Kodiak High School’s swimming team is dealing with a shallow roster this season.
Second-year head coach Maggie Rocheleau enters the 2019 season with only 18 swimmers and divers in the pool.
That’s a small number for a program rich with history and success.
“We have not been this low,” Rocheleau said. “When I came on two years ago as an assistant coach, we had close to 40 (swimmers).”
According to Rocheleau, the high school is feeling the impact of swimmers graduating and a decrease in participation in the youth swim club Kodiak Kingfishers.
The past two seasons, Kodiak has graduated over 20 swimmers from its program and it has not replaced them with younger swimmers.
“This wasn’t a surprise. We have had a hard time keeping kids swimming through middle school,” Rocheleau said.
With only six girls and 12 boys, Rocheleau said it would be a challenge to fill all three relay events — the 200-yard medley and the 200 and 400 freestyles.
“It’s going to be near impossible,” Rocheleau said.
However, the coach is high on the swimmers who are in the water.
“The group of swimmers that I have are really committed,” Rocheleau said. “Most of them have come up through the Kingfishers program.”
The boys begin the season as the reigning 10-time Region III champions. The Bears will be leaning on a trio of sophomores — Ian Rocheleau, Jackson Krug and Nick Carver — to corral title No. 11.
“If our boys stay committed and swim the way I know they can, then we have a real shot,” said Maggie Rocheleau, Ian’s mother. “What is going to hurt us is lack of depth and being able to field three strong relays.”
At last year’s state championship meet, Ian Rocheleau placed fourth in the 100 backstroke, while also being a key member on two relay teams that placed high.
Jackson was also on a pair of state-placing relays.
“They have stepped up into leadership roles on the team,” the coach said. “They are going to be two of our point-scorers out there.”
Carver spent his summer training with a club in South Dakota.
“He went down there and made a statement,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “He has been focused and really motivated to continue training over the summer. Those results will pay off for him.”
Sophomore Micah Arndt was a star for the Kingfishers three years ago and after a stint on the gridiron returns to the pool.
“He was one of the top 12 year olds in the state at Junior Olympics and had Western Zone qualifying times,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “He has taken a couple of weeks to get the feel of the water back, but we are seeing big drops in his practice times already.”
Juniors Gage Egdorf and Aidan Skonberg, sophomores Max Jensen and Alex Jensen, and freshmen Alex Holland, Crimson Brown and Logan Reed round out the boys’ roster.
Junior Leslie Spear headlines a girls team that placed fourth at regions and fifth at the state meet last season.
Spear is coming off a sophomore campaign where she placed third at state in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.
Freshman Alison Narog, who competed in the Western Zone Age Group Championships during the summer, will also be asked to score points for the girls.
“At the age-group level, she has established herself as one of the top sprint freestylers in the state,” Maggie Rocheleau said. “I expect big things out of her and will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Seniors Ashleigh Nicholson, Bella Penaloza and Emily Hubert, sophomore Addi Rodgers and freshman Kayleigh Rogers fill out the remainder of the girls’ roster.
With only six girls, Rocheleau is focused more on individual goal-setting than winning meets.
“I like the energy of a big group, but I like the camaraderie that this group has shown,” the coach said. “Even our newer swimmers will likely get to travel to more meets than they would otherwise. I hope that encourages them to swim throughout high school.”
While most schools started competing two weeks ago, Kodiak has been waiting patiently to swim against another team.
The Bears finally get that chance Saturday at the Homer Invitational.
“I’m excited to see where these guys stack up,” Maggie Rocheleau said.
Kodiak hosts Chugiak (Sept. 27-28) and Homer (Oct. 4-5) and travels to the Soldotna Pentathlon and quad meet (Sept. 20-21), the Valley Invitational (Oct. 17-19) and the Region III Championships in Kenai (Oct. 31-Nov. 2).
Bella Penaloza, Emily Hubert, Ashleigh Nicholson
Gage Egdorf, Aidan Skonberg, Leslie Spear
Alex Jensen, Max Jensen, Nick Carver, Micah Arndt, Jackson Krug, Ian Rocheleau, Addi Rogers
Logan Reed, Crimson Brown, Alex Holland, Kayleigh Rogers, Alison Narog
Sept. 7 — at Homer Invitational
Sept. 20 — at Soldotna Pentathlon
Sept. 21 — at Soldotna quad meet
Sept. 27-28— vs. Chugiak
Oct. 4-5 — vs. Homer
Oct. 17-19 — at Valley Invitational
Oct. 31-Nov. 2 — at Region III Championships in Kenai
Nov. 8-9 — State Championships at Bartlett High School in Anchorage