Swimmers head to 'Champs'


The Haines Dolphins Swim Team is heading to Juneau Dec. 7-9 for the Southeast Champs regional qualifying meet.

Fifteen Haines swimmers aged 6-16 will compete against clubs from Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Craig and Petersburg. Swimmers needed to meet minimum time requirements to qualify for participation in meet events.

Six-year-old Rylee Tonsgard qualified for the 25-yard backstroke in the 6-8 age group, which is an impressive feat, said swim team parent and volunteer Anne Marie Palmieri.

“When you have a swimmer who is six and they get a qualifying time for an age group that has kids that are eight years old in it, that’s a great accomplishment,” Palmieri said.

This season is Tonsgard’s first year on the team, making her qualification even more striking.

“She’s one of those kids that maybe should have been born a fish. She’s amazing at the backstroke. We put her in the water and she just flew down the lane,” said head coach Robert Butker.

Butker is traveling in the Lower 48 and will be out of town for the meet, but assistant coach Marian Carlson will travel with the team to Juneau. Butker said Stacey Clark, Genny Szymanski, and others have also stepped up to coach the team in his absence.

“I really have good hopes for what’s going to happen at Southeast Champs and I’m very confident in Marian’s ability to connect with the team and coach them through that meet,” Butker said.

Haley Sweet-Cushing qualified for 11 events. However, Southeast Champs rules dictate swimmers can only participate in three events per day with a maximum of seven events for the entire meet.

Skye Posey, 11, had qualifying times for nine events and Kamakana Kanahele for seven. Most other swimmers on the team qualified for between one and four races.

The Dolphins arranged three time trial meets in November so swimmers could have official qualifying times for regional meets like Southeast Champs. Time trials are essentially “mock meets” which certified officials and timers attend to make sure everything is recorded and performed correctly.   

Swimmers registered for races Monday.


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