.
“I think we have a really deep team this year, and we have a lot of girls that will qualify for state by districts,” Muñoz said.
“We have so many fast girls this year,” Umezawa added. “We’re actually able to make a really fast ‘B’ relay and a really fast ‘C’ relay, and hopefully that’ll really help us win KingCo this year.
“I know it’ll be a tough battle against Newport, because it was last year, but we’re just going to go in with really strong, positive attitudes, and really mentally be prepared for our races.”
Freshman Chase Raines has been one of the biggest additions for this year’s Skyline squad. She won a neck-and-neck race with Liberty’s Cecilia Nelson in the 200 free, posting a district-qualifying time of 2:02.66. Raines also placed first in the 500 free, and her time of 5:21.91 was less than a second away from an automatic state bid.
Skyline sophomore Kathy Lin won the 100 freestyle (55.96), and the Spartans also captured victories in the 200 medley relay (1:55.56) and 400 freestyle relay (3:57.40).
“We were about five one-hundredths off (the state-qualifying time) on the 200 medley today,” Umezawa noted. “I know that we can get it easily next week.”
Liberty star Mackenna Briggs won two events, taking the 50 free in 26.23 seconds and the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.90. She already has automatic state berths in the 50 free and her specialty, the 100 backstroke.
Briggs won the backstroke as a freshman in 2011, then placed fourth last year along with her third-place time in the 50 free. She’s in the midst of some heavy training — nine practices of at least 90 minutes per week — and believes her times will improve at season’s end when she’s not doing double-duty with Liberty and the Issaquah Swim Team.
“Sometimes, I have triple practices (each day), and it’s really overwhelming sometimes,” Briggs said. “It’s worth it because this sport is my job and my life outside of school.”
Briggs has started receiving interest from colleges, including California Lutheran and Purdue universities. Achieving her main goal of winning another backstroke title would go a long way toward sewing up a scholarship opportunity.
Against Skyline, Briggs also swam the anchor leg of the Patriots’ 200-yard freestyle relay. Lauryn Hepp, Haley Quam and Nelson helped Liberty win in 1:48.87.