WALLA WALLA - The Blue Devils are taking state by storm at this week's Class 4A State Championship swim meet.
Six Wa-Hi swimmers hit the road this morning for the competition, which begins Friday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
Of the six, Jonathon Klem and Austin Garrett both qualified in two individual races, with Klem swimming the 200-yard individual medley and 100 butterfly, and Garrett in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle.
They'll also swim legs on the 200 medley relay with Josh Bumgarner and Patrick Giedeman.
Max Troin and Zach Staudenmaier are with the team as alternates.
Garrett and Klem are both juniors and swam at state last year.
"I'm excited because last year, I was new and hadn't been there before. I did OK, but I want to do better," Garrett said.
Garrett swam on the relay team last year and wants to beat his time this year.
Klem qualified first for the Wa-Hi team, placing at the district meet in Ellensburg last month in the 200 IM. He qualified for the 100 butterfly at the district championships with Garrett.
But individual events or not, the boys mostly have the same goal.
"I want to have fun and swim fast," said Bumgarner.
"And don't drown," said Troin. "We need to keep all our swimmers alive."
About 50 teams will be at the state meet and the top 10 swimmers in each event on Friday will continue to Saturday's final round.
"As a team, we'd like to see everyone finish in the top 16," said Wa-Hi coach Brad Daly. "If we did that, we could place in the top 24 teams."
All of the swimmers have put in at least two hours in the pool and another half-hour of ground work every day since the regular season ended, and several of them swam over the holiday break in Walla Walla's club swimming league, with Klem putting in about 10 miles a day during that week.
Garrett qualified for state at the Feb. 5 Big Nine District Championship, tying for second in the 50 freestyle. The tie sends three regional swimmers to state.
Although Wa-Hi has sent six swimmers to the state meet before, this is the first time Daly can remember having four individual events on the Blue Devil agenda.
Daly credits that to the growing relationship with the Walla Walla club swimming team, which almost all of his swimmers participate in year-round. About five eighth-grade swimmers will be rising to the high school level next year, and Daly sees an opportunity for continuity in the program.
"We're working together for the same goals," he said. "I think this will really help us grow our program and be beneficial to us."
None of the Blue Devils heading to state are seniors.
"For Zach and Max to go … they'll get a sense of what the meet is about and that level of swimming, and we can use the whole thing as a motivational tool next year and beyond," Daly said. "Everyone should have their eyes set on state times next year."