Hot and humid, the deck of a pool is an easy place to sweat. But even so, Soldotna swim coach Sohail Marey rarely has had to sweat out a victory by his boys team at the Region III meet.
That could very well change come Saturday starting at 1 p.m. in Homer, where the Soldotna boys will look to take their 21st region title in the last 22 years.
"The majority of them, we've dominated quite a bit," said Marey, in his third year at the helm of the Stars. "This year, Homer has a great team of hard-working, talented kids.
"They're going to give us a challenge. We're going to have our hands full."
In the past couple years, Marey had the services of Lucas Petersen and Joshua Gemmell, who have since moved on to college swimming programs. With those two, the Stars were pretty much guaranteed four wins in individual events and a pair of victories in the relays.
This allowed Marey to fill out his entries for regions as an afterthought and to focus on state a week early.
"It's going to be exciting this year, and that's good for swimming," Marey said. "This year, I had to be careful about thinking of state when I was doing the entries. We have to make sure we win regions first."
Saturday, the Mariners threw a scare into the Stars with a 133-115 victory in a dual meet. Although Soldotna was not at full strength, Homer was able to assure victory by taking two of the three relays.
"We really have to dominate the relays," Marey said. "I had one kid that didn't swim, and two swam that were sick. Hopefully, everybody will be healthy enough by Friday."
Marey is hoping for steady performances from Leo Grasso and Nick Sorrell and for additional help from Clayton Harrison, Seth Chavka, Aladean Marey and Evan Hatfield. He said the big question mark is the health of Ty Mann-Schweigert, who would be a great asset if he's at 90 or 95 percent.
On the girls side of the meet, Soldotna looks to be a good bet to take its third straight region title.
"The girls are in better shape number-wise and swim-wise," Marey said.
Soldotna is loaded on the girls side, with Abby Kiffmeyer, Jenna Syverson, Keely Chavka, Caitlin Martin, Amberlee Query, Karina Petersen, Jessica Franzmann and Stephanie Van Der Sluis.
As for other teams on the peninsula, many don't have the depth to compete against Soldotna.
Skyview coach Joanne Wainwright said the meet will be a good test for her young team.
"We have a lot of girls who are right on the edge of finaling," Wainwright said. "I just would like to see them swim very focused races and get into the finals."
Wainwright said some of the girls that will be a threat to final are Stephanie Lambe, Vanessa Williams, Ashley Risch, Lizzie Crane, Veronika Aralova and Jenna Standridge.
In Seward, Janet Van Driessche also is looking to push a few swimmers through to state. Some candidates there are Tara Ganser, Jacob Boulden, Jonah Swiderski and John Hughes.
Finally, Kenai Central also doesn't have designs on the region title, but has some quality swimmers that could qualify for the state meet.
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