Central Kitsap swim quartet riding wave of momentum

(Left to right) Central Kitsap High School’s Jason Soria, Branden Weiner, Tyler Hirata and Jeremy Torres are headed to the state swim and dive championships. - Wesley Remmer/staff photo
(Left to right) Central Kitsap High School’s Jason Soria, Branden Weiner, Tyler Hirata and Jeremy Torres are headed to the state swim and dive championships.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photo

Central Kitsap High School’s aquatic quartet is ready to make its biggest splash yet.

Juniors Jeremy Torres and Tyler Hirata, and sophomores Branden Weiner and Jason Soria all qualified for the 2009 state swim and dive championships, but now the four swimmers want more.

“We’re looking to break all the school records in the relays,” Torres said.

Weiner is the most accomplished of the four, at least on paper, having qualified for the 2010 state championships in five events.

He has yet to decide in which events he will compete at state — swimmers are limited to two individual events in addition to an unlimited number of relays — but he is leaning toward swimming the 200-yard freestyle and the 500 free, the races he swam at state last year.

Whatever the choice, Weiner wants to put himself in a position to improve upon his15th- and 19th-place finishes of 2009.

“I want to make the podium this year,” he said.

Coach Steve Lehaie called Weiner “extremely dedicated,” saying it is Weiner’s work ethic that sets him apart from his competitors.

The hard work has paid off, and it’s reflected in Weiner’s times.

He recently broke Jeff McAuley’s 1996 school record in the 100 butterfly, an event he may not even swim at state because he doesn’t consider it his best, and he has been ranked as high as third in the state in the 500 free.

“He’s got his eye on the ball,” Lehaie said. “It’s scary to think about what he can do.”

Lehaie would like to see Weiner — and the team — receive more pool time, but the pool is only open one-and-one-half hours each day. To combat that, the swimmers train on dry land and lift weights.

In the sport of swimming, Lehaie said, strength translates to speed.

“Branden’s just really getting into hitting the gym, which will go a long way,” Lehaie said. “In years to come, that will pay off.”

Soria, meanwhile has qualified for state in both the 100 backstroke and 50 free.

His best time this season in the 50 free is 22.81, and Lehaie has been impressed with Soria’s progress in the 100 back, an event he picked up this season.

He also swims the breaststroke.

Lehaie said Soria and Torres push each other in practice to improve their times, particularly in the breaststroke.

That rivalry, the two agreed, is friendly yet competitive.

“We all want to beat each other’s times,” Soria said.

Hirata, a soft-spoken club swimmer, is shooting to compete at state in both the 100 and 200 free.

He and Lehaie have been working on starts, turns and other fundamentals.

Sometimes, Lehaie said, Hirata’s progress is camouflaged by his calm demeanor.

“He doesn’t wear his emotions necesarily on his sleeve,” he said. “I know he’s super excited, but I’m not sure he’ll tell you that.”

Despite their individual and collective success, each member of the Cougar quartet is quick to credit his teammates.

During practice, they lead by example.

“We’ve had a lot of inspiration from them,” Torres said.

Motivation isn’t an issue, either, but Lehaie reminds the quartet every day to “keep your eyes on the prize” and to remember the goals they set before the season.

The team set goals in the preseason, and Lehaie wants his swimmers to accomplish them.

We just try to convince them the season’s never over,” he said. “it’s not over until the second day of state.”

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