A season’s worth of hard work will be put to the test this weekend at the Bartlett High School pool in Anchorage as the state’s best swimmers and divers compete for the top of the podium in 12 separate events.
The top two divers in each conference tournament qualify for state, along with the next best eight scores in the state. For timed events, the conference champion for each individual contest qualifies, along with the next 12 best statewide times, and the championship relay team from each conference qualifies, along with the next four fastest teams statewide.
Friday’s events start with swimming preliminaries at 1 p.m., followed by diving prelims at 3:30 p.m.
On Saturday, it will be all business, as finals for all events start at 1 p.m.
Soldotna will be hauling the most Kenai Peninsula swimmers up to Anchorage, having qualified a total of 16 athletes, some of whom will compete on the four SoHi relay teams as well. Both boys and girls 200-yard medley and 200 freestyle relays qualified for state, a feat that Soldotna coach Lucas Petersen had hoped for earlier in the season.
Two SoHi divers are competing at state — Gaeden Ames in the boys 1-meter diving event and Sabrina Gibbs in the girls diving event.
Of the 16 who made it to state, six will compete in multiple individual events.
On the girls squad, Alex Weeks qualified for the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races. Kaitlyn Groleske will swim the 100 fly and 200 free, and Megan English qualified for the 100 fly and 100 back.
The 100 butterfly is a popular event on the boys side as well, with Dustin Hunter swimming that event along with the 200 individual medley. Daniel McElroy will swim in the 50 free and 100 breast, and Sawyer Rickman will show his freestyle dominance in the 50- and 100-yard events.
The Kards will travel to Anchorage with five athletes, which includes an improved diving team, something that coach Will Hubler and assistant coach Judy Lallier predicted early in the season. Bill Ashwell, Cole Gross and Riley Wik all qualified for the men’s 1-meter diving competition.
“Our divers are doing amazing,” Lallier said. “Hopefully we’ll get one, maybe two of them in the top eight at state.
“I got to give kudos to Will, he’s brought them up to the position they are at now.”
Two Kenai swimmers qualified for state on the girls side. Kaitlyn Louthan made the cut for two events — the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly — and sophomore Celestina Castro will join Louthan in the 100 fly.
“We’re really excited about attending the meet, and I’m hopeful that both girls will drop their times,” Lallier said. “They’re rested and ready to go.”
Homer has traditionally excelled with its diving program, and while this year is no different, there will be more than divers making the trip to state.
Katherine Dolma and Jasmine Lewis each qualified for the girls diving competition, and Brian Rowe did the same on the boys side.
James Nagle makes up the swimming portion of the state-bound team, qualifying for the 100 fly and 200 IM.
“They’re awesome,” Homer coach Rebecca Hardy said. “They’ve worked hard all season, and it’s paid off well.”
Isabel Barnwell will represent Seward in two events — the girls 50-yard free and the 500 free — which are on two different ends of the spectrum. One is a sprint, the other is a distance event.
Olivia Beckham will join Barnwell at state in the 100 backstroke.
Peninsula state qualifiers
Kenai Central — Boys; Bill Ashwell (1-mtr diving), Cole Gross (1-mtr diving), Riley Wik (1-mtr diving). Girls; Celestina Castro (100 fly), Kaitlyn Louthan (50 free, 100 fly).
Soldotna — Boys; Gaeden Ames (1-mtr diving, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Brent Christenson (200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Chase Corona-Cain (200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Dustin Hunter (100 fly, 200 IM, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Daniel McElroy (50 free, 100 breast, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Sawyer Rickman (50 free, 100 free, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Joseph Rife (200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Elias Skiba (200 medley relay, 200 free relay). Girls; Emily Boone (200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Ashley Eby (200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Megan English (100 fly, 100 back, 200 medley, 200 free relay), Sabrina Gibbs (1-mtr diving, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Kaitlyn Groleske (100 fly, 200 free, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Rachel Henry (200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Molly Silta (200 medley relay, 200 free relay), Alex Weeks (50 free, 100 free, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay).