Soldotna’s Madelyn Barkman competes in the girls 100-yard freestyle race Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Madelyn Barkman competes in the girls 100-yard freestyle race Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai races to 1st boys region swim title in school history

By Joey Klecka

Peninsula Clarion

A region championship decades in the making was finally brought to reality Saturday afternoon in the Kenai Central High School pool, site of the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships.

The Kenai Central boys raced to their first region team title in school history to snap a 10-year NLC stranglehold by the Kodiak Bears, pulling in 76 points to beat the runner-up Colony Knights, who had 65. The title was a first for the Kenai boys program, adding to the one the Kenai girls won in the early 1990s.

The Kardinals secured the championship with two relay wins, claiming gold in the 200-yard medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay. Relays are worth twice as many points as individual races, and the quartet of Koda Poulin, Trevor Bagley, Owen Rolph and Sorin Sorensen teamed up to win both events, pouring a mountain of points into Kenai’s bucket.

“The boys swam out of their minds today,” said Kenai head coach Winter Heaven. “I’m honestly surprised, even though I knew they’d do well, but they exceeded expectations.”

Heaven also received NLC Coach of the Year.

The Seward boys finished fourth in the team race with 38 points, while Soldotna took sixth with 20 and Homer tied for seventh with 12.

The NLC girls crown went to Colony, which racked up 80 points to beat the 64 of Kodiak and the 58 of Homer. Soldotna finished fourth in the girls team race with 38 points, while Kenai Central was sixth with 19 and Seward was eighth with 16.

Soldotna senior Ethan Evans received the conference Male Swimmer of the Year award and raced to two region championships in the boys 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke, while Female Swimmer of the Year went to Homer junior Madison Story, who won the girls 200 IM and was part of the winning girls 200 freestyle relay.

The championship for the Kardinals was made possible by an early disqualification. In the first boys final of the day, the 200 medley relay, the Colony Knights touched the wall first to beat the second-place Kards, but two judges ruled that a Colony swimmer leapt into the pool before the previous member touched the wall, leading to the DQ.

The ensuing promotion to first place for Kenai resulted in an 18-point swing, enough to give the big trophy to the Kards.

“I honestly wasn’t focused on the points,” Heaven said. “We were just letting the day develop and keeping our heads in the game race by race.”

In the individual races, Kenai came close to winning several finals. Leading the way was sophomore freestyle ace Koda Poulin, who placed second in both the 200 and 500 freestyle races. Poulin said he dropped his personal bests by three seconds in the 200 and seven seconds in the 500.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Poulin said about why he dropped so much time. “I’ve been tapering and I’ve had a hard season.”

Poulin raced alongside boys 500 free winner Ian Rocheleau of Kodiak in the early laps of the endurance event, and even led briefly midway through before eventually falling back and finishing 4.30 seconds behind Rocheleau in a time of 5 minutes, 1.74 seconds. Poulin said that race kept his spirits up as he contended with a tough competitor.

“I could see him in the beginning,” Poulin said about Rocheleau. “I was just trying to keep up with him, but he’s quick.”

Another event the Kardinals pulled in a lot of points was the 100 backstroke final, as Kenai finished second, third and fourth with Sorin Sorensen, Samuel Anderson and Brock Storms finishing behind winner Jonathan Cowin of Colony.

Trevor Bagley also bagged the Kenai boys school record in the 100 breaststroke, finishing third in the race with a time of 1:01.30, then adding a fourth in the 200 IM. Rolph took second in the 100 butterfly and third in the 50 free.

Kenai also got a winner out of junior Rachael Pitsch in the girls 500 freestyle. Pitsch raced Soldotna’s Madison Snyder, the reigning 500 free champ, early in the distance race before pulling away for a 7.64-second victory in a new PR of 5:37.81.

“Most people when they’re nervous aren’t as fast, but I think nerves help me,” Pitsch said. “I was a little nervous going into it because I had to race last year’s winner Madison, who beat me then.”

Pitsch also finished third in the girls 200 free, a race in which she slashed three seconds off her PR.

In earning his Male Swimmer of the Year award, junior Ethan Evans led SoHi with two wins in the 50 free and the 100 breaststroke. Evans broke the NLC record in the freestyle final, a mark from 2000 that’s been held by SoHi grad Joshua Gemmell.

“That was huge,” Evans said. “I’ve been chasing Gemmell for a while, I tried to break it at the Pentathlon, and I’ve had my eyes on that record.”

SoHi head coach Angie Brennan said next week, Evans has the potential to bring home SoHi’s first swimming state title since 2003.

“We’re talking about him breaking the region record, and I think he has the potential to win state,” Brennan said. “Regions does that … it’s on his radar.”

The SoHi girls didn’t record any individual victories, but still tallied a chunk of points with two runner-ups in the 200 free and 400 free relays, with a team composed of Madison Snyder, Alex Juliussen, Katie Creglow and Madelyn Barkman. Also, Barkman notched a third in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 freestyle.

Saturday also saw another chapter in the Lydia Jacoby and Madison Story rivalry, as the two friendly competitors went head-to-head in the girls 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke finals. Story nipped Jacoby for the 200 IM title while Jacoby beat Story in the breaststroke to force a split between the two.

Story won the IM in a time of 2:10.19, beating Jacoby by a slim 0.18 seconds. Jacoby put in one of her exceptional breaststroke legs to briefly take the lead after three legs, but Story came back with a fast freestyle leg to beat Jacoby to the wall.

“That was really exciting,” Jacoby said. “We go back and forth in that race, and I think it was (physically) extremely painful for both of us.”

As if she wasn’t fast enough, Jacoby also lowered her own region record in the breaststroke by 1.12 seconds with a new time of 1:01.93, and now sets her sights on beating her own state record next weekend in Anchorage. Jacoby said she and Seward head coach Meghan O’Leary were able to fine-tune a few mechanics in her swimming that helped lop off some extra time.

“We’ve been working on pulling in practice, which has never been a strong point with me,” Jacoby explained. “It’s a lot of power that I didn’t have before.”

O’Leary said Jacoby’s performance only served notice to the rest of the state that she’s coming back to state tougher than before.

“Those are her own records she’s breaking,” O’Leary said. “She’s been working on those.”

O’Leary also saw a bittersweet moment when Seward senior Connor Spanos broke the boys school record in the 100 butterfly with a time of 53.47 seconds, bettering the 53.65 mark of 2010 Seward winner Ryan O’Leary, Meghan’s younger brother.

The Homer girls raced to victory in the 200 freestyle relay, which consisted of Adeline Berry, Madison Story, Ella Blanton-Yourkowski and Delta Fabich.

The champions from each region in the state automatically qualify to the state meet, while the next 12 fastest times also go. Each region relay winner also qualifies, with the next four fastest relays moving on.

Northern Lights Conference championships

Friday/Saturday at Kenai Central High School

NLC Male Swimmer of the Year: Ethan Evans, Soldotna.

NLC Female Swimmer of the Year: Madison Story, Homer.

NLC Coach of the Year: Winter Heaven, Kenai Central.

GIRLS

Team scores — 1. Colony, 80 points; 2. Kodiak, 64; 3. Homer, 58; 4. Soldotna, 38; 5. Palmer, 33; 6. Kenai Central, 19; 7. Wasilla, 18; 8. Seward, 16; 9. Unalaska, 2.

200 medley relay — 1. Colony (Rogness, Biederman, Nelson, Barrette), 1:54.05; 2. Homer, 1:54.61; 3. Kodiak, 1:55.79; 4. Palmer, 2:05.24; 5. Seward, 2:08.07; 6. Unalaska, 2:12.03.

200 freestyle — 1. Leslie Spear, Kod, 2:00.17; 2. Taylor Nelson, Col, 2:03.02; 3. Rachael Pitsch, Ken, 2:07.60; 4. Josephine Rogness, Col, 2:09.38; 5. Madison Snyder, Sol, 2:12.08; 6. Alex Juliussen, Sol, 2:14.11.

200 IM — 1. Madison Story, Hom, 2:10.19; 2. Lydia Jacoby, Sew, 2:10.37; 3. Jasmine Biederman, Col, 2:24.62; 4. Avery Palenske, Col, 2:26.81; 5. Emily Hubert, Kod, 2:27.94; 6. Hannah Overdorf, Hom, 2:41.53.

50 freestyle — 1. Alison Narog, Kod, 25.19; 2. Adeline Berry, Hom, 25.81; 3. Madelyn Barkman, Sol, 25.84; 4. Ella Blanton-Yourkowski, Hom, 26.30; 5. Amalia Hunt, Col, 26.37; 6. Riley Reese, Ken, 26.70.

Diving — 1. Carrie Mayer, Was, 387.10; 2. Tyler Coffman, Pal, 359.60; 3. Taylor Miller, Pal, 349.60; 4. Lily Collins, Was, 349.00; 5. Lily Engebretsen, Col, 318.55; 6. Ally Hrncir, Pal, 316.60.

100 butterfly — 1. Alison Narog, Kod, 1:00.59; 2. Adeline Berry, Hom, 1:01.46; 3. Taylor Nelson, Col, 1:02.99; 4. Ally Ferguson, Pal, 1:05.36; 5. Amalia Hunt, Col, 1:07.57; 6. Katie Creglow, Sol, 1:09.11.

100 freestyle — 1. Joscelyn Barrette, Col, 55.56; 2. Ally Ferguson, Pal, 56.09; 3. Ashleigh Nicholson, Kod, 56.82; 4. Madelyn Barkman, Sol, 56.86; 5. Kaylin Kloutunowich, Was, 59.22; 6. Riley Reese, Ken, 1:02.43.

500 freestyle — 1. Rachael Pitsch, Ken, 5:37.81; 2. Madison Snyder, Sol, 5:45.45; 3. Emily Hubert, Kod, 5:58.67; 4. Bristol Johnson, Hom, 6:04.25; 5. Amaretta Settle, Col, 6:04.91; 6. Olivia Beck, Pal, 6:15.08.

200 free relay — 1. Homer (Berry, Story, Blanton-Yourkowski, Fabich), 1:43.50; 2. Soldotna, 1:45.30; 3. Colony, 1:45.36; 4. Kodiak, 1:49.21; 5. Palmer, 1:50.70; 6. Kenai, 1:54.07.

100 backstroke — 1. Josephine Rogness, Col, 1:03.40; 2. Joscelyn Barrette, Col, 1:03.89; 3. Ella Blanton-Yourkowski, Hom, 1:04.86; 4. Maria Beck, Pal, 1:07.85; 5. Addi Rogers, Kod, 1:09.20; 6. Kaylin Anderson, Hom, 1:09.92.

100 breaststroke — 1. Lydia Jacoby, Sew, 1:01.93; 2. Madison Story, Hom, 1:06.42; 3. Jasmine Biederman, Col, 1:09.03; 4. Leslie Spear, Kod, 1:09.44; 5. Katie Creglow, Sol, 1:12.69; 6. Maria Beck, Pal, 1:13.42.

400 free relay — 1. Kodiak (Narog, Rogers, Nicholson, Spear), 3:48.84; 2. Soldotna, 3:52.44; 3. Colony, 3:55.56; 4. Wasilla, 4:18.59; 5. Kenai, 4:22.87; 6. Homer, DQ.

BOYS

Team scores — 1. Kenai Central, 76 points; 2. Colony, 65; 3. Kodiak, 50; 4. Seward, 38; 5. Palmer, 34; 6. Soldotna, 20; 7. Wasilla, 12; 7. Homer, 12; 9. Cordova, 10; 10. Unalaska, 5.

200 medley relay — 1. Kenai (Poulin, Bagley, Rolph, Sorensen), 1:41.07; 2. Kodiak, 1:43.23; 3. Homer, 1:59.38; 4. Palmer, 2:00.58; 5. Colony, DQ.

200 freestyle — 1. Jackson Krug, Kod, 1:49.35; 2. Koda Poulin, Ken, 1:50.51; 3. Jonathan Cowin, Col, 1:51.45; 4. Paxton Hill, Sew, 2:03.75; 5. John Wright, Ken, 2:06.66; 6. Bryce Minder, Col, 2:11.80.

200 IM — 1. Ian Rocheleau, Kod, 1:59.40; 2. Konnor Kolberg, Col, 2:01.53; 3. Karson Kolberg, Col, 2:05.43; 4. Trevor Bagley, Ken, 2:08.91; 5. Dominic Alioto, Ken, 2:11.08; 6. Kaes Dalrymple, Pal, 2:11.70.

50 freestyle — 1. Ethan Evans, Sol, 21.59; 2. Connor Spanos, Sew, 22.15; 3. Owen Rolph, Ken, 22.60; 4. Sorin Sorensen, Ken, 23.19; 5. Trent Fritsch, Cor, 23.36; 6. Hunter Hollingsworth, Sew, 23.59.

Diving — 1. Eli Krozel, Col, 455.15; 2. Andrew Layman, Was, 450.35; 3. Kade Reynolds, Was, 443.60; 4. Deshawn Campbell, Was, 366.10; 5. Zander Backus, Col, 321.60; 6. Keith Bruce, Kod, 319.25.

100 butterfly — 1. Connor Spanos, Sew, 53.47; 2. Owen Rolph, Ken, 53.58; 3. Skyler Rodriguez, Hom, 57.48; 4. Shane Morris, Una, 57.64; 5. Kaes Dalrymple, Pal, 58.71; 6. Dakota Bjornn, Pal, 1:00.70.

100 freestyle — 1. Konnor Kolberg, Col, 49.37; 2. Jaxson Lee, Pal, 51.12; 3. Hunter Hollingsworth, Sew, 51.75; 4. Micah Arndt, Kod, 52.81; 5. David Grinestaff, Sol, 53.69; 6. Aleks Tokalich, Col, 53.78.

500 freestyle — 1. Ian Rocheleau, Kod, 4:57.44; 2. Koda Poulin, Ken, 5:01.74; 3. Trent Fritsch, Cor, 5:07.67; 4. Aiden Huff, Ken, 5:40.08; 5. Hayden Woodring, Col, 5:43.28; 6. Tyler Belliston, Col, 5:57.30.

200 free relay — 1. Kenai (Rolph, Sorensen, Bagley, Poulin), 1:32.65; 2. Seward, 1:33.56; 3. Palmer, 1:37.32; 4. Colony, 1:40.74; 5. Cordova, 1:42.09; 6. Unalaska, 1:45.95.

100 backstroke — 1. Jonathan Cowin, Col, 53.72; 2. Sorin Sorensen, Ken, 1:00.83; 3. Samuel Anderson, Ken, 1:03.18; 4. Brock Storms, Ken, 1:05.07; 5. Tyler Murray, Pal, 1:07.49; 6. Bryce Minder, Col, 1:10.00.

100 breaststroke — 1. Ethan Evans, Sol, 58.30; 2. Nick Carver, Kod, 1:01.11; 3. Trevor Bagley, Ken, 1:01.30; 4. Karson Kolberg, Col, 1:03.76; 5. Dakota Bjornn, Pal, 1:11.32; 6. Caden Dunford, Pal, 1:11.36.

400 free relay — 1. Colony (Cowin, Kolberg, Tokalich, Kolberg), 3:23.19; 2. Kodiak, 3:24.71; 3. Seward, 3:31.50; 4. Palmer, 3:37.15; 5. Soldotna, 3:37.42; 6. Kenai, DQ.

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby races Homer’s Madison Story in the girls 200-yard IM Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby races Homer’s Madison Story in the girls 200-yard IM Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Alex Juliussen races in the girls 200-yard freestyle final Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Alex Juliussen races in the girls 200-yard freestyle final Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Rachael Pitsch comes up for air in the girls 200-yard freestyle final Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Rachael Pitsch comes up for air in the girls 200-yard freestyle final Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Koda Poulin races in the boys 500-yard freestyle event Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Koda Poulin races in the boys 500-yard freestyle event Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Owen Rolph races in the boys 100-yard butterfly Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Owen Rolph races in the boys 100-yard butterfly Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward’s Connor Spanos races in the boys 100-yard butterfly final Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward’s Connor Spanos races in the boys 100-yard butterfly final Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Madison Story races in the girls 100-yard breaststroke final Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Madison Story races in the girls 100-yard breaststroke final Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at the Northern Lights Conference swimming and diving championships at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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