In the parlance of these election times, the girls team contest at the Region III swimming and diving championships should be a landslide. The boys race? Still too close to call.
The Region III meet will be hosted by Kodiak for the first time in the program's 35-year history. It began with diving preliminaries on Thursday. The swimming and diving finals will begin Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The Kodiak girls are looking like a sure bet to win a fourth straight crown.
"Probably all of us combined couldn't beat the Kodiak girls," said Homer coach Anna Borland-Ivy.
The boys meet will be different as the Bears chase their seventh region crown in nine years. Kodiak, Kenai Central, Seward and Homer were all mentioned as candidates for the crown. Some mentioned Soldotna, as well.
"Whichever team on the boys side has a good meet, steps up and performs well, and gets a lot of swimmers in the finals will win," Kenai Central coach Will Hubler said. "It could be any of them."
Winter Heaven will key the title hunt for the Kardinals. He is the top-seeded swimmer in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly. He also will team with Michael Hollinger, Tanner Landry and Jacob Iverson to chase points in the all-important relays.
Hubler also thinks Hollinger, a freshman, has a chance at state in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly. A swimmer must win an event to automatically qualify for state. A swimmer can also qualify by being one of the 12 fastest in the state after the four region-winning times are taken out of the mix.
The coach also said divers Cole Gross, Brad Bible and Bill Ashwell have a shot at state.
"They've been practicing hard and looking good in the water," Hubler said of his boys team. "Hopefully, they're all excited. I know a bunch of senior boys are pumped up. It's going to be a great meet."
Seward coach Janet Van Driessche showed her team is a legitimate threat to take regions by winning the Soldotna Pentathlon boys team title.
The Seward boys are led by Ryan O'Leary, seeded first in the 50 and 100 freestyles. Van Driessche also said Nick Broughton, seeded fourth in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 breaststroke, should make state.
The coach also said the group of O'Leary, Broughton, Jayna O'Leary, Sam Werner, Josh Eavis and Stephen Werner can earn points in the relays.
"It's gonna be a good race," Van Driessche said. "The kids are excited and ready for it."
Borland-Ivy said the boys race will come down to which relays get stacked. She said boys teams in the region are too small to do well in all three relays. Each must choose two, and the team that chooses wisely will have a big edge.
The Mariners will be led by Richard Ginter, who is second in the 100 butterfly and first in the 200 individual medley. Kyle Wentz is ranked second in the 100 freestyle and fifth in the 100 breaststroke.
Borland-Ivy also said Alder Fletcher has a shot at state in the 50 and 100 freestyles. Others that will be important on relays or could make state are Mark Nagle, James Nagle, James Reid and Nathanael Hardy.
Soldotna coach Sohail Marey said his hunch is Kodiak will sweep the meet.
"I think we have a decent shot at second place, but not first place," Marey said. "We don't have the depth to win it."
Soldotna will be led by Christian Carrico, ranked third in the 100 freestyle and first in the 100 breaststroke. Marey also said Ehren Rickman has a good shot of making state in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle. The coach also said Carrico and Rickman will team with Sawyer Rickman and Dustin Hunter to have a great shot at winning the 200 medley relay.
In the 200 freestyle relay, Chase Corona-Cain will replace Hunter to give the Stars another solid relay.
At Skyview, coach Amanda Williams said it will be tough for any of her swimmers to make state. She said the top candidates are Kyle Stropes and Katie Clonan. Williams also is looking for a good final meet for seniors Heather Matthews and Johnny Bishop.
"We have a couple of swimmers that have improved a lot, but I'm not sure any are ready to go to state," Williams said. "We're absolutely looking for personal bests, and to compete as much as we can."
On the girls side, Kenai Peninsula coaches expect their swimmers to battle for second place in the team competition and try to push swimmers through to state.
Kenai will be led by Olivia Pfeifer, ranked fourth in the 200 freestyle and third in the 500 freestyle. Pfeifer holds the Kenai school record in both events.
Hubler also thinks Kendra Ashwell has a shot at state in the 50 and 100 freestyles. Ashwell and Pfeifer will team with Mary Pat Mills and Kaitlyn Louthan to make a run at state in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
The coach also said diver Austin Daly could make state with a good performance.
Marey said the girl with the best shot at state is freshman Kaitlyn Groleske, ranked fifth in the 500 freestyle and third in the 200 freestyle.
Groleske will team with freshmen Serena Lee and Sabrina Gibbs and sophomore Sarah Mokracek to chase state bids in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
"If those girls stick together for a few years, they're going to be awesome," Marey said.
Van Driessche said Eileen Audette should make state. Audette is ranked third in the 50 freestyle and third in the 100 breaststroke.
Borland-Ivy said Marie Schmidt and Donna McNulty should qualify for state. Schmidt is second in the 200 IM and second in the 500 freestyle. McNulty is fourth in the 500 freestyle and fourth in the 100 breaststroke.
The coach also said Dana Olesch and Kate Spence have a chance of making state if they can put together great swims.
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