It had been nearly 10 months — to the day — since the Ketchikan Killer Whales swimming club last competed.
Of course, that three-day event at the Gateway Aquatic Center in February had a different energy vibe than this past weekend.
The pool was packed with kids from all across the state for the Alaska Age Group Championships. The stands were full, and the volume of cheers from fellow teammates, family members and friends, alike, were deafening.
Fast forward to this past weekend, during the Mike Smithers Invitational at the Gateway Aquatic Center, and it was just the Ketchikan Killer Whales competing. Their opponent was about 110 miles away — in Petersburg — swimming in their own pool all by themselves, too.
The virtual swim meet was a sign of the times, as the world continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus pandemic. But because the sport of swimming is individualistic in nature, it allowed for some sort of competition.
And this past weekend, the Killer Whales were chomping at the bit.
“We got back (in the pool) the Monday after Thanksgiving,” Killer Whales head coach Gary Crowe said of their first day back at practice. “(And) after being in the water for two weeks, I thought it was awesome — the way they swam (this weekend). We had a lot of kids do well.”
Ultimately, Petersburg won the virtual meet, scoring 1,226 points. Ketchikan had 1,106 tallies. But the Killer Whales had several swimmers add qualifying times for the 2021 Alaska Age Group Championships.
“A lot of them have moved up; a lot of them have added times,” Crowe said. “McKinley (Scott) added times; Aurora (Scott) added times. ... Ryan Elerding had one time to go to Age Groups; now she has three. ... Those people have qualified, (and can) now go to the 14-and-under Age Group Championships.”
In total, currently 11 Killer Whales have qualified for the Age Group Championships set for February 2021, in either Fairbanks or Anchorage. Although the coronavirus will play a role when and how — either virtual or in-person — that competition will happen.
“Fairbanks is not doing well (with the coronavirus), and right now Anchorage isn’t doing very well (with the virus either),” Crowe said. “So I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Ketchikan’s Kyan Klinger also raced fast enough this past weekend to qualify for the Senior Championships, currently scheduled for the end of January in Anchorage.
Klinger, who is 16, is too old for the statewide age group event. But, along with Evan Dash, 12, and Trevor Dash, 14, the trio of Ketchikan Killer Whales will be able to compete against swimmers twice their age.
“The three of them have times (for the Senior Championships),” Crowe said. “It’s whoever has a qualifying time. You could be 12 years old, and be racing a 30-year-old. It’s whoever has a qualifying time.”
Klinger and Trevor Dash were a part of Ketchikan’s foursome in the boys’ 200-yard medley relay and freestyle relay this weekend. They placed first, along with Gavin Harold and Ty Woods, finishing the 200-yard medley relay in 2:05.24, and the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:55.23.
Evan Dash also had a successful weekend, setting six new Ketchikan Killer Whales’ team records in the boys’ 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, 200-yard backstroke, 50-yard breaststroke and 50-yard butterfly. Those team records had stood since the 1980s.
“He’s pretty motivated to break records,” Crowe said. “It was like every swim was almost a record. He did well.”
Ketchikan had 42 first-place finishes in the virtual meet against Petersburg. Ketchikan’s boys’ squad won against Petersburg’s boys’ team, scoring 667 to 458. However, the Petersburg girls’ squad scored 768 points, to Ketchikan’s girls’ 439 tallies.
“The first week back was just like starting the season all over again,” Crowe said. “Working on drills, working on strokes, get back, remembering how to swim, remembering what to do. Slowly build up the work and the distance, and all that. So now we’re back where we should be.”
Here is the list of Ketchikan Age Group qualifiers:
Ketchikan Killer Whales
Age Group Championship Qualifiers
Ryan Elerding, 12 — 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke, 50-yard breaststroke.
Claire Ruaro, 10 — 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke, 50-yard breaststroke, 100-yard breaststroke, 50-yard butterfly, 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard IM.
Aurora Scott, 13 — 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard backstroke, 100-yard breaststroke, 400-yard IM.
McKinley Scott, 10 — 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke, 100-yard backstroke, 50-yard breaststroke, 100-yard breaststroke, 50-yard butterfly, 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard IM.
Evan Dash, 12 — 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard backstroke, 100-yard breaststroke, 100-yard butterfly.
Parker Hagan, 11 — 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke, 100-yard backstroke, 50-yard breaststroke, 50-yard butterfly, 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard IM.
Gavin Harold, 13 — 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard breaststroke.
Dean Harris, 11 — 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 50-yard breaststroke, 100-yard breaststroke, 400-yard IM.
Ty Woods, 13 — 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle.
Max Meredith, 12 — 50-yard breaststroke.
Trevor Dash, 14 — 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard IM.
*Complete results for the Mike Smithers
Invitational were published in Wednesday’s edition.