The Haines Dolphins swim team had more than 30 participants in the annual Winter Games last weekend at the Haines swimming pool.
"We measure performance by how many best times they get, how well they place in a race, how many new events they tried, and whether this is a first meet for them," said head coach Steve Vick.
Teams from Juneau and Whitehorse made the trip to Haines for the Friday through Sunday event.
Vick credited board members Rachelle Galinski, Ayse Haxton and K.C. O’Connor and the dozens of volunteers who helped organize the meet.
"I was really impressed," Vick said. "We had a lot of turnover this past year with our experienced meet management, our experienced referees and officials, so we had a learning curve to get ahead of, and the volunteers did awesome. They ran as smooth a meet as I’ve ever seen, with probably 60 percent of the people helping as first-time helpers."
The open 200-yard freestyle relay team of Casey Bradford, 13; Blake Hamilton, 18; Neil Little, 13; and Dylan Palmieri, 12 tried out a new strategy at the Winter Games.
"Freestyle means you have the choice of any stroke, as long as they did the stroke legally," Vick said. "… I kind of jokingly challenged the boys, ‘Why don’t you guys all do this fly?’"
The relay team took an early lead swimming the fly, but then fell behind.
"I joked with them, ‘Well, you guys had the choice between guts or glory. You guys chose guts,’" Vick said. "Had they swum freestyle, they most likely would have won."
Among the younger swimmers, he said, Brennan Palmieri, 7, was "a real pleasant surprise." Palmieri swam personal bests and qualified for next season’s Southeast Champs meet in all seven of his events. Last year’s Southeast Champs meet was Dec. 3-5 in Sitka.
Siyel Galindo-George, 8, qualified for Southeast Champs in five of his seven events.
"This is his first meet as an 8-year-old, so I was really happy with his performance," Vick said.
James Willard, 10, was a six-time Southeast Champs qualifier over the weekend.
Vick called Lydia Haxton, 10, an "up and coming, rising star." She competed in seven events in her first competition, including an individual medley that requires all four strokes, and qualified for Southeast Champs in two events.
"She’s new to the sport and is just a very natural swimmer," Vick said.
Tulsi Zahnow, 11, swam in three events and made a big impression on her coach.
"After her 50 free … she looked up at the clock and the clock had blacked out, it kind of malfunctioned, then it turned on, and it miscalculated the race," Vick said. "It had her winning and the girl next to her as second place. She came up to me after the race with the heat ribbon in her hand and she handed it back to me and said, ‘I didn’t win. This isn’t mine.’"
The Dolphins next will have a time trial Saturday, Feb. 12.