Led by Rousell, Wolves stroke toward state

Taylor Rousell's first instinct often has been to do the opposite of his sister in the pool.

From 2004-06, Madison Rousell won two state championships in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle for South Kitsap.

His response was to compete in distance events. After all, he wouldn't want the distinction of "copying" his older sister, who now swims at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

But it's a label he's willing to accept after winning what many considered the most competitive race of Saturday's West Central District swim meet at Rogers High School in Puyallup. Rousell finished the 50 freestyle in 21.73 seconds to place first.

"I know I'm going to get a lot of smack talk from her for doing the 50 and 100," he said, adding that he competed in the 500 freestyle as a freshman and 100 butterfly last year. "It's like an evolution until I finally got it."

Rousell credits fellow juniors Zach Kaija of Wilson (22.23) and Tyler Kaslik of Gig Harbor (22.52) for "pushing me" in the 50.

He also placed first in the 100 freestyle in 48.61. Kaslik was second at 49.2.

"I'm definitely going to do better at state because we haven't begun tapering now," Rousell said. "My competitors better watch out."

Along with Brandon Dravis, Justin Slezak and Danny DeRego, he helped the Wolves win the 200 medley relay in 1:41.43, just ahead of Gig Harbor (1:41.68).

"I don't know where these swims came from," South coach Tami Lester-Dame said. "The kids aren't tapered, they aren't rested. From breaking the record in the medley relay, I knew it was going to be a good meet."

Gig Harbor and South traded places in the 400-freestyle relay with the Tides taking first in 3:16.99, while the Wolves (3:19.25) followed.

"It's their depth," Lester-Dame said. "We watched them in the championship heat take up blocks two, three and five ... in every race. You can't contend with that."

The Wolves, who finished second behind Gig Harbor (284) with 171 points, missed an opportunity to compete in the 200 freestyle relay when they were disqualified from Friday's preliminaries.

Lester-Dame said she accidentally attempted to put a swimmer in the relay who wasn't listed in the master entry. She said the team still will be able to swim the event at state because they already achieved a qualifying time.

"I was really thankful for that because I felt really bad for the kids," she said.

Dravis was another South individual who qualified for state. The junior placed first in the 200 individual medley in 1:58.86 to beat Todd Beamer's Shane Clare (1:59.01) and Gig Harbor's Dakota Moist (2:02.99).

"I couldn't do it without the guy (Clare) pushing me," Dravis said. "He always been competitive."

Dravis was second in the 100 backstroke in 54.64, just behind Stadium's D'Voreaux Cann (53.19).

"I wound up getting the school record in that set in 2001 by a friend of mine," he said, referring to John Exton. "It was good to get that record from him."

Three other individuals for the Wolves qualified for state. Senior Zack Joachim finished sixth in the 200 freestyle (1:54.5), while junior Justin Slezak was fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.29). Danny DeRego, a senior, didn't place in the top six in the 100 freestyle, but he still earned a state berth because his time (49.69) was below the automatic qualifying time (50.2).

South also will send a pair of divers to state. Sophomore Joe Rose placed third with 323.05 points, while senior Mike Cink was seventh (287.8) in the district dive meet Thursday at Foss High School. Todd Beamer senior Tommy Fraychineaud finished first with 392.3 points.

Lester-Dame said she probably will begin to taper her swimmers Wednesday. Most schools already have done that, but she believes doing it now sets her team up well for state.

"We're going to be there in the top five," she said. "They're healthy, seasoned and have been here a few times before."

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