When it came time for her dad to search for a new job upon retiring from the Coast Guard, Alicia Sarnowski persistently pushed Kodiak.
The senior longed to return to the place where she started her high school swimming career. In her one season with the Bears, she built friendships that she didn’t have in New Hampshire. She missed the team environment.
“It (New Hampshire) was a lot different than here. It (the team) was not as close,” Sarnowski said. “It was still fun. The motivation was definitely there. There was a lot of fast competition.”
It’s not like she didn’t excel at Oyster River High School. She was a leader on the girls' team that featured more than 30 swimmers — the 2020 Kodiak boys and girls roster only 16 swimmers — and, as a junior, finished sixth in the 200-yard freestyle (2 minutes, 02.05 seconds) at the New Hampshire State Championships.
Even with success in New Hampshire, she kept tabs on the Kodiak program. Sarnowski’s dad, Michael, applied for nearly every job opening with the city of Kodiak and landed the harbormaster position. The family returned to The Rock this past summer. Not soon enough for Sarnowski.
“I was thrilled — it made my day,” she said. “I just kept counting down the days looking forward to it. I love Kodiak so much.”
In her one season with Kodiak, Sarnowski was an impact swimmer on the Bears’ 2017 state runner-up squad, placing fifth in the 100 backstroke and 10th in the 200 freestyle. She also swam a leg on the state runner-up 400 freestyle relay.
Unfortunately, she will not get a chance to improve on those state marks as the Alaska School Activities Association canceled all fall state championship events due to COVID-19. Despite only being limited to practices and one team time trial this season, Sarnowski is encouraged with what she has done in the water to this point — she recorded times of 1:05.14 in the backstroke and 2:07.27 in the 200 freestyle. This season's goal is to dip under a minute in the backstroke and 2 minutes in the 200 freestyle.
“I was excited to see everybody from other teams, but practices have been fun, and the team has been really close this year,” she said. “They have kept motivation up. Even if we don’t have any meets, we are still coming.”
With a dad in the Coast Guard, Sarnowski has jumped from team to team. She started swimming in Ketchikan at the age of 8, then spent time in Cordova and San Diego before arriving in Kodiak in 2016. She is a one sport star and has competed at the Western Zone Age Group Championships twice as an Alaska all-star team member. In New Hampshire, the club and high school seasons run simultaneously, so Sarnowski did both. She was fortunate to have the same coach for both teams.
“I ended up doing a lot of club practices, then helping out on deck for high school — improving people’s strokes,” she said. “Seeing the people who you coach improve and drop time is a big thrill.”
Kodiak coach Maggie Rocheleau was excited to add a seasoned swimmer back to her lineup. Sarnowski is one of two senior girls on the roster — Leslie Spear is the other.
“She has a great work ethic and one of those athletes that you know the moment that she jumps in the pool you are going to get everything she has to give,” Rocheleau said. “And she has a great personality to go along with it.
“It is unfortunate, as a senior, to have this be what the season has come to. She is going to do great things, no matter what she does.”
Sarnowski would like to pursue a career as a dental hygienist and is looking at attending Weber State University.