Valdez holds a special place in John Lindquist’s heart.
The fishing port with a population of just under 4,000 is where Kodiak’s veteran coach won his first Region III swimming and diving championship.
Since winning the first boys title in program history in 2003, the Bear boys have stood on top of the podium in 10 of the last 12 years. The girls have won the past eight titles.
“It is memorable when you get that first one after having your butt kicked for several years,” Lindquist said.
Kodiak finished 8.5 points ahead of runner-up Soldotna, and it was a Lindquist coaching decision that gave his team the title.
The veteran coach caught Soldotna by surprise when he switched out a swimmer in favor of another swimmer in a relay.
“He (Soldotna’s coach) actually stopped the meet and asked if I invented a kid,” Lindquist.
Kodiak is headed back to Valdez for this year’s Region III Swimming and Diving Championships that starts Friday.
As much as Lindquist likes Valdez, he doesn’t like traveling to the town that is 299.1 miles away from Anchorage.
The team is flying to Anchorage today, and then busing to Valdez, a nearly six-hour ride.
When the meet ends on Saturday, Kodiak will bus back to Anchorage and take up residency in the Ted Stevens International Airport until Sunday morning.
“It is going to be a haul,” Lindquist said.
The trip comes at the hefty price tag of close to $13,000, Lindquist said. The funds include plane fair, bus rental and hotel accommodations in Valdez.
Initially the trip was going to be over $18,000, but Lindquist decided to drive to Valdez instead of taking a plane.
“The bonus is next year it is here and I don’t have to come up with that kind of money — Valdez does,” he said.
Both the Kodiak boys and girls have a long regional title streak at stake — the girls have won eight in a row, while the boys have claimed six straight trophies.
Derek Clarkston is a staff writer at the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227, ext. 625.