Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Dolphins pack pool with fans


The Haines Dolphins swim team entertained a home crowd during the two-day Winter Games North meet last weekend.

Dozens of residents served as timers and officials for the three sessions, as Haines swimmers competed alongside athletes from Juneau and Whitehorse. Volunteers also helped with concessions, the hospitality room and a Saturday night chili dinner.

About 25 Dolphins swam. Brennan Palmieri, 10, placed first in the 50-yard backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle, the 100-yard breaststroke, and 100-yard individual medley. Coach Robert Butker said Palmieri’s results were “kind of ridiculous.”

“He now qualifies for eight Alaska age group championship events, which is in Fairbanks on Valentine’s Day weekend,” Butker said. “He’s two seconds off from a ninth qualifying time.”

Hannah Boron, 10, also posted multiple first-place finishes, in the 50-yard breaststroke and freestyle, and the 100-yard backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Skye Posey, 12, won the 200-yard IM.

Rio Ross-Hirsh and Rylee Tonsgard, both age 7, swam against much older competitors in one event each due to scheduling at the meet.

“Rylee and Rio were both swimming with 14-year-olds,” Butker said. “The way it worked was that the 50 freestyle for Rio and the 100 back for Rylee, in their age group, were back to back with another important event. In order to space them out – so they had enough time to rest and recoup and actually regain some of that energy – the only way to do that was to move them up and have them swim up with older kids.”

He said the two girls “dropped absurd amounts of time” in response to the heightened competition. They were only a few seconds behind the more experienced swimmers.

Tonsgard said she didn’t know how she would fare against the older athletes, but the result was “awesome.”

Butker noted the Dolphins had enough participation in the meet to enter two 8-and-under relay events, featuring Ross-Hirsh, Tonsgard, Emma Dohrn, Sally Chapell and Selby Long.

He said another one of the “most noteworthy” performances was from Hayden Jimenez, 7, who cut 27 seconds off his previous best 50-yard freestyle time and 35 seconds off the 50-yard backstroke.

“He’s one of the hardest workers on the team,” Butker said.

Jimenez said his coaches have helped him improve, but he’s still building endurance. “Your arms get sore when you do a 50, coming back.”

The Dolphins will host their annual Swim-a-Thon fundraiser in March.

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