Heaven, O'Leary chase state crowns

Posted: Friday, November 05, 2010

Kenai Central's Winter Heaven is seeded to have another big weekend.

Last weekend, Heaven set four new records at the Region III swimming and diving championships at Kodiak. Two of the records were in his individual events -- the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly -- and the other two came leading off the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

Heaven's times put him in a great position to have more success at the state swimming and diving meet Friday and Saturday at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. The finals start at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

In the 200 freestyle, Heaven's seed time of 1 minute, 41.19 seconds, puts him far ahead of runner-up David Wilcox of Dimond, who is at 1:46.09.

At the same time, Heaven is tantalizingly close to the 1:40.58 state record that Juneau's Cody Brunette set in 2008.

In the 100 butterfly, Heaven is seeded at 50.88. The next best time is David Wilcox at 52.92. Brunette's record in that event is 49.19.

"He's looking really good right now," said Kenai Central head coach Will Hubler of Heaven. "He's been training and with his positive attitude, I think he's going to do pretty good."

Hubler said the primary focus is on winning state titles and not on setting records. Even with Heaven's impressive times, Hubler said other swimmers can come up with great performances when going for broke.

"He's just going for his best swims and we'll see how it all falls out," Hubler said. "It's an extra bonus if he gets the record."

At that same region meet last weekend, Seward's Ryan O'Leary set records in the 50 and 100 freestyles, before Heaven came along later in the meet and beat those records with his relay legs.

O'Leary is the top-seeded swimmer in the 50 freestyle, with a time of 21.20. The next fastest is South's Ben Rockwell at 21.84. The state record is 20.91, and was set by Andrew Tainter of Service in 1996.

The Seward senior also has the top seed in the 100 freestyle at 46.91. Next in line is Jordan Reid of Petersburg at 47.87. The state record is 46.27, and belongs to Derek Gibbs of Petersburg.

O'Leary also has a chance to join Jacqueline Van Driessche as the only individual state champions from Seward in the 30-plus years that Janet Van Driessche has been coaching at the school.

Hubler said he hopes that Heaven is not the only Kenai swimmer in the finals. He said Olivia Pfeifer, in the 500 freestyle, and Michael Hollinger, in the 200 freestyle, have a great chance of finishing in the top eight.

The Kardinals also have girls and boys teams in both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Heaven, Hollinger, Tanner Landry and Jake Iverson swim for the boys, while Kendra Ashwell, Pfeifer, Mary Pat Mills and Kaitlyn Louthan swim for the girls.

Hubler said he is also looking for a solid performance from divers Austin Daly, Brad Bible and Cole Gross.

At Soldotna, coach Sohail Marey said he wants the meet to lay the groundwork for future success.

Junior Christian Carrico is seeded fourth in the 100 breaststroke. Marey would like to see Carrico finish in the top three with an eye on winning the event at state next year. The coach also would like to see Carrico make the finals in the 100 freestyle.

Marey also said Kaitlyn Groleske has a chance at the finals in the 200 and 500 freestyles. Divers Luke Rohl and Erica Byerley also are set up for a good meet.

Sawyer Rickman, Ehren Rickman, Dustin Hunter and Carrico will swim the 200 medley relay for the Stars.

"This year, the only senior we are taking to state is Erica Byerley," Marey said. "The rest are mostly freshmen, and a couple of sophomores and juniors. This is good experience for them for next year."

The Homer swim team is hoping to build off a great region meet, according to coach Anna Borland-Ivy.

"The kids swam really well and right now we are looking at some team records we're wanting to break at state," the coach said.

The Mariners qualified three relay teams for state after not qualifying any last year.

For the girls, Marie Schmidt, Donna McNulty, Dana Olesch and Katherine Spence will swim the girls 200 medley relay.

Schmidt and McNulty also are qualified for two individual events, while Olesch is qualified for one.

For the boys, the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay earned trips to state. Richard Ginter, Kyle Wentz, Alder Fletcher and Nathanael Hardy make up both of those teams. Fletcher, Ginter and Wentz also qualified for two individual events.

Borland-Ivy also said a number of those swimmers have a chance at the finals. She also is happy divers Lindsey Seneff and Kaec Brinster will get a chance to compete at state.

"The kids don't swim year-round," Borland-Ivy said. "Considering that, they are doing really well. We're happy with where we're at."

In addition to O'Leary, Seward also qualified three individuals for state. The Seahawks boys also will compete in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.

Kenai Peninsula state swimming qualifiers

Homer -- Girls 200 medley relay, Boys 200 medley relay, Marie Schmidt (200 IM, 500 freestyle), Richard Ginter (200 IM, 100 butterfly), Alder Fletcher (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle), Lindsey Seneff (diving), Kaec Brinster (diving), Garrett Hall (diving), Dana Olesch (100 butterfly), Kyle Wentz (100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), Donna McNulty (500 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), Boys 200 freestyle relay.

Kenai -- Winter Heaven (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly), Michael Hollinger (200 freestyle), Kendra Ashwell (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle), Austin Daly (diving), Brad Bible (diving), Cole Gross (diving), Olivia Pfeifer (500 freestyle), Girls 200 freestyle relay, Boys 200 freestyle relay, Girls 400 freestyle relay, Boys 400 freestyle relay.

Seward -- Boys 200 medley relay, Izzy Barnwell (200 freestyle), Eileen Audette (50 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), Nick Broughton (50 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), Ryan O'Leary (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle), Boys 200 freestyle relay.

Soldotna -- Boys 200 medley relay, Kaitlyn Groleske (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle), Erica Byerley (diving), Luke Rohl (diving), Christian Carrico (100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke).

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