Kenai’s Samuel Anderson swims in the 50-yard breaststroke at the SoHi Pentathlon on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Samuel Anderson swims in the 50-yard breaststroke at the SoHi Pentathlon on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

State swimming to include 25 from peninsula

The 2022 high school swimming season will come to a close this weekend with the 2022 Alaska School Activities Association/First National Bank Alaska Swim & Dive State Championships at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. Preliminaries will be held Friday, and finals will be held Saturday.

To qualify for state championships, swimmers in individual events had to either finish first in their conference, or land one of the next 12 fastest times in the state — for 16 contestants in each event. Similarly, the top finishing relays from each of the four conferences qualify, as well as the next four fastest times — for eight teams total.

The top two divers from each conference, as well as the next eight best statewide qualify, for 16 divers in contention.

The Kenai Peninsula will be represented by 25 swimmers this weekend. Kenai Central has nine swimmers headed to Anchorage, seven boys and two girls. SoHi has seven — two boys and five girls. Seward has no girls competing, but is bringing all five of the boys from its team. Homer has two each of boys and girls, for four total swimmers.

Only eight of those 25 swimmers earned automatic qualification by winning events at the Northern Lights Conference Championships last week.

Four of the Seward boys, Bengimin Ambrosiani, Nickolas Ambrosiani, Jackson Bird and Paxton Hill, won all three of the boys relays — the 200-yard medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay. Hill also won the 100 butterfly and Bird won the 100 breaststroke. Freshman Iver Gates will be accompanying the four as an alternate for each of the three relays.

Samuel Anderson, of Kenai Central, earned guaranteed spots in the 200 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. In the backstroke, he holds the first seed by six tenths of a second.

Homer had two swimmers win events. Carly Nelson and Hunter Fry both took top spots in the 500 freestyle, and Nelson also claimed the 100 butterfly.

Nelson was the only peninsula swimmer to earn automatic qualification on the girls side. She is also seeded first in the state for both her 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle swims, with a recorded time more than a second faster than the second place seed in the former, more than four seconds faster in the latter.

Seward coach Solomon D’ Amico said his main focus is on the three relays.

Seward’s 200 freestyle relay is seeded first in the state, clearing second seed Chugiak High School by seven tenths of a second.

“We would hope to win it,” coach D’ Amico said Thursday. “Follow through with that number one seed and win the thing outright when it’s time to do so. It’s not going to be given to us. We’re gonna have to have really great swims and exchanges to make it happen.”

“The medley relay seems like a long shot on paper,” he said. Seward is seeded fourth in the 200 medley relay, and almost four seconds away from Service High School, which holds the top slot.

But D’ Amico said his boys have been working on tightening up wherever possible — like their starts and their stroke mechanics. If all four starts can come a few tenths of a second faster, he said, that’s a second or more cut away. Those four seconds start to whittle down.

“Maybe we can be in the hunt,” he said. “Maybe we can pull off a surprise.”

Also working in favor of the Seahawks is their taper strategy. Where most of the other teams taper their training for the region championships, D’ Amico said with his small team, he was confident in acquiring qualifications, so he tapered instead for state.

“We should see them feeling even fresher and fitter and faster for this meet than they were for regions,” he said.

The Seward boys won the Northern Lights Conference championship last weekend, despite only having five swimmers.

In the 400 freestyle relay, the Seahawks are seeded third, with barely more than a second separating them from the top slot.

D’ Amico said the Seahawks haven’t even had the opportunity to race the first or second teams yet. When they competed at the same meet earlier in the season, they were separated in different heats.

“We’re really just super excited to get to swim with the fastest swimmers, and we might want to establish ourselves as some of the fastest swimmers,” D’ Amico said.

Kenai’s boys 200 medley relay qualified on time, seeded seventh. The team includes Samuel Anderson, David Price, Benjamin Merritt and Ethan Berga. Jason Johnson, Brogan Storms and Cavan Swanson will be alternates. Berga will also be swimming the 200 IM and 100 butterfly, qualifying on time. Sierra Hershberger will swim the girls 50 freestyle.

Soldotna’s Heidi Snyder and Nikita Monyahan qualified on time for the girls and boys 200 freestyle, respectively. Snyder will also swim the 100 freestyle. Monyahan will swim the 500 freestyle. Tirzah Frederickson and Max Reese qualified for the girls and boys 200 IM.

Reese will also swim the 100 breaststroke. Charisma Watkins will join Nelson in the 100 butterfly, qualifying on time. Freshman Zoe Burns will make her first state appearance in the 500 freestyle, claiming the 16th seed.

Nickolas will represent Seward in the boys 50 freestyle, qualifying on time. Bengimin will swim the 100 freestyle. Bird will swim the 100 breaststroke.

Homer’s Lucas Nollar will be swimming the 200 IM, qualifying on time in the 16th slot. He will also swim the 100 breaststroke. In addition to the 500 freestyle, Fry will be swimming the 100 butterfly. Annabelle Franciscone qualified for the 100 breaststroke.

The only Kenai Peninsula divers at state will be SoHi’s Abriella Werner and Derrick Jones. Werner, seeded sixth, placed third last year, as a sophomore — the two divers who bested her then are now seniors. Werner broke SoHi’s 17-year-old record for six dives earlier this season.

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