About 75 athletes from the region will be in the swim this weekend at the 2013 Winter Games North, the annual and only home meet of the Haines Dolphins Swim Team.
Swimmers from Juneau and Whitehorse, Y.T., will be here to compete in events Friday through Sunday at the Haines pool.
For the 25-plus Dolphins who will swim, it’s a rare chance to get the home pool advantage. For the team’s youngest competitors, it’s an opportunity to race without the added stress of travel, said Dolphins secretary James Alborough.
“It’s our meet and our pool and it allows the little guys to have a taste of competition,” Alborough said.
The meet also marks the midway point in the Dolphins season and the beginning of championship meets. Age-group championships are held in February, followed by more competitive meets in spring.
This weekend’s meet is an official one, sanctioned by USA Swimming, so while some Dolphins will be aiming for personal bests, others will be reaching for times they can use to qualify for tougher competition at upcoming meets, said coach Robert Butker.
“This is not a high-competition meet, but our highly competitive swimmers are taking it very seriously,” Butker said.
Dolphins swimmers range in age from 5 to 17, and the team spirit is evident in the pool when cheering hits crescendo levels. Relay races – that come at the start and end of the meet – are generally the most exciting events for swimmers and fans.
Haines will have three relay teams competing in four different races. That’s unusual for a small team, such as the Dolphins, Butker said. “It’s rare to have four people in the same age group wanting to swim the same event,” he said.
The team is seeking volunteers for timing, judging and other duties, said team secretary Alborough. “A fun way to watch the meet is to put a session in timing. It’s the best seat in the house” at the finish-line end of the pool, he said.
More than a dozen Dolphins swimmers competed in the Southeast Championships in Juneau Dec. 7-9. Teams from seven squads from around the region participated, including ones from Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Craig and Petersburg.
Dolphins competing included Sanona Sundberg, Rio Ross-Hirsh, Rylee Tonsgard, Kayleigh Fisher, Alex Hotch, Skye Posey, Teya Silkman, Haley Sweet-Cushing, Brennan Palmieri, Siyel Galindo-George, Elena Saunders, Naomi Green and Kamakana Kanahele.
Palmieri, 10, finished third in the 10 and under age group in the 50-yard breaststroke and in the 100-yard breaststroke. He was also sixth in the 50-yard backstroke and eighth in the 50-yard freestyle.
Sweet-Cushing, 11, was a standout for the Haines girls, finishing fourth in the 50-yard butterfly, seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke, and sixth in the 100-yard individual medley. She competed in the 11-12 age group.
Other top-10 finishes by Dolphins included Galindo-George, fourth, 50-yard freestyle, boys 10 and under and sixth ,200-yard freestyle, boys’ 10 and under; Kanahele, sixth, 50-yard backstroke, boys’ 11-12; Sundberg, seventh, 25-yard freestyle, girls’ 8 and under; Fisher, eighth, 50-yard backstroke, girls 10 and under, and eighth, 50-yard breaststroke, girls’ 10 and under.
Posey, as well as several other swimmers, qualified for Junior Olympics at the meet. The meet was the first for Ross-Hirsh and Tonsgard, who are both six years old. Hotch, 15, the Dolphins’ oldest swimmer, is new to the team this year.
Haines swimmers posted personal-best times in 90 percent of their events at the meet, said assistant coach Marian Carlson.
Carlson said the emphasis of the team is for swimmers to continually improve their times through the season. “Swimming is a sport where you don’t see rewards right away,” she said. “You swim and swim and swim and the rewards come later or later in life.”