WALLA WALLA - It's been a building year in many ways for the Wa-Hi boys swim team, but heading into this weekend's district meet in Ellensburg, the Blue Devils have at least one swimmer already locked in for state and the chance of another punching his ticket.
Jonathon Klem already posted a qualifying time in the 200-yard individual medley, notching a 2:03 when the state requires 2:05, and he still has a chance to qualify in the 100 butterfly if he can shave a second off of his current personal record of 56.7 second time in the event.
"I swim all year," Klem said. "I've basically been doing it since I was about 6. It's always been the one sport that I've loved. It's great because I can do it all year round, and for it to pay off is a huge plus. I am so excited."
While Klem will be working toward the second event qualification, teammate Austin Garrett looks to join him in the 100 freestyle. His current time of 0:51.9 is 1.5 seconds off the time needed to qualify.
"I knew the whole year was pretty much building up to this weekend if I was going to make it to state," Garrett said. "I know I have to have my best meet to move on to state. I'm focused on finding ways to swim faster."
Head coach Brad Daly has seen great progression in both his swimmers as they head to their penultimate meet of the year.
"You know, we're a young team," Daly said. "To have Jonathon already in for at least one spot and Austin having a shot at also representing us is something for our program to be proud of."
A healthy competitive nature has fueled Garrett and Klem as the juniors have matured as swimmers.
"I think we push each other, and that's kind of the work ethic we want to show the rest of our teammates," Klem said. "We only get so many opportunities to compete with other teams, so to have someone there every day that is working as hard as they can to be the best swimmer possible is a huge help."
With only 12 members representing the team through most of the season, Daly also sees Klem and Garrett's performances as a reason to believe in the future.
"This is one of the smallest teams we have had since I have been here," Daly said. "At times, that can be discouraging but then you see how hard everyone on this team has worked, and you know that we have had our successes this year, especially Jonathon and Garrett."
Klem's dedication, in particular, strikes Daly. He says Klem routinely swims 10 miles a day, which helps to explain his rapid ascension in the medley.
"I can't say enough about Klem, not only as an athlete, but as a student and an individual," Daly said. "He's an excellent student, and I think you can see him put that into the pool. The same is very true for Austin. They are the kind of guys that you would feel lucky to build a team around. If they are here for their senior years, then we know we'll be headed in the right direction."
As for Klem and Garrett, next year seems like a distant thought because they are focused on making the most of the next few weeks in the pool.
"I know what I need to do to make it to state," Garrett said. "I'm so close and this is what I have been working for. It would be great to be going to state with the guy I have probably spent the most time practicing with."
The feeling is mutual, according to Klem.
"I'm very proud to be headed to state, and it would be even better if Austin was coming with me," Klem said. "We've done a lot together this year, and it would be great to get to go to state together."