The Kodiak boys have been painstakingly close to winning a state swimming title, finishing as bridesmaids three times in the program’s long history.
Could this be the year the Bears finally snag a championship banner to hang inside the Kodiak Community Swimming Pool?
The odds look good.
Kodiak returns every point-scorer from last year’s state runner-up squad, while champion Dimond lost several stud swimmers. Not to mention the Bears posses the reigning state swimmer of the year, junior Talon Lindquist.
“We are not trying to catch them; they are trying to catch us this year,” veteran Kodiak coach John Lindquist said. “On paper I would probably say we are the favorites, but that is paper.”
John Lindquist is entering his 16th season at the helm of Kodiak and during that time he has guided the boys to runner-up finishes in 2004, 2014 and 2015. He led the girls to titles in 2011 and 2012 and runner-up finishes in 2009, 2010 and 2014.
In 2004, Kodiak fell seven points shy of Juneau. The Bears were 14 points away from Dimond in 2014 and finished 23 points back of the Lynx last season.
The quest for glory begins today with a season-opening home dual meet against Palmer at 5:30 p.m. The two squads meet again Saturday at 10 a.m.
“It feels good and I like where we are sitting,” John Lindquist said. “It is just a matter of keeping everybody healthy and focused. They need to train and race and not worry about anything else. If they do that, then everything should take care of itself.”
John Lindquist’s son, Talon, is coming into the season healthy, unlike last year when he was hampered by swimmer’s shoulder for most of the three-month season. Even with a nagging injury that limited his practice time, he still won individual state titles in the 100-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly to go along with 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley titles he won as a freshman.
Talon Lindquist spent the summer training at his family’s summer home in Wenatchee, Washington.
“That is what he wanted to do,” the older Lindquist said. “He wanted to step back from competing and just train. Now he has the bug that he wants to race.”
At the end of July, Talon Lindquist was joined by 17 of his teammates for a preseason swimming camp that his dad puts on every other year.
“We do a lot of team-building activities, and the fact that they are training nine to 10 days before the opening of our high school season — it helps a lot,” John Lindquist said.
Talon will have plenty of help heading into the season as Kodiak returns Gus Hanson, Baxter Anderson, Graham Burnside, Luke James, Nathan Schauff, Dan Lambert, Daniel Smith and Nevin Lee, all swimmers who scored points at state last season. The Bears also get a boost from diver Ruben Ulatan, who didn’t compete last year, but placed eighth at state in 2014.
“All those guys are going to play big in what we do,” John Lindquist said.
Kodiak enters the season as winners of the past seven Region III Championship meets, and have won 11 titles in the last 13 years.
Don’t expect that streak to come to an end when Kodiak hosts the meet the last week of October, the final of four meets on the island this season — the Bears host Soldotna (Sept. 2-3) and South Anchorage (Oct. 7-8).
The last time the regional meet was in Kodiak was in 2009, and both host teams won.
The Kodiak girls saw their reign of eight consecutive regional titles snapped last year as the Bears finished third, only nine points back of champion Soldotna.
John Lindquist said both Soldotna and runner-up Colony graduated key seniors, while Kodiak brings back the bulk of its team.
“We should be right there,” the coach said. “We were only a little bit out. Hopefully, we can put it together and win back our title.”
Headlining the girls’ team is junior Marina Cummiskey, last year’s Region III swimmer of the year and 200 freestyle state champion.
“I think she is ready to continue to go,” John Lindquist said. “She is training hard. She has the fortunate or unfortunate duty of swimming with the boys because she is fast enough to train with them.”
Kodiak returns 2015 state qualifiers Devon Cummiskey, Hannah Glover and Molly Blackmon, while Cameron Bolen will miss the season due to an injury. John Lindquist said Olivia Abbott, returning to Kodiak, will also help the team that placed eighth at state last year.
Derek Clarkston is a staff writer at the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227, ext. 625.