The Kodiak boys have been the top Region III swimming program for the last decade.
Their 10-year reign on top could be in jeopardy this weekend at the Region III Swimming and Diving Championships at Kenai High School.
For the first time in recent memory, Kodiak enters the three-day competition that begins today as underdogs.
“They have their work cut out for them,” second-year Kodiak coach Maggie Rocheleau said. “Heading into this week, Colony is a pretty clear favorite. We got a lot of strength in our boy swimmers, and I think we will have several who come away as champions of their event, but unfortunately, Colony is just a little bit deeper than we are.”
The backbone of Kodiak’s success over the past decade has been depth, piling up points with second-through sixth-place finishes. By only bringing nine boys — which includes one diver — to the regional meet, the Bears will not have the luxury of adding valuable points behind event winners.
Sophomores Ian Rocheleau, Jackson Krug and Nick Carver — all state-ranked — will do their best to keep pace with Colony, which has four top swimmers to go along with a solid supporting cast.
“We are going to go out there and give it our best shot,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “I’m doing a few different things strategically that hopefully will bridge that gap a little bit.”
Kodiak’s streak of dominance started with a 43-point win over Wasilla in 2009. During the 10 years, the Bears won 46 events, while earning five swimmer of the year awards — Talon Lindquist four times and Michael Smith once.
“It is a testament to the program that John (Lindquist) built,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “It was a lot of years of strong swimmers and depth.”
John Lindquist, who retired at the end of the 2017 season, built the foundation for Kodiak’s success — the Bears have won 14 of the past 16 regional crowns. Maggie Rocheleau extended the streak last season when Kodiak topped Kenai by 36 points.
Maggie Rocheleau said the low participation in Kodiak Kingfishers — the island’s youth swimming club — over the past few years has finally impacted the high school team.
“We saw the shift, and we are starting to feel it now,” she said.
Ian Rocheleau — Maggie’s son — will be shooting for titles in the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle. He is ranked fourth in the state in the 500 (5 minutes, 3.15 seconds) and fifth in the 200 IM (2:05.74).
Ian Rocheleau opted to swim the 500 — an event he has only done twice this season — instead of competing in the 100 backstroke — an event he was runner-up in at last year’s meet.
“We have been looking at it all season, thinking that the 500 would be a good event for him,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “It allows him to be a little more strategic about his swim. He has been working on his freestyle a lot this year and has become a lot stronger overall.”
Krug is in the running for titles in the 100 and 200 freestyles. He is ranked fourth in the state in the 200 (1:51.50) and 10th in the 100 (51.19).
“Those have been two solid events for him all season long,” the coach said.
Carver has the 10th-best 100 breaststroke time (1:05.45) in the state this season. Alex Jensen, Max Jensen, Aidan Skonberg, Keith Bruce, Micah Arndt and Crimson Brown round out Kodiak’s regional roster.
The Kodiak girls have an even smaller regional roster than the boys, with six swimmers and one diver.
However, with junior Leslie Spear and freshman Alison Narog leading the way, Kodiak could challenge for a podium finish. The Bears missed finishing third last year by a point.
“I’m shooting for a second-place finish,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “I think it is a stretch, but we are within striking distance if the girls go out there and have the swims I expect them to have.”
Spear is the defending champion in the 200 freestyle. This season, she is ranked eighth in the state in the 200 freestyle (2:03.49). She has the state’s second-best time in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.26).
“Leslie is one of those swimmers that you put a little bit of a taper behind her, and she just rises right up there to the surface and swims really well,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “She has had smart races all season long and has done exactly what we wanted her to do in training.”
Narog has had a tremendous rookie campaign, putting up state-ranked times in the 50 freestyle (fifth, 25.75) and 100 butterfly (eighth, 1:02.51).
“As a freshman, she is getting out there and sending a good, strong message,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “She has stepped up as a complete workhorse on this team.”
Ashleigh Nicholson, Emily Hubert, Addi Rogers, Kayleigh Rogers and Bella Penaloza round out Kodiak’s regional roster.
“The kids have been tapering, and they feel rested and ready to go,” the coach said. “I’m just really excited to see what they can do.”
The winners of each event advance to the state championship meet that starts Nov. 8 in Anchorage.