Scrappy swim team takes its shot
Competing is a scramble for the Haines Glacier Bear swim team, an unofficial high school sport that raises its own money, practices early on weekday mornings and tries to carve a niche in a school schedule already busy with more established activities.
"We don’t have a stopwatch. We don’t have uniforms. We don’t even have caps, but we’ve got a team," said volunteer coach RaeAnn Galasso, who organized a squad for up to three meets this year. "Fortunately, all our swim suits are the same color."
At least two of the four swimmers who’ve stayed true to their sport have a good chance of qualifying for the state high school championship in Anchorage during this weekend’s regional meet in Juneau, Galasso said.
"All of them are looking like they’re going to be up there (in standings at this weekend’s regional championship). They’re taking it one step at a time, but I think they’re going to be surprised," Galasso said. Each will compete in two events.
Freshman Keegan Sundberg will enter the 100-meter backstroke and 200-meter individual medley. A swimmer since age six, he said he’s grateful the high school team was revived this year. "It helped me get back into shape and start swimming again."
Sophomore Kai Sato-Franks also started swimming at six. He said he’d like to see a year-round high school program in Haines, but said at the high school level, a lot of former Haines Dolphins are drawn to other programs. He’s squeezing swimming into his schedule that includes basketball and the school’s speech team.
"I’m interested in (swimming) in the future, but it may interfere with basketball and DDF," he said.
Senior Jackie St. Clair is seeded fourth in the 100-meter backstroke at the regional meet. Besides improvement and exercise, high school swimming allows her to keep up with friends in Southeast she made through the Dolphins, she said.
"I love it. I absolutely love it. I hope after I graduate, kids will continue to swim and they’ll continue to have it in the high school," St. Clair said.
High school competition allows swimmers to concentrate on a few events and improve on technique learned at the club level, said senior Cassie Galasso, a swimmer since age six. "I’ve had an amazing life of swimming. (Regionals) will be a good way to wrap it up. It should be fun and easy."
The school team has helped her focus her sport, she said. "If I’m swimming already, I might as well compete. If the school didn’t have a team, I’d miss it. It’s a big part of my life."
Coach Galasso said if swimmers qualify for state she’d be holding another fund-raiser to help pay for travel costs.