He came into the school year on crutches.
Kentwood swimmer Andrew Douglass hopes that by the end of this winter, he’s standing atop the awards podium on his own two legs.
But it’s going to take plenty of work and focus to get there, particularly considering that Douglass isn’t quite 100 percent after having left knee surgery in August.
“It was at a funny angle,” Douglass explained of the surgery, a process in which the tibia in his left leg was realigned with his knee and requires three to four months of recovery. “I had dislocated (the knee) three times, once at practice. It has been a reoccurring problem. (Doctors) had to go realign everything so it wouldn’t pop out.”
Douglass’ situation can be filed under the “freak” accident bin. Born with legs that aren’t quite in line, he has dislocated his left knee jumping wildly, putting away equipment after swim practice and, lastly, by doing something as simple as standing up.
The last one was the kicker, Douglass admitted.
“At that point, I knew I had to get surgery to get it fixed because it was a constant problem,” he said.
Which is what Douglass hopes to be on his opponents in the swimming pool this winter, just as he was last year.
However, it will have to come in a different event. A state qualifier in the 500 free last season, Douglass is shifting gears and will be swimming in the 200 individual medley, an event in which he just missed qualifying for state last season.
The change isn’t necessarily by choice, but more out of necessity for the 18-year-old. Because of knee surgery, Douglass was kept out of the pool during the offseason, got a late jump on conditioning and, admittedly, simply isn’t in good enough shape to make a state run in the 500.
“I am nearing 100 percent,” the lanky 6-foot-2, 200-pounder said. “The difficult thing is, after the surgery, the muscles in the leg atrophied.”
Though knee surgery, from an outsider’s point of view, might not seem like it would affect a swimmer, it’s quite the contrary. The Kentwood standout wasn’t able to push off walls upon his return and has been doing starts for only a month.
In addition, the constant leg kicks can be a grind for a leg that still isn’t completely healthy.
“I should be good in January,” Douglass said.
Health pending, that might just be enough to lift Douglass onto that state podium.
The numbers are quickly adding up for Kentridge High’s boys swim team.
So, too, are the titles.
And from the early look of things, the Chargers’ run of South Puget Sound League North Division dominance isn’t going to change any time soon.
The key to the Chargers’ success?
“We’ve had a lot depth,” fifth-year coach Ted Rychlik said.
That shouldn’t change this year, either.
Matter of fact, when the league season opened Dec. 4, there wasn’t a deeper, more loaded team than the Chargers.
“We didn’t really lose anything from last year and everyone who came back is better,” Rychlik said. “We don’t have any real superstars. We have guys who swim at the district level, but aren’t quite at the state level. We’ll have a lot of them at that (district) level this year.”
But before looking at what Kentridge has coming back, it’s impossible not to recall what the team has done. The Chargers entered the season with a streak of 22 straight dual-meet wins and have won the last four North titles. In fact, the last meet Kentridge didn’t win came on Dec. 6, 2005, when it tied with former North Division nemesis Enumclaw, 93-93.
It’s a run of success that has continued so far this season as KR upended Kent-Meridian, Auburn and Tahoma in succession, pushing its winning streak to 25 straight.
But can the Chargers make it five North titles in a row?
“The first two meets out of the (holiday) break (against Kentlake and Kentwood) will tell it all,” Rychlik said.
Regardless of what happens after the holidays, there’s no question that the Chargers will pose plenty of threats against any team in the league, especially with Andrew Nelson (sprints), Kyle Wilson (sprints) and Cameron Whiting (200, 500 free) back in fold.
But the Chargers also have added another element to their arsenal: diving. That’s not to say it’s new to them, but they certainly have more on the board than in recent years.
Leading the group of divers is returning standout Luke Carpenter. However, when turnouts rolled around, Carpenter was nicely surprised by six incoming freshmen.
It’s the highest number of divers Rychlik has had in five years.
“They all just decided they wanted to dive,” he said. “And they’ve been improving every day.”
Which is exactly the kind of numbers and results the Chargers are expecting this winter.
BOYS SWIMMING: AT A GLANCE
• FAVORITE: Kentridge
• CONTENDERS: Kentwood, Jefferson, Kentlake.
• SLEEPER: Kent-Meridian.
• NOTABLE/OUTLOOK: Kentridge entered the season having won 22 straight dual meets, a streak that dates back to Dec. 6, 2005, when the Chargers tied Enumclaw, 93-93. Always among the teams with the highest numbers, Kentridge welcomed six freshmen divers this season, a bit of an anomaly in the sport. … Mat Bailey, a state qualifier in the 200 IM last year as a freshman with Kentridge, has transferred to Kent-Meridian. Bailey’s arrival gives the Royals two state veterans. Kyle Axtell, one of the premier divers in the league, made it to state for the Royals last winter. … Kentwood freshmen John Perko already has turned some heads. A sprint freestyler, he has the potential to advance to district, and possibly even to state, according to Kentwood coach Sharon Wright. Andrew Douglass (500) is Kentwood’s lone returning state qualifier. … David Beyer has taken over at Kentlake for Caroline Whitlock. Beyer also coaches Kentlake’s girls team. … Hailey Maconaghy is the new coach at Tahoma, replacing Pat Patterson. … Thomas Jefferson’s Jordan Gaspay missed state last year by seven-tenths of a second in the 100 breaststroke. Only a sophomore, Gaspay is one of the league’s top returning swimmers.
CIRCLE ON THE CALENDAR
Kentlake at Kentridge, Jan. 6: The Falcons graduated plenty of talent, but they still should challenge the Chargers.
Kentwood at Kentridge, Jan. 8: Crucial week continues for North favorite Kentridge. A win here likely puts league title in KR’s hands again.
District meet, Rogers High, Feb. 6-7: The final opportunity for swimmers to advance to state meet, it’s a must-see.
LAST FIVE SPSL NORTH CHAMPIONS
YR. SCHOOL RECORD
2008: Kentridge 7-0
2007: Kentridge 7-0
2006: Kentridge 8-0
2005: Kentridge 8-0-1
2004: Enumclaw 8-0
— Erick Walker/The Reporter