As high school teams prepare for the Region III swimming and diving championships today and Saturday in Homer, coaches have been doing their best to enter their swimmers in the events in which they will be most successful.
“It’s kind of a chess match, who’s going to place here, who’s going to place there?” said Kenai coach Lee Moore. “You look at where you think other coaches will place their swimmers, and if you have one on the bubble (of qualifying for the state meet), you make a guess as to what you think will be their best opportunity to make it. Sometimes you guess right, sometimes you guess wrong.”
In seasons past, some of those decisions have led to team championships. This year, coaches from the central peninsula will be more focused on individual performances while the Wasilla, Homer and Kodiak boys, and the Homer and Kodiak girls are likely to battle for the team titles.
“This year, we’re not really in a position to contend for the region championship. Our goal is to go for our best times and qualify as many as we can for state,” said Soldotna coach Sohail Marey.
Marey has just two swimmers on his squad with three years of high school experience, Lyla Marey and Colin Dudley. Sohail Marey will look for those two swimmers to advance to the state meet, and freshman Randi Freestone has a good chance to make some waves at the meet as well.
Marey also said Forrest Eissler and Daniel SpeegleEvans each have a good chance of advancing in their events, as do the Soldotna divers, Nicky Collet for the girls and Garrett Mayer for the boys.
“(Most) of the team is first- or second-year swimmers, so just to get them there and have the meet under their belts, and have them ready for next year, is a priority,” Marey said. “We’re definitely going to be a much stronger team next year. If they gain experience from this meet, I’m going to be very happy.”
Moore expects the Kardinals to be in the middle of the pack in the team standings and will have his swimmers focused on finishing the season with their best performances.
“The focus is, as always, for every individual to bring what they can for the team, and ultimately try to achieve their individual goals. If they can achieve their individual goals, then, man, it’s been a successful weekend,” Moore said.
Moore said that goes not just for his top swimmers, but for every member of the team.
Moore said several big meets leading up to the region contest have helped prepare his swimmers for the pressure of the meet, but it still is a new experience for younger swimmers.
“It’s the one time where you have to be able to swim a time to qualify for finals. It’s by far the most pressure they’ve seen throughout the year,” Moore said.
Christopher Hall has paced the Kardinals in the pool this year, and Moore said there might be a few other Kenai swimmers who have a state-qualifying performance in them.
“They’ll give it the best shot they can,” Moore said.
Joanne Wainwright, head coach at Skyview, also said her swimmers would be giving it their best shot, as well as enjoying the region meet atmosphere.
“We’re looking forward to swimming fast and watching other people swimming fast and socializing. That’s the thing with swimming: racing is something you do in between socializing. There’s the competition but also the camaraderie,” Wainwright said.
Wainwright said Colin Murray is a young swimmer who has made great strides this season and would be one to watch, and added that Michaela Hutchison, who is squeezing in a few weeks of swimming between the end of the cross country season and the start of wrestling, has been a joy to coach.
Competition begins with diving preliminaries today at 8 a.m. at Homer High School’s Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center. Swimming preliminaries are slated to begin at 3 p.m.
Diving semifinal rounds begin Saturday at 8:30 a.m., and swimming and diving finals start at 2 p.m.
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