Swimmers dive into new high school season

The whistle trills.

"50 freestyle! Take your mark!"

The athlete gets into position on the platform.

The horn sounds.

"Go! Let's go!"


With the reopening of the community swimming pool, the high school swim team was able to jump into practice and get their feet - and the rest of their bodies - wet for the upcoming competition.

As the swimmers finished up their practice sprints on Aug. 17, with coach Jamie Roberts monitoring their form, they began to cool down.

"It's especially important that you breathe a lot after you sprint, so your noses don't get tight tomorrow," she told the athletes.

Roberts is a little nervous but still confident over the team's abilities, with the first meet just over a week away on Sept. 2 in Sitka.

"This is the first year where I feel like we could (compete) today and they'd be fine," she said. "They have all the pieces. Normally, I'm still trying to teach how you start, how you turn, all the little details, and I'm like, 'Ugh. We'll see what happens.' But right now, I'm feeling good. They're all able to freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and I've got a few that can do butterfly."

Eight student-athletes are on the roster this year: Jack Roberts, Andrei Bardin-Siekawitch, Nate Rooney, Madelyn Davies, Anika Herman, Kalee Herman, Alisha Armstrong and Johanna Sandford.

Jack, a senior, has the most experience on the team. He took first place at regionals last year, and came in ninth at state for the 200-yard individual medley and seventh in the 100-yard freestyle finals. Coach Roberts feels good about her son's chances of returning to state this year.

"He could do just about anything. He hasn't quite told me what (categories) he's interested in yet," she said. "He wants to see who's in the playing field in Southeast first. That's a strategy."

As for how her team is shaping up and will fare against the competition, Roberts said it is too early to tell. Much of it depends on how other swimmers across the state and in Southeast are doing. If Wrangell's team can best others at regionals, they'll be guaranteed a spot at state.

Once the meets start, the team will have a better idea who the swimmers are to beat. That will lead to more training strategies and figuring out where each Wrangell swimmer needs to focus their efforts.

"We'll be able to get into a management program," the coach said. "Around the state, who are the top 10 men in this event and who are the top 10 women in that event. You start to see where you fall in respect to other people in the state."

In Southeast, many of the fastest swimmers graduated last year, and without club swim meets, Junior Olympics and other such events, Roberts doesn't know who the next wave of powerful competitors are at the moment.

The community pool being closed for almost nine months due to repairs and previously off and on due to COVID restrictions has made it difficult for athletes to get practice as well, she said. As soon as the pool was ready, she made sure the kids were in the water. It also helped serve another purpose.

"Our practice started on Aug. 2," Roberts said, noting that she wasn't allowed to coach before the official season started. "We had them get in preseason. We gave them five days where we had them come in and swim so that our new lifeguard staff could practice and get an idea of what it's like with people in the pool."

Along with her son, the coach said other swimmers are showing great promise, even if they're relatively new to the sport.

Sandford has been active in different swim meets and trainings in the past couple years.

"We hosted a camp and swim lesson program. She came in and did that for the first time, and she just took to it," Roberts said. "She loved it. She took the lifeguard class and now she's a lifeguard."

Davies has also swam on and off with the swim club, though neither she or Sandford has been to a meet before.

There are plenty of girls to have a women's relay team, but they are lacking one boy for a men's relay team. Last year it was the opposite. There were plenty of boys for relay, but Armstrong was the only girl on the team.

Once meets begin, it will be nonstop practice and competitions until November, Roberts said.

"Our first meet will be in Sitka on Sept. 1 and 2, then we will be traveling every other weekend; boom, boom, boom," she said. "Regionals will be right around Halloween (Oct. 28). State will be held the first weekend in November (Nov. 3 and 4). It will be in Juneau this year. We like that pool a lot."


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