Kodiak juniors Tahna Lindquist and Ila Hughes waged a tight, high-powered battle for the individual title at the 32nd SoHi Pentathlon on Friday.
Not that they were paying much attention.
“I knew it would be a tight race with Ila, but I wasn’t keeping track,” Lindquist said.
Lindquist won the showdown between two of the top swimmers in the state to lead the Kodiak girls to the team title. The Kodiak boys also took team honors, but Colony senior Alex Kessler interrupted Bears hegemony with his second straight Pentathlon crown.
The Pentathlon is different from other swimming meets. Each swimmer participates in the 100-yard individual medley, the 50 backstroke, the 50 butterfly, the 50 breaststroke and the 50 freestyle.
At the end of the night, the five times are added up to determine the champion.
The meet is popular for swimmers because it is fast-paced, different and has a looser atmosphere that leads to more socializing.
“It’s fun,” Hughes said. “It gives us a break from normal meets. It gives us a chance to swim events we don’t normally swim.”
Added Kessler: “This is a big social meet. It’s all about getting everybody together and getting the chance to meet different swimmers.”
The laid-back atmosphere explains why Lindquist and Hughes didn’t have their calculators out after every race.
Hughes has won the 50 and 100 free at state the last two years, setting a state record in the 100 free and swimming the second-fastest 50 free in state history in 2012.
At that same 2012 meet, Lindquist was named the girls swimmer of the year. She won the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle in 2011 and 2012, swimming the second-fastest 500 free in state history in 2012.
Lindquist took a .95-second lead after the 100 individual medley, but then went down nine-hundredths of a second after the 50 fly. Lindquist won the 50 backstroke to go up 1.53 seconds, but Hughes cut that lead to 1.27 seconds with a win in the 50 breaststroke.
“I knew it would come down to the 50 free,” Lindquist said.
The two-time defending 50 freestyle state champ did not disappoint, posting a Pentathlon record 24.43 seconds to beat Lindquist by 1.15 seconds. But Lindquist held on by .12 seconds with a total time of 2:59.50. With her first Pentathlon win, Lindquist joins her sister and 2010 and 2012 champion, Jori, in collecting the towel awarded to the winner.
Hughes’ blazing swim broke the 2002 record of 24.61 by Soldotna’s Jenna Syverson. It was the first girls record broken at the meet since 2005, when Seward’s Jackie VanDriessche broke records in the IM, 50 breaststroke and meet total.
Soldotna junior Alex Weeks finished third for the second straight year. Weeks improved her total time from 3:05.61 to 3:00.55.
“I knew I’d get third,” Weeks said. “Tahna is an IMer, Ila is a sprinter, and I’m me.”
Soldotna coach Lucas Petersen, who still holds Pentathlon records in the IM, butterfly, backstroke and total time set in 2000, said Weeks’ class is really strong, and it makes Weeks a better swimmer.
“She’s definitely improved this year,” Petersen said. “I’ve been impressed with her stroke, it’s not just that she’s in better shape.”
Weeks led the Stars to a runner-up finish, finishing six points behind the Bears. Also in the top 16 scoring points for the Stars were Kaitlyn Groleske in seventh, Rachel Henry in 10th, Megan English in 13th and Molly Silta in 15th.
“They did a great job,” Petersen said of his girls team. “I was surprised to have five scorers in there.”
Seward was fourth, with Isabel Barnwell taking fifth and Olivia Beckham nabbing eighth.
The battle for the boys individual title was not as dramatic, at least once the meet started.
“I knew coming into the meet that I had a lot of tough competition and I didn’t know if I had it in me,” Kessler said. “I just wanted to get it over with.”
Then came his 57.20 seconds in the 100 individual medley. That gave Kessler a lead of over a second on the rest of the field.
“That time really sparked me,” Kessler said. “After that, I was into the meet.”
Kodiak’s Dyton Schauff gave chase by winning the backstroke and butterfly. But then Kessler, who finished fourth at state last season in the 100 breaststroke, blew away the field in the 50 breaststroke to take an insurmountable lead. He punctuated the victory with a victory in the 50 freestyle.
Kessler finished at 2:41.61, improving on his winning effort of 2:43.77 last year. Schauff was second at 2:44.65 to lead the Bears to a dominating team win. Kodiak scored 69 points, while runner-up SoHi had 39.
The Stars were led by Daniel McElroy in fourth and Dustin Hunter in sixth. McElroy was third last year.
“He did a good job, but I know he can swim faster,” Petersen said of McElroy. “I look forward to him peaking at the end of the season.”
Also for the Stars, Chase Corona-Cain was 10th, Cody Watkins was 14th and Jacob Creglow was 16th. Petersen was enthused that freshmen Watkins and Creglow were able to slip into the scoring column.
Homer’s Gregory Smith was 11th and was the only swimmer in the top 16 not from Kodiak, Soldotna or Colony. Homer’s Lauren Kuhns led the Mariners girls at 19th.
Kenai Central’s top swimmer was Celestina Castro at 18th, while Cole Gross led the Kards boys at 20th.
For Skyview, Mike Morton was 28th, while Sam Scheller was 45th.