One day at practice this season, Homer senior swimmer Kyle Wentz broke out with a self-created poem that has become a theme of sorts for the Homer swim team this season:
“The wounds of our parting soon shall mend, so let’s swim our best to the end.”
That end, at least as far as prep swimming careers go, comes for the Homer seniors Saturday after the two-day state swimming and diving championships at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. The swimming and diving finals start at 1 p.m. Saturday.
If the Mariners keep swimming as they did last weekend at the Region III meet, many will not only be swimming their best, but swimming the best in the state.
“They are acutely aware of this and they know this is it,” Homer coach Anna Borland-Ivy said. “They are on this big high right now. I hope they can hold it together.”
Homer comes into the meet with the top seeds in the boys 200-yard medley relay and the boys 200 freestyle relay. The members of both teams are seniors Wentz, James Reid, Richard Ginter and Nathanael Hardy.
Along with seniors Marie Schmidt and Dana Olesch, Borland-Ivy is looking for an impressive finale.
“There’s a whole lot of difference between a junior in high school and a senior in high school,” she said. “You could see it this year during the training season. They’re so much more focused and able to work harder.
“I like to think of the work during the season like money in the bank. You start to pull that money out during the taper.”
Ginter has the potential to pull four state titles out of the bank. In addition to the top seeds in the relays, he’s also the top seed by more than a second in the 100 butterfly and is the top seed by 17-hundredths of a second in the 50 freestyle.
Borland-Ivy said Ginter broke the school record in the 100 butterfly at regions. He swam such a beautiful race that the former record holder, Brian Ritchie, congratulated him with tears in his eyes.
As for the 50 freestyle, that will involve eye function of a different sort.
“The 50 free is anybody’s race. It’s the blink of an eye,” Borland-Ivy said.
In addition to Ginter, Borland-Ivy said the seniors all have the potential to final in their events.
Homer also is poised to make a (hopefully small) splash in the diving event, with Lindsey Seneff, Jasmine Lewis, Sophie Ogle, Garrett Hall, Brian Rowe and Kaec Brinster all qualified.
Seneff is seeded fourth, while Lewis and Hall are sixth.
The Kenai Peninsula has several other shots to put swimmers on top of the podium.
The Soldotna boys relay team of Ehren Rickman, Christian Carrico, Dustin Hunter and Sawyer Rickman is seeded second behind Homer in the 200 medley relay.
“The medley relay is up there,” Soldotna coach Sohail Marey said. “If they swim fast, or if our taper lets them gain some time, it could work out the way we want it to.”
The Stars had a very good shot at winning the 200 freestyle relay based on previous times this year, but that relay was disqualified at regions.
The relay was disqualified when judges ruled a swimmer left the blocks too early. Marey said he has videotape showing the swimmer did not leave early, but he said the rules do not allow video to be used to overturn a ruling.
“I know they were robbed, but you cannot use a video camera,” Marey said. “This is life.”
SoHi’s best shot at an individual title comes from Carrico in the 100 breaststroke, where he is seeded second, but is more than two seconds behind the top seed.
Carrico also should final in the 100 freestyle.
Marey also expects finals out of Sawyer Rickman in the 50 and 100 freestyles, Alex Weeks in the 50 and 100 freestyles, Kaitlyn Groleske in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly, and possibly Daniel McElroy in the 50 freestyle.
Luke Rohl and Gaeden Ames will dive for the Stars.
Marey said state should be a good experience for his team, which includes a lot of young swimmers.
“I want them to see that championship level,” he said.
Seward’s best shot at a championship comes from Eileen Audette in the 100 breaststroke.
Audette, who also should final in the 50 freestyle, is seeded fifth in the 100 breaststroke. The seeds are based on region times. However, she has posted a 1:08.42 in the event this year, which would give her the top seed.
Seward coach Matt Hershock said Audette did not taper at all for regions.
Different swimmers need different amounts of rest to achieve peak performance. Audette only needs four days, so she was training hard through regions and swam those races tired.
“No matter what happens, she did all she could to do well in this race,” Hershock said.
Josh Eavis also could final in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Hershock said his other two qualifiers — Isabel Barnwell and Olivia Beckham — could final with great swims.
Seward also qualified a girls 200 medley relay and a girls 400 freestyle relay, both made up of Beckham, Barnwell, Audette and Rachel Tougas.
Both are seeded eighth, so Hershock said the only direction they can go is up. He said the neat story about the relays comes from Tougas, who three weeks ago stopped training for her individual events and instead concentrated on the relay events.
“She swam a personal best in both of the relays,” Hershock said. “She was the difference, and that’s because she dropped her distance focus. I think that’s pretty selfless.”
Kenai Central pushed three athletes through to state.
Senior Olivia Pfeifer has made state each of her four years. She is looking to cap her career with personal bests and finals appearances in the 200 and 500 freestyles.
Junior Kaitlyn Louthan is looking for personal bests in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly, while sophomore Cole Gross overcame a “zero” dive at regions to still make state.
“It’s hard to get to state after that, but he stepped it up,” Kenai coach Will Hubler said. “He’s going to focus on getting as high of a score as he can and maybe making the finals.”
Skyview did not qualify a swimmer or diver for state.
Peninsula state qualifiers
Homer — Marie Schmidt (200-yard freestyle, 500 freestyle), Dana Olesch (100 butterfly, 100 backstroke), Kyle Wentz (100 freestyle, 100 backstroke), Richard Ginter (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly), Nathanael Hardy (50 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), James Reid (200 IM, 100 breaststroke), Linsdey Seneff (diving), Jasmine Lewis (diving), Sophie Ogle (diving), Garrett Hall (diving), Brian Rowe (diving), Kaec Brinster (diving), 200 boys medley relay (Kyle Wentz, James Reid, Richard Ginter, Nathanael Hardy, Mitrofon Martishev, James Nagle, Mark Nagle, Tian-En Liu); 200 boys freestyle relay (Richard Ginter, James Reid, Nathanael Hardy, Kyle Wentz, Mitrofon Martishev, James Nagle, Mark Nagle, Thomas Vanek)
Kenai Central —Kaitlyn Louthan (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly), Olivia Pfeifer (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle), Cole Gross (diving),
Seward — Isabel Barnwell (500 freestyle), Olivia Beckham (50 freestyle, 100 backstroke), Eileen Audette (50 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), Joshua Eavis (200 freestyle, 100 backstroke), 200 girls medley relay (Isabel Barnwell, Eileen Audette, Olivia Beckham, Rachel Tougas); 400 girls freestyle relay (Olivia Beckham, Rachel Tougas, Eileen Audette, Isabel Barnwell, Robin Mc Knight).
Soldotna — Christian Carrico (100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), Sawyer Rickman (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle), Daniel McElroy (50 freestyle), Alex Weeks (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle), Kaitlyn Groleske (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly), Luke Rohl (diving), Gaeden Ames (diving), 200 boys medley relay (Ehren Rickman, Christian Carrico, Dustin Hunter, Sawyer Rickman, Chase Corona-Cain, Daniel McElroy, Joseph Rife, Luke Rohl), 200 girls freestyle relay (Kaitlyn Groleske, Ashley Eby, Megan English, Sabrina Gibbs, Rachel Henry, Serena Lee, Molly Silta, Alex Weeks)