Behind Piper Enge’s historic swim, Mercer Island wins 3A state girls title

It may not have been as wide-reaching or dominant as a year ago, but a state title still is a state title. Mercer Island started another streak on Saturday at the King County Aquatic Center by winning the Class 3A girls state swimming and diving championships for the second year in a row.

The last time the Islanders starting winning titles, they put together six in a row from 2008-2013. A year ago, Mercer Island set a record for points in a state meet.

On Saturday, the Islanders relied on the star power of Piper Enge and Gracyn Kehoe coupled with the trademark depth they’ve boasted so often to beat runner-up Bellevue, 314-207.

Enge scored 40 points and Kehoe added 37. Mercer Island would have won the title even without those bell-weather totals.

“That part is, it wasn’t just Piper,” Mercer Island coach Chauntelle Johnson said. “You take out those 40 points and the kids still found a way to get it done. It’s the epitome of a team effort.”

The Islanders scored points in 11 of 12 events. Only in the 100 backstroke did an Islander not swim.

It was Enge with the two swims of the meet, however.

“Piper is an incredible swimmer and I race her all the time in club swimming,” Lakeside’s Ella Jablonski said. “I think it’s pretty incredible what she can accomplish. It’s awesome, you know. When you get people going that fast it brings up the level of the entire meet overall.”

Enge won the 200-yard individual medley in an All-America Automatic time of 1 minute, 58.23 seconds, which was just one-tenth of a second off the meet and state record 1:58.13 she set a year ago. Saving her best for last, Enge became the first girl in Washington history to break one minute in the 100 breaststroke — going 58.95 seconds to lower her meet and state record of 1:00.44 set as a sophomore in 2021.

“I knew it was coming,” Enge said. “I’d been trying to get under 59. I’d gone a 59 a couple of times during my club season. I’m super happy to finally get it done.”

Not only was it the fastest ever in Washington, but it also was the fifth-fastest ever in high school nationally and arguably the best swim in any event — boys or girls — ever in the state.

By the National Swim Coaches Association Power Point Tables, a system that allows comparisons across time, events and swims, the 58.95 netted Enge 172 out of a possible 200 points. That is the highest single-swim score in Washington — boys or girls.

“That Piper swim, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Issaquah coach Laura Halter said.

And it carried Enge to a runaway point total to be named Swimmer of the Meet.

“Last year, coming in, I was just fortunate to swim,” said Enge, who entered state in 2022 quite ill. “This year, it was time for a little vengeance and come back hitting hard.”

Kehoe came within one one-hundredth of a second of winning her events. She won the 200 freestyle in 1:49.91 but got caught at the wall in the 100 free by Snohomish senior Mary Clarke in 50.78 seconds to Kehoe’s 50.79.

“What made today really beautiful is knowing that, I had two seniors,” Johnson said. “We also had a lot of sophomores and a couple of freshmen that got experience today. We had a diver that didn’t even start diving until this year and scored points for us.”

It bodes well for the Islanders going forward.

“It feels like a dynasty team,” Enge said. “I’m really excited to see where they are going to go.”

Enge was one of two double winners in the individual events, along with Jablonski, who won the 100 butterfly in 53.29 and added the 100 backstroke title in 54.66.

Her 40 individual points helped the Lions to third place with 205.5 points despite being disqualified from the medley relay, a race Lakeside won, and losing out on 40 team points in the first event of the finals.

“I was so proud of this whole team today,” said Jablonski, a junior. “I would love next year to win a state relay with this team. But it’s just kind of a testament to this team and hanging together.”

Doug Drowley
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