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Originally published October 7, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 7, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Family's bond runs deep

This is a special season for Marley Prothero. It marks the end of a successful swim career at Kentwood High of Covington, and the end of...

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This is a special season for Marley Prothero.

It marks the end of a successful swim career at Kentwood High of Covington, and the end of the pool part of the relationship she shares with her coach, Mark Prothero, who also happens to be her father.

Some father and child, coach and athlete combinations can be a strain. But the Protheros enjoy the experience.

"I love it," said Marley, the defending Class 4A state champion in the 200-yard individual medley. "It makes it a lot of fun. He always pushes me really hard. It's fun having him right next to the pool waving me on."

Waving, hopping, cheering. That's dad and coach Mark.

"I think people watch him more when I swim than me," Marley said. "It's pretty entertaining."

Mark calls coaching his daughter "one of the little pleasures of life."

He also coached his son, Sean, who graduated from Kentwood in 2003. Mark stepped down as head coach of the Kentwood boys team after Sean's senior year. This will be his last season with the girls program.

"This is going to be it," Mark said. "I know next fall I'm going to want to watch Marley swim [in college]."

Marley has drawn interest from some Pac-10 and Big Ten Conference schools and said she plans to wait until spring to make her college decision. "I'm keeping my options open," she said.

Mark, a state champion in 200 individual medley as a senior at Renton High School in 1974, competed at University of Washington for four seasons and qualified for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials. He went on to earn a law degree and is best known as one of the public defenders for Gary Ridgway in the Green River murder case. He now is in private practice.

Mark, who wrote a book about his experience ("Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer"), worried about the impact the case would have on his family, according to his wife, Kelly.

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Marley describes that period of time as "really interesting."

"I never got a hard time about it at school, which is something he worried about," she said. "The only bad part about it is he wasn't at home as often, which made the time with him even more special."

Mark started coaching at Kentwood in 1997 (the first year as an assistant) so he could spend more time with Sean, and then Marley.

"I knew I'd be going to all of their meets, and I just wanted to be a bit more involved," he said.

Sean was a state finalist during his Kentwood days, but Marley made her way to the top of the podium last year.

"I was the proudest parent, and coach, in the place," Mark said. "It was really exciting for everyone. I was really happy for her."

For Marley, it was a bit of redemption. The year before, she was seeded No. 1 going into the finals, but finished second.

"It was nice to win it back," she said.

Especially swimming against some of her closest friends, who finished 2-3-4 — Alexandra Ernst (Garfield High of Seattle), Katie Matulic (Decatur High of Federal Way) and Gabby Guieb (Garfield). All were juniors last year. In fact, all but one of the top-eight finishers are back this season, so Marley knows it will not be easy to repeat.

"It will be a good race, but that's always fun," she said. "I like that kind of thing."

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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