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By JOE JUDD
Daily News Sports Editor
After months of practice, preparation and waking up before five o’clock in the morning, Ketchikan’s swim and dive team has its sights set on the end of the tunnel that has been the 2017 season.
Before Kayhi can reach the end of the dark and sometimes stressful tunnel, it must first make a stop in Juneau for the Region V swim and dive championships.
It will be at the Juneau-Douglas High School pool this weekend where a season will come to a close for some Kayhi Kings.
For others, this weekend will decide whether or not Alaska’s capital city will be the end of the road after all, with the state meet scheduled in Anchorage a week later.
Kayhi has been taking it one step at a time. Well within their end-of-the-season taper, the days of early practices are behind the team, with focus narrowing at each practice.
Kayhi head coach Patrick Burda said on Tuesday that his team was somewhat sore and tired after the team’s previous meet in Sitka, but that is not an out of the ordinary occurrence as one might think.
“(The kids) don't know why they feel like that, but that's really a normal thing,” Burda said. “It's because their bodies are resting and getting the chance to actually build muscle and fix themselves.”
Burda said that he doesn't want his team to overthink the physical differences and growing pains their bodies show during the season. He said swimming hard should be their main focus at this point in the season.
From a team perspective, Burda said he would like for his swimmers to feel at their best by the time Friday and organized competition come around.
If the team feels at its best on Thursday — the day before the meet — then it will likely not feel as good when the time comes to compete against what the Southeast conference has to offer.
“We want them feeling good the day they’re going to swim,” Burda said.
As the season reaches its final stages, the intensity level rises with each passing meet, and the region meet is the epitome of exactly that, especially the athletes who know this weekend will be, most likely, their final chance to make an impression.
Sophomore Anne Coss said that she is ready for the round of competition scheduled over two days in Juneau. She said that last year’s regional meet — held in Ketchikan — was a great time, but is excited to travel.
Coss went on to say that the way in which she and her teammates have been improving since day one of practice has been a great deal better than last year and has used the motivation from former Kayhi Kings to give her an extra boost of momentum and confidence.
“I think we just have a good coach and a good team this year,” Coss said. “A lot of times we’ll be thinking of last year’s seniors.”
For practice this week, Coss said that she primarily has put emphasis on improving both her freestyle and breaststroke in hopes to drop some time off of her previous times for those races.
Butterflies still persist as the weekend approaches, but Coss said she expects those to flutter away once she hits the water for the first time on Friday afternoon.
“My anxiety is through the roof, but it's the good kind of anxiety — we’re excited and we’re anxious, but it's just going to motivate us to do better,” Coss said.
On the other side of the pool, Kayhi plans to send diver Caity Pearson to Juneau with a whole laundry list of dives, many which she has not been able to perform in meets this season, due to diving limitations that exist.
Pearson said she is ready to put her talents on display on such a big stage at regions, although she said she expects there to be some initial adjustments to the board which need to be made.
Across Southeast Alaska, each school’s diving board has a different feel and some different dimensions to them, which is something Pearson said she will need to adjust to.
“Once you do warm ups, you try and figure out differences in the board,” Pearson said. “Once you figure (the board) out, it’s just back to normal diving.”
As she prepares for what may or may not be her final set of dives this season, Pearson said that the one thing she has enjoyed the most about this season has been the teamwork put on display.
Coss agreed with her teammate on the subject; she said she will miss all of her teammates a great deal when the season is over.
“We've all been working so hard and we've all been having a lot of fun,” Coss said. “Sometimes when you wake up early in the morning and go: ‘Is this worth it?’ Right now we’re saying yes, this is worth it.”
Burda said he remembers early in the season, when some kids on the team were questioning whether or not they had the confidence to press forth with swimming and give the season a try.
Now, some months later, Burda says he can see the confidence some thought they never had.
“On the other end of it, they’ve built up a lot of confidence,” Burda said. “That's great for, not just here, but the rest of their lives, too.”