Wrangell swimmers end season with a splash

Wrangell's junior swimmers competed in their fourth competitive meet last week, traveling to Ketchikan for the annual Spring Splash.

Still in its first year, the Swim Club sent 17 swimmers to the three-day event, which took place over the April 1 weekend. The USA Swimming-sanctioned meet featured teams from Juneau, Petersburg, Ketchikan, Sitka and Craig, with around 100 participants in all.

Wrangell's group participated in 71 individual events, and coach Bruce McQueen reported every swimmer posted at least one personal best time. Between them, they brought back 51 ribbons, which go to the top eight in each event by age group and gender.

Kayla Meissner finished in first for the 10 and under 100-yard fly, as did Hope Mikkelsen in the girls 11-12 year old 1,650-yard freestyle. For the boys, Jack Roberts took first in the 11-12 500-yard freestyle.

Swimmers earned points for the team as well. Mikkelsen contributed the most to Wrangell with 40 earned in six events, followed close behind by Meissner with 37. Nikolai Siekawitch earned 35 points for the team. Swimmers Carter Hammer, Andrei Siekawitch and Rhiannon Wenzel also made the meet's "most improved" list, by besting a previous time in a single event by more than 20 percent.

The Ketchikan meet was also a chance to challenge the fledgling team's young swimmers. More advanced swimmers were encouraged to push themselves in longer, more arduous events. Younger swimmers also dove into competition, with the very newest having started only two months ago.

Recounting the weekend, McQueen said Spring Splash was run like a larger championship meet. Events in the morning were offered as preliminaries while finals were held later in the day. Eleven of the 12 Wrangell swimmers competing April 1 made it to their event finals.

All in all, McQueen said the weekend was a good one for the club, and wraps up its inaugural season. Wrangell Swim Club is the first competitive group Wrangell has had since the Stikine Sea Runners disbanded in 2003. Initially intending to attend one or two meets this year, its swimmers managed to qualify for additional region- and statewide meets held in December and earlier this spring.

The end of the regional competitions before the summer doesn't mean the group is done just yet, however. The club will continue practice through June, and at least four swimmers have made qualifying times allowing them to participate in Alaska's Junior Olympics later this month. Another will be competing in the state's Special Olympics Summer Games in June.

"Planning is already underway for next season, and the hope is that Wrangell Swim Club will be able to participate in at least one spring and another fall open meet, as well as support swimmers who qualify to swim at the regional and state level," McQueen reported.


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