School buses lined Homer High School’s parking lot last week, trucking 274 athletes in and out for the Region III Swim and Dive Championships. The heat was on in the Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center, and each school represented had school pride dripping in all corners of the pool, locker rooms and hallways.
Though colors other than blue and gold lined the pool walls, it was still the Mariners’ home turf, and they made sure they screamed the loudest for their teammates.
“Regions was a perfect cap to an excellent season. It was fun for the team to have Regions in their own school, and it was so great to see them being supportive of each other every step of the way,” said Head Swim Coach Rebecca Hardy.
Placement and times during Region competition qualifies swimmers and divers for State competition, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Bartlett High School in Anchorage
Junior James Nagle will be go to State in the 200M IM and 100 butterfly.
“James wants this, he is excited for it, and has worked hard all season to get here. I think he’ll end up with another best time at State,” said Hardy.
Junior Mark Nagle in the 500M freestyle, and sophomore Cheyanne Smith in the 200M IM are alternates for State.
“I have never swam better in the 200 IM. A personal best in this event is encouraging because I have been on injury,” said Smith.
For most of the Mariner swim team, advancing to State was not necessarily the main goal this year at Regions. For a majority of the young team, beating their own times is fulfilling enough.
Sophomore Thomas Vanek dropped 1.5 seconds in the 200M freestyle event between his preliminary time on Friday to his final time on Saturday.
“I am happy about that. I started swimming as a freshman and back then I would get last place in every event. Now I am consoling in my events and it feels like an accomplishment,” said Vanek.
The dive team will be representing Homer at State with three divers advancing: Brian Rowe, Jasmine Lewis and Katherine Dolma.
“I expect all of them to do well at State. We are hoping for higher scores,” said Head Dive Coach Harmon Hall.
Hall says that predicting an outcome at State is unknown.
“We won’t know how well we do until we see how the judges judge. And there will be a lot of competition from the Anchorage and Fairbanks schools,” said Hall.
Hall also says that the judges at Regions were particularly tough. Rowe failed one of his earlier dives because of an interference while on the board. Rowe went on to take first place.
This year’s three State divers are a smaller number from last year’s five State divers, but Hall has high hopes that his team of mostly freshman will advance in the years to come.
Freshman Ian Hall, in particular, was a first year diver that made it through the wringer at Regions into the finals. Hall missed placing in the finals by 20 points; not too bad for a freshman, said the coach.
A few Region records were broken this year, all of them by their own record holders. In the 200M Freestyle, Jori Lindquist from Kodiak beat her own record set last year by 1.13 seconds. The new record in that event is 1:55.47.
Sister Tahna Lindquist of Kodiak dropped 3.49 seconds off her 2011 Region record time for the 200M IM. The new record is 2:08.01. Lindquist also made a new record in the 500M Freestyle with a time of 5:07.20; 2.3 seconds faster than her previous Region record.
Lastly, Ila Hughes also of Kodiak set the new Region record at 23.71 in the 50M freestyle, .09 seconds down from her previous time set last year.
Even if records are not set this weekend in Anchorage, the Mariner swimmers and divers advancing to State are satisfied with achieving personal bests.
Lydia Arndt, as the sole senior on the team, accomplished her own goals at Regions, taking three seconds off her 200M IM time landing her ninth place in that event, a personal best she says she has been working on for a while.
“Since I am a senior, I wanted to leave the team on a good note. I have been working hard at practices and cheering on my teammates to show a good example of how a Mariner swimmer should be,” said Arndt.
Arndt leaves the Mariner team with the message to listen to their coaches, keep swimming, and most importantly, have fun.
Angelina Skowronski is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.