Two weeks before the 30th annual SoHi Pentathlon, Seward senior Eileen Audette didn't think she had a shot at winning. Less than a week prior to the Pentathlon, Kodiak senior Nando Macinko wasn't even at practice due to strep throat.
Both overcame those obstacles to claim Pentathlon crowns Friday at Soldotna.
The Pentathlon is the most unique meet in Alaska high school swimming. Each competitor swims a 100-yard individual medley, 50 butterfly, 50 backstroke, 50 breaststroke and 50 freestyle. All the times are added up to determine the winner.
Audette won her first crown with a total time of 2 minutes, 56.03 seconds. She won the IM, 50 butterfly and 50 breaststroke en route to the title.
Kodiak junior Jori Lindquist, who won the 50 backstroke, was second at 3:01.10. The Bears scored 82 points to cruise to the team title, while Seward was second at 29.
Macinko won the IM, backstroke and freestyle on the way to a 2:38.44 total and his first Pentathlon title. Soldotna senior Christian Carrico, champ in the butterfly and breaststroke, was second at 2:40.92.
Carrico also led Soldotna to a 47-46 edge over the Bears in the race for the team title.
Audette said that she assumed Lindquist, the winner of the 2010 Pentathlon, would repeat this season.
"I wasn't expecting this at all," Audette said. "Two weeks ago, my coach (Matt Hershock) told me I had a chance of winning it. I really surprised myself. I'm pretty happy."
Lindquist was a bit off her winning mark of 3:00.11 from last year. But the way Audette swam, it didn't matter.
"Jori didn't have a bad meet," said Kodiak coach John Lindquist, who also is Jori's father. "Eileen was fantastic in all five of the events.
"I think she was senior hungry."
The Kodiak girls took four of the top five slots and put eight in the top 16 to continue to assert their dominance over Region III. The Bears have won the last four region team titles.
"We've had freshmen step in and pick up for all the graduated seniors," John Lindquist said. "The freshmen now come in with the expectation of doing what they've seen the seniors do."
Macinko finished third at last year's Pentathlon behind graduates Winter Heaven and Ryan O'Leary. Both Heaven and O'Leary would go on to win a pair of state titles, while Macinko won the 100 backstroke.
But the coast was anything but clear as Macinko tried to bring home this year's crown. Lindquist said Macinko missed a few practices early in the week with strep throat. The coach said it typically takes over a week to get back to full strength after that illness.
"I was impressed he was able to race so fast," Lindquist said.
After getting off to a great start by beating Carrico by almost a second in the IM, Macinko encountered trouble in the butterfly. He slipped on the starting block and wasn't able to execute a powerful dive into the pool.
Macinko said that when the slip first happened, he thought the meet could be lost.
"That's what I was thinking," he said. "It gave me a burst of adrenaline and I was able to do a pretty good job of catching up."
Carrico won that race at 25.00, while Macinko put up 25.84. Macinko closed out his title with a 21.76 in the 50 freestyle, which Lindquist said is the fastest time in the state this year. Macinko was third at state in the 50 freestyle last season.
Soldotna coach Sohail Marey said edging the Bears by a point gives his team confidence it can compete with Kodiak, even though the Pentathlon is a unique event.
"This starts to give them the confidence they can do it," Marey said. "Kodiak is still a very deep team."
Marey gave credit to Ehren Rickman for a gutsy performance that preserved the victory. Marey said Rickman, who has diabetes, had high blood sugar going into the IM. A shot of insulin didn't have time to fully lower the blood sugar, but facing a five-minute penalty if he missed the race, Rickman swam a 1:03.73. He felt better for the rest of the meet and finished 13th, which meant everything in the Stars' close victory.
"He was the key," Marey said. "We couldn't have done it without him."