FEDERAL WAY — It was not the history of the pool that awed her.
After all, South Kitsap junior Zoe DeSmet has swam several times for her club team at the King County Aquatic Center.
But DeSmet found out Friday that the Class 4A state swimming and diving championships — with spectators filling both the bleachers and competitors lining both pools — much different as she finished last in the 200-yard freestyle preliminaries in 2 minutes, 10.81 seconds.
DeSmet said her struggles were the result of jitters, which stemmed from her warm-up.
“I was missing all of my turns during the warm-up,” she said. “You want to feel great during your warm-up. That did not put me in a great state of mind.”
DeSmet said her struggles with turns became a distraction during prelims.
“It’s really hard to put away your nerves for that 2 minutes,” she said.
South coach Cliff Rousell said he has seen it several times before with first-time state swimmers.
“It was a case of nerves,” he said. “Simple as that.”
Inglemoor’s Kayla Roberson had the best 200 freestyle time (1:55.86) during prelims. Despite the time disparity, Rousell was adamant that DeSmet “physically” was ready for state.
“I think this is one of those great learning opportunities,” he said. “This doesn’t define who she is. She’ll be back next year.”
Rousell has seen other repeat state qualifiers in recent years, such as Nicole Hinely and Angela Pearson, struggle their first time at state.
“These are teenagers,” he said. “It’s an emotional time being the end of the season. They want to do well so badly that they forget it’s just another event.”
DeSmet is hopeful she will be joined by some teammates next year at state, which she believes will help her prepare for the event.
“It’s difficult training on your own for two weeks,” she said. “It’s a lot of pressure.”