In "Rocky III," Apollo Creed, referring to Rocky and talking to Uncle Paulie, asks, "Can he swim?" The response: "With a name like Rock?"
Cue the scenes of Rocky lumbering through the water to get ready for a fight against Clubber Lang.
In Region III, the joke doesn't apply. Can Kodiak swim? Yes, very well, even though the Bears come from a place called "The Rock."
As the swimming season revs into full gear, Kodiak is once again the program to watch in Region III.
The girls have won three straight region titles and according to the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the Bears are in great position to extend that reign.
The crown wearing started when Myra Scholze, Sonja Jones, Laura Griffing, Kalsin Clark and Elyse Johnston came to the school as freshmen in 2007. After winning the title last year by 58 points, the group has no designs on letting go as seniors. The Kodiak girls lost just one swimmer to graduation.
"Knowing what Kodiak had as a young group, they do have the dominant group," Soldotna coach Sohail Marey said.
Marey has a top-end swimmer in Olivia Bowen that can compete with Kodiak's best, but Marey said the Stars can't match Kodiak's depth.
At last year's region meet, Bowen set region records in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 butterfly. Marey said Bowen has a state title in her sights this year.
"She's hoping as a senior to go out with a bang," Marey said.
The Kodiak boys will have a tougher path to a region title. The Bears have won that title in six out of the last eight years.
The Bears boys have just nine swimmers, led by Nando Macinko, who has won the region backstroke title twice. Three of the others are returning state qualifiers.
"They looked really tough in USA Swimming," Kenai Central coach Will Hubler said of the Bears before taking them on in meets on Friday and Saturday. "We'll see how we do against them and make a game plan."
The peninsula has four returning region champions on the boys side. Winter Heaven won a 100 butterfly crown last year for Soldotna and has transferred to Kenai Central this year.
"He's a good addition to the team," Hubler said. "He's a great swimmer and a great young man all-around. He likes to compete but he's modest and humble."
Also winning region championships last year from the peninsula were Soldotna's Christian Carrico in the 100 breaststroke, Homer's Richard Ginter in the 200 individual medley and Seward's Ryan O'Leary in the 200 freestyle.
The following is a closer look at the peninsula's swim teams:
The Mariners finished third on the girls side and fourth on the boys side in last year's region meet in Anna Borland-Ivy's first year as head coach.
Borland-Ivy said the team has about a dozen divers, and a population of swimmers in the high 20s, out for the team this year.
Senior Donna McNulty qualified for state last year in the 100 breaststroke and 500 freestyle, while junior Marie Schmidt went in the 200 and 500 freestyle.
Borland-Ivy said other key returners are senior Kate Spence and junior Dana Olesch.
On the boys side, Borland-Ivy said Ginter is doing well after swimming year-round. Senior Alder Fletcher also went to state last year in the 100 butterfly.
Juniors Nathaneal Hardy and Kyle Wentz are two other key returners.
"We'd like to take a girls relay and a boys relay to state," Borland-Ivy said. "That'd be very cool.
"I think the people that went last year would love to go this year. There's also team records we're looking at."
Kenai Central Kardinals
Hubler returns to coach the team after a break of almost a decade. He said he's fortunate to have the help of assistants Judy Lollier and Kirsten Davis, especially with 48 swimmers out for the team.
The Kardinals lost all their state qualifiers on the boys side to graduation, but the addition of Heaven should help make up for that.
Other key members of the team will be seniors Tanner Landry, Jacob Iverson and Ben Gilman, and freshman Michael Hollinger. Hubler also said divers Brad Bible, a senior, and Bill Ashwell, a freshman, are doing a good job.
The girls return state qualifiers Olivia Pfeifer (200 and 500 freestyle) and Kendra Ashwell (50 freestyle). Mary Pat Mills and Kaitlyn Louthan also went to state on a relay.
Hubler also likes what he sees from senior Julie Rang, sophomores Austin Daly, Joy Wannamaker and Makenzie Magiera, and freshmen Keelyn Winter and Zoya Hanson.
"I'm excited," Hubler said. "It's a great group of kids swimming-abilitywise and attitudewise. I couldn't ask for better."
Janet Van Driessche has been coaching at Seward for over 30 years. She currently has nine swimmers, and will be up to 12 after football and cross country.
The coach said O'Leary can swim anything and will look to break all of the school records he set last year. With the graduation of a fast group of boys around the state, the senior also has a good shot at a state title.
Junior Eileen Audette also made it to state last season in the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.
Some other strong swimmers for Seward will be seniors Nick Broughton and Sam Werner, sophomore Stephen Werner, and freshmen Josh Eavis and Noah Hamlin. Junior Jayna O'Leary will join the team after football.
The girls team also will get a boost from Rachel Tougas. Mackenize Barnwell and Isabel Barnwell will join the team after cross country.
"It's an exciting year," Van Driessche said. "Everybody is ready to go and working hard."
Amanda Williams takes over the Skyview program and is welcomed by 10 swimmers. Williams is new to coaching, but is a longtime swimmer. Williams said assistant Cassie Boze also is providing valuable help.
The captains for the Panthers are Megan Janorschke and Kyle Strobes. Other returning swimmers are seniors Heather Mathews and Johnnie Bishop, junior Katie Clonan and sophomores Danny McIntosh and Trace Braxling.
New to the team are senior Mine Sirijanratwong and sophomores Savanah Anchinges and Mike Morton.
"Our goals for this year are to instill healthy habits in our swimmers, building a life long commitment to being physically active, to have fun, and to improve our techniques and times," Williams wrote in an e-mail. "We would love to take our Skyview swimmers to state."
In his 11th season as coach, Marey guided the Stars to a second-place finish on the boys side and a third-place finish on the girls side at regions last year.
The Stars have 40 swimmers out for the team, but lost Heaven to transfer, Alena Newgren to a move and Sawyer Rickman to football.
"We have a bunch of young kids in there," Marey said. "Unfortunately, we lost some kids, but that's fine. That's what sports is all about.
"We'll build with these kids and in a year or two go back and win regions."
The coach said the team leaders are Bowen and Carrico.
Marey said the girls team gets a strong boost from freshman Kaitlyn Groleske, a candidate for state.
The coach said a number of his other girls have a chance to make state in an individual event, including seniors Angela Ramponi and Erica Byerley, sophomore Sara Mokracek and freshman Shaylee Brenton.
Sophomores Ashley Eby and Jessica Jackson should provide points at the region meet.
For the boys, Marey said sophomore Ehren Rickman and freshman Chase Corona-Cain have a shot at state. Junior diver Luke Rohl also has a shot at state.
The coach also said the hard work of senior Dallin Carlson and sophomore Joseph Rife should pay off at regions.
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