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Four Central Kitsap swimmers, one lane
During a break from a friendly game of water polo Monday, Central Kitsap High School swimmers Jeremy Torres and Jason Soria stepped aside to talk about the team’s third-place finish at districts.
But when the subject of their performance at districts comes up, they want their friends there.
He flagged down the two remaining members from the Cougars’ relay squad, Tyler Hirata and Brendan Weiner, to speak about their recent meet.
It’s nothing unusual for the four who have spent the last 10 years in the water together. Hirata and Torres share a locker, and so do Soria and Weiner. When they arrive at the pool, the four have to fit in one lane, more than just physically.
“You’ve got to be close if you’re going to be swimmers,” Weiner said. “You’re just packed in a five-foot lane on the wall between sets, so you’ve got to be comfortable being crushed together like sardines.”
The bond between the boys started forming about 10 years ago. The four were competitors while swimming for the Olympic Aquatic Club and Bainbridge Island Swim Club. Although they all wear black and orange now, they don’t shy away from challenging each other.
“All I have to do is turn to my right and there’s Jeremy, and then to my left is Brendan,” Soria said. “Tyler is behind me grabbing my legs, and we’re all pushing each other. We have tremendous respect for each other, so I think it all starts with our rivalry.”
Weiner, a junior, knows he has to bring his best when his friend is in hindsight plowing through the next lane in practice.
“If Jason touches the wall before me in a set, he’ll never let me live it down,” he added.
In and out of the pool
That bond, which carries over into study sessions and over pizza, has resulted in success in the pool. Next week’s trip to state will be the third for the quartet.
The meet, the class 4A tournament, is set for next Friday and Saturday at the Federal Way Aquatic Center. Earlier this month, Central Kitsap placed third with a score of 140 at the West Central District tournament at Rogers High School in Puyallup.
The relay squad placed second at districts in the 200-yard medley with a time of 1:41.08, and finished first in the 200 freestyle at 1:31.17. Weiner also picked up second- and third-place times in the 200 freestyle and 100 fly, respectively. Meanwhile, Hirata ended the weekend with a third-place score in the 100 freestyle.
Weiner enjoys the time in the water with three of his best friends. On busier days, their hours are split between sports and family, which crossover in the midst of a four-month season.
“There’s a level where everything starts to be only about swimming,” Weiner added. “There’s not room for anything else. You see your family at the pool, and you either go home or eat dinner with them, or you eat dinner with your swim family.”
Central Kitsap head coach Steve LaHaie said the four are always in sync. When one returns to tag the wall, the other is ready to jump in. It’s become routine for the four athletes, and friends, who teamed up to lead the Cougars.
“They all know each other, and I think that goes a long way because they know exactly how each other swims out there,” he added. “They know how to finish, and their timing is pretty good right now.”
The Cougars’ motto, “Team Now, Team Forever,” was echoed after practice Monday. All four said they’ll keep in contact after the school year concludes. Torres and Hirata are both seniors, so the four will swim together for the last time when they compete at the tournament in Federal Way.
Torres will continue with the sport at the Bainbridge club, and possibly race for a Division III school next winter if all goes well. Hirata said the state tournament will be his final time in the pool. For now, the seniors are trying to enjoy their time together, reflecting on what made them such a close-knit group.
“I’ll miss these guys next year,” Torres said. “I’ll miss the whole team, so I’m just going to take the memories I have and just remember everything from the late nights at state, long practices and all of those bus rides we spent to do our best.”
“I just want to have fun. It’s my last year, so I want to go out with a bang,” said Hirata, whose favorite memory was his first state appearance last season.
The four shared a laugh after practice when Weiner reminisced about their Narrows League title in 2009. It was their first year together when Gig Harbor High School was disqualified to give the Cougars a win on technicality. The relay team finished second.
Weiner and Soria will return next season, missing one-half of the original foursome.
“There’s going to be four big shoes to fill next year,” Weiner said. “You look back at who’s there with you during the hard times of the season, and carry those memories with you forever.”