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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily New Sports Editor
It’s been awhile since the Ketchikan High School swim and dive team has been this excited. Beyond diving into the regional championship meet in Sitka this weekend, both the boys’ and girls’ squads know there’s more at stake than just putting points on the board.
The regional meet doesn’t just signal the end of the season anymore.
“It’s that time of year, and they’ve been swimming fast,” Ketchikan head coach Gary Crowe said. “And they’re thinking about bigger things — going to state, doing well at state and all of that. That’s good. I don’t think a lot of them thought about going to state before. And so we have more to think about.”
Ketchikan has been quick in the pool this season. So fast, in fact, that the swimmers have had to readjust their goal times.
They’ve already surpassed them.
“The kids have worked really hard; they’ve done everything I’ve asked,” Crowe said. “They’ve worked hard and improved their times.”
And because of that, Crowe is envisioning a successful weekend at Mt. Edgecumbe High School, as the Braves host the Region V meet at their pool on Friday and Saturday. Friday will be the preliminaries; Saturday is the regional championship.
Swimmers have to crack the top-eight on Friday to advance to Saturday’s competition.
“You could be eighth on Friday, and win the meet on Saturday,” Crowe said. “You just want a lane in the battle.”
Friday will only be individual preliminary events, with relay teams going head-to-head on Saturday. Divers, on the other hand, will have to compete in 11 dives over the course of the weekend.
“We’re going to take as many kids as we got — there’s 30 of us going. So it’ll be good,” Crowe said.
Ketchikan has 26 swimmers and four divers.
“Hopefully the boys will be ready to go,” Crowe continued. “The girls are going to be like spoilers. They’re going to come in and disrupt the Sitka and Juneau girls from doing well. We just don’t have the numbers for the girls.”
Ketchikan has put itself in good position to make some noise at the regional meet. And this past week, the squad focused on tightening up any ways to shave tenths of seconds off their times.
“We’re doing very little in the pool, now,” Crowe said. “Mostly more fine tuning things, and all that stuff — working on relay starts.”
Relays carry more weight for the whole team on the scoreboard.
“Relays are very important,” Crowe said. “Relay starts, you want to have those down. You don’t want to get DQ’d. But relays are double the points, so you can score lots of points. Only eight relay teams go to state. So it’s more pressure on your relays. You’ve got to be fast.”
The winner of each event automatically advances to the state meet on Nov. 8-9 in Anchorage. The next 11 top times around the state also advance for each event, to make 16 state finalists for two heat competitions.
“If you don’t win, you’ve got a shot to go,” Crowe said. “But it depends on what happens everywhere else.”
Crowe isn’t 100% sure when the last time Ketchikan took a relay team to state. But he knows it’s been a few years. The veteran head coach returned to the First City this season, after coaching in Fairbanks for more than a decade. Crowe coached in Ketchikan during the 1990s.
“We’re trying to get the most people we can to state,” he said. “I know we haven’t taken a boys relay in a long time, so we’ll see.”
In his first year back, Crowe might be setting a new standard.
“I’ve had a lot of fun,” he said. “Coming back to Ketchikan has been really nice. … It’s been nice having the coaching staff with Rocky (Elerding), Matt (Hagan) and Eryn (Brooks).”
Crowe coached both Elerding and Hagan when they were students at Kayhi, and the duo has helped him coach swimming events. Brooks coaches the divers.
On the diving side, Thunder Mountain High School already has a leg up on Ketchikan. They have a couple boys’ divers, but Ketchikan has none. The numbers already give Thunder Mountain an advantage on the scoreboard.
But Ketchikan does have four girls’ divers — Caity Pearson, Emily Bolling, Jenna Smith and Paris Knuteson. That squad has grown since the beginning of the season. Pearson was Ketchikan’s lone diver when the year started. Over the course of the weekend’s competition, all four divers will have to jump in the water 11 times.
“Hopefully we can (continue to) grow that,” Crowe said.
The squad’s energy has certainly grown.
“The kids are more enthusiastic, more energetic, and all of that stuff,” Crowe said. “They’re all focused on this weekend, so I think it’ll go pretty well. ... I just can’t wait for Friday to start.”