Time of their lives | Prep sports feature

A record-breaking junior and strong freshmen class have Knights poised for postseason.

Liz Strathy had to see it for herself.

A record-setting swimmer and four-time state champion during her time at Newport, Strathy heard from her daughter Sarah that a teammate, Lorea Gwo, was threatening her nearly three-decade old school record in the 50 meter freestyle. Strathy went to the meet without expectations of becoming involved in the program beyond being a parent and spectator. But after watching the meet and speaking with some other parents in the program, Strathy couldn’t stay away.

“I saw her swim in a relay, and she was swimming the last leg,” Strathy said of Gwo. “She chased this girl down and I had tears in my eyes.”

After speaking with other parents in the program, Strathy decided to finally take up head coach Eric Bartleson on his standing offer to become an assistant coach. She watched in 2011 as Gwo tied and eventually broke her record in the 50 free, and the Knights had several swimmers make the state meet.

Gwo, who finished fourth at the 2011 state meet in the 50 free, sixth in the 100 fly and also swam on a pair of state qualifying relay teams for the Knights, said the history of the program is a great source of motivation, especially since eight of the ten school records on file were set before 1997.

Without Skyline standout Katie Kinnear, now at UCLA, leaving the rest of the conference and state in her wake, Newport went undefeated this year, including a top finish in a meet that pitted all 3A and 4A KingCo schools for the first time ever.

Head coach Eric Bartleson said the experience of returners Maggie Pana, Gwo and a handful of others, combined with an unusually fast and determined freshmen class, has given his team a unique mix that they have taken advantage of thus far. One member of that class, Alisa Fang, swam a time this year that also bettered her coach’s record and was just shy of Gwo’s school-best mark.

“It’s a strong group,” Bartleson said. “We’ve had a lot of girls step up.”

The Knights will have a chance to put their depth and speed on display November 2 and 3 at the district swim and dive meet. Bartleson and Strathy both said they are excited to see not only how fast the Knights are able to get out with state spots on the line, but the continued emphasis on forging their own legacy in a program rife with historical achievements. Bartleson said the historical element of the program has been one of Strathy’s greatest contributions.

“She was part of state championship teams and has some really good enthusiasm about Newport and swimming for Newport,” he said. “She can be a big boost for the girls.”

The Newport swim team captured the 4A KingCo title and will swim for a district championship this weekend before heading to state. Courtesy photo, Mike Van Maren.

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