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By JOE JUDD
Daily News Sports Editor
Ketchikan’s young swimmers had the opportunity to showcase their talents to the local community in the annual Mike Smithers Invitational swim meet at the Gateway Aquatic Center.
From Friday morning through Sunday afternoon, the Ketchikan Killer Whales swam against organizations from Haines, Juneau, Wrangell, Craig and Petersburg in what was the team’s biggest competition to this point in the season.
In keeping with tradition, the primary goal that Killer Whales’ head coach Patrick Burda had for his team going into the weekend was to simply enjoy the experience and have fun.
“I think overall it was a good weekend; the meet ran well,” Burda said on Tuesday. “The kids had fun and we had some pretty outstanding swims.”
In saying that the weekend as a whole was a success, Burda also said that he could see his swimmers enjoying themselves throughout the three-day process.
Happy kids in the pool meant there were also happy parents and family members cheering them on from the stands.
Burda said that the parents of the Killer Whales play an important role in a weekend swim meet.
“It is intense on the parents as well. It’s a long commitment to make — especially in this neck of the woods — to be here three days in-a-row,” Burda said.
With the kids having fun in the water, Burda said that he felt it had somewhat of a two-pronged effect on both himself and the parents who attended the competition.
“When you see the kids having fun, that does help invigorate you to enjoy what you’re doing more,” Burda said.
The coaches continue to encourage the Killer Whales to cheer their teammates on, in aims of building a positive atmosphere for everyone involved.
Some of the Killer Whales themselves said they had a good time during the watery weekend of fun and competition.
Nine-year old Liam Woodward said that the weekend was as much fun as it was tiring, but was part of a relay group that took first place.
Woodward said he felt very surprised upon receiving knowledge of the first-place finish.
“I felt like: ‘Am I doing this wrong or something?’” Woodward said.
Vanessa Wood, a 12-year-old teammate of Woodward, said she was mostly beating her old times as well as hanging out with her friends.
Wood has been swimming for three years, and says she wants to continue with the sport as she gets older.
Twelve-year-old Aidan Miller also said he wants to keep swimming as time goes on. He has been swimming for a total of four years and said his parents initially got him interested.
Knowing that so many young kids want to pursue swimming to a further extent as they age is what Burda said is exactly what he wants.
“The big goal is to transition them into college,” Burda said. “It’s hard to see that far, but it’s really how the program is geared. It starts when they’re young here.”
The Killer Whales will next take to the water on Dec. 15-16 in the team’s December time trial at the aquatic center.
The team will also swim in the Winter Games South competition in Craig, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 13-14.