Following a year away from competing for his high school swim team, Bellingham’s Brisen Pearson was left wondering three months ago how his senior season would pan out.
The answer came after not one, but two impressive displays at the state swim and diving championships.
Pearson captured a pair of state titles, winning the 50 free and 100 butterfly, at the Class 2A state meet at the King County Aquatic Center.
“I came in this year not knowing what to expect because I didn’t know how the high school season went last year,” Pearson said. “I came in and started getting a grip and I finally hit that point where I said, ‘I’m just going to do this. I want to win,’ and it got me to where I am.”
Pearson had advanced to the state meet during his freshman and sophomore years but opted against turning out last year and instead focused on swimming solely for the Bellingham Bay Swim Club.
He placed eighth in the 50 free and 11th in the 100 fly two years ago the state meet.
This time out, however, Pearson showed he was the swimmer to catch at the preliminaries where he established the fastest times in both events, stopping the clock in 21.24 seconds in the 50 and 51.30 in the 100 fly.
As impressively quick as his times were, he would better both of them the following day.
Up first was the 50 free where Pearson covered the distance in a speedy 21.19. It was the third fastest time in 2A state meet history, trailing only the 21.10 put up by Sammamish’s Jacob Tower in 2015 and the 21.17 clocked by Andrew Franco-Munoz in 2014.
“The goal was to break the record. I was super close,” Pearson said, “but nine-one hundredths off isn’t bad. I wanted to get sub-21, but close enough. I went in telling myself I was going to win it. It’s amazing. You look from the water and see your name with that number one next to it and it’s the best moment of your life.”
Pearson was far from done, notching his second state title two events later by winning the 100 fly in 50.41 – a full second ahead of runner-up Tyler Goodspped of Highline (51.52).
“The 100 fly is my favorite,” Pearson said. “Just because it’s more about your technique and less about just being able to muscle through it like the 50 free is.”
Pearson was joined by Columbia River junior Josh Bottelberghe as the 2A meet’s only dual individual winners. Bottelberghe won the 100 breast and 200 free to help the Chieftains finished fourth in the team standings with 165 points.
“The beginning of the season was kind of rough. I was not doing as well as I wanted then coach, Matt Buckmaster really started pushing me, and we started going harder and harder at practice,” said Pearson, who will swim at Southwestern Community College in Oregon next year. “As the season progressed, I found the college I wanted to go to, and I needed to show them I deserved to be there.”
Two state championships later and Pearson more than showed his worth.
The Red Raiders had two divers place in the top 10 – the only school to accomplish the feat – getting a third-place finish from junior Drew Brennan (331.20) and a 10th place from senior Koa Hanks (272.15).
Kingston won the team title with 225 points. The Buccaneers were followed by Steilacoom (213.5 points) and Anacortes (193).
Sehome finished ninth overall with 99 points, while the Red Raiders came in 12th with 63.
The Mariners received a fourth place in the 200 free relay as the team of David Leung, Alexander Evans, Rudi Berry and Brian Whitney posted a final time of 1:31.86.
Leung, Berry and Whitney later teamed up with Ean Chalfie to register a sixth-place finish in the 400 free relay. The team’s final time of 3:25.20 was a full 5 seconds faster than their seeded time coming into the state meet.
Whitney, a senior, also grabbed a fifth place in the 50 free (22.43), while Payton Johnson finished 11th in the 500 free (5:03.94) and Berry was 15th in the 100 free (51.83) for Sehome.
In the 3A meet, Squalicum got a sixth place from Wilson Dierforff in diving (341.00) and 14th place from Franz Allendorfer in the 100 fly (54.57).