MOSES LAKE — The X-factor.
All elite athletes possess it. What “it” is depends on the source, however.
When Moses Lake head coach Tony St. Onge describes freshman swimmer Zach Washburn, the X-factor is an unyielding competitiveness and an ease within the water.
There’s no thinking required.
Washburn — in the first half of his first varsity season — became the second swimmer in school history and the first freshman to complete the Iron Man, which is to quality for every individual event at the WIAA State Championships. Nick Jarman was the first to accomplish that feat his senior year in 1998.
Washburn and Jarman share an important trait when it comes to athletics.
“Extremely competitive,” St. Onge said. “As far as innate inside their body and they’re mind, they’ve got that X-factor. The X-factor is what coaches say when they’re really not sure, but it’s like they’ve got the ability to compete and they want to win. They just want to win.”
Although he is only 14 years old, Washburn is a seasoned competitive swimmer. He learned to swim at an early age in the old Moses Lake High School pool — affectionately known as “The Bubble” — and then joined Manta Ray Aquatics when he was seven years old.
“I loved the water as a kid,” he said. “It was really hard for my parents to keep me out of the water.”
Washburn started to feel success in swimming at the age of eight, but has looked forward to high school competition for some time.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a couple years, to be up with the big boys,” he said. “All my friends — I train with them anyways with the Manta Rays. It’s nice to be with them.”
In his brief time with the Chiefs, Washburn has made his presence felt. He broke the 15-year-old 100 backstroke record set by Mike Maier (54.84) in his first dual meet against Walla Walla with a time of 54.46 seconds. Noah Heaps bested his mark in 54.13 seconds five days later against Eastmont.
“It was nice while it lasted,” Washburn said.
The Iron Man was completed on Dec. 19 when Washburn ticked the 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke off his list.
“I was just relieved that I had gotten it done now so now I can just focus on other goals like breaking records that are going to be probably pretty difficult,” he said. “I’ve just got to train harder and reach those other goals that I have.”
Washburn has his eyes on the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle school records now. The medley is a combination of all four strokes in one race — a perfect example of Washburn’s well-rounded ability.
“As far as his stroke technique, he has an extremely good feel of the water,” St. Onge said. “When you watch him swim he looks like an Olympic swimmer. If you watched him at this last meet, he’s taking eight strokes per lap — the kid next to him might be taking 12.
“He makes it look easy.”
Moses Lake’s best finish at the state meet was second in 1996 and more recently fifth in 2015. St. Onge said he will have a better grasp of where his team fits into the state contenders after the Kentridge Invitational on Jan. 6.
Right now, the Chiefs are in pretty nice shape after the first half of the season. All three relays are ranked first in the state, Washburn is qualified for all eight individual events, Ander Molitor is in two, Eric Kemper is in the 100 butterfly and Heaps is in the 100 backstroke.
Washburn will have to confer with his coach about which two events to swim at state. But that might be the most thinking necessary.
“He doesn’t think,” St. Onge said. “He just swims, but it looks so beautiful.”
Washburn’s state times
200 freestyle: 1:47.15, second
200 individual medley: 1:59.53, third
50 freestyle: 22.16, third
100 butterfly: 52.50, fourth
100 freestyle: 48.69, fourth
500 freestyle: 4:52.87, third
100 backstroke: 54.46, third
100 breaststroke: 1:00.78, fifth