DEREK CLARKSTON/Kodiak Daily Mirror

Kodiak’s Leslie Spear swims the 100-yard breaststroke during a time trial in October at the Kodiak Community Swimming Pool. 

A collection of Kodiak Kingfishers will be competing at the two-day 2020 Alaska State High School Invitational that begins today at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. 

Central Area Swimming created the meet after the Alaska Schools Activities Association canceled all fall sports championship events in mid-October because of the rising COVID-19 case counts in Alaska. The meet is sanctioned by USA Swimming and not affiliated with ASAA. The seven swimmers from Kodiak are representing the local club program, the Kodiak Kingfishers.

“We recognize the case counts are escalating, but I think all of these kids have shown a commitment to their team, to their community, and they understand there is a lot of personal accountability in keeping themselves and others safe,” Kingfishers coach Maggie Roche leau said.

Cook Inlet Conference teams have held meets throughout the season in Anchorage. There has also been a sprinkling of club meets that Central Area Swimming has hosted. Rocheleau said there is a healthy mitigation plan in place for the meet. During today’s preliminary heats, the girls will swim all of their events first; then, the boys will go. And, of course, the standard protocols of distancing and mask-wearing will be in place.  

“The big story is how the swimming community came together to make this all possible,” Rocheleau said. “The amount of effort that has gone into assuring that these kids stay safe — that the pool deck is a safe place for them to be. At this point, there has not been a single case of COVID transmission on a pool deck and Anchorage has held over 30 meets.”

Leslie Spear, Alicia Sarnowski, Alison Narog, Ian Rochelau, Jackson Krug, Nick Carver and Jacob Sarnowski will be representing the Kingfishers in the meet that is modeled after ASAA’s state championship event. Preliminary heats will be today, followed by championship swims on Saturday. A qualifying standard for the meet was calculated by taking the 16th state qualifier’s average times in each event the past three years. Rocheleau said some events would have more than 16 swimmers, while other events will have less than 16 swimmers. 

For seniors Alicia Sarnowski and Leslie Spear, this will be the final swimming meet of their careers. At last year’s state meet, Spear was fourth in the 200-yard freestyle and seventh in the 100 breaststroke. She will be swimming those same events this weekend. 

After having her junior softball season canceled because of COVID, she is thrilled to have an opportunity to compete this weekend. This will be the first competitive meet of the season for all of Kodiak’s seven swimmers as the school district had a no-travel mandate for fall sports. The high school team did hold two time trials at the Kodiak Community Swimming Pool.

“I don’t get made about things I can’t control, so I’m just trying to be positive about it and control what I can,” Spear said.

Spear — also a basketball and softball star — started swimming with Kingfishers when she was 6. She has had a banner prep career, winning regional titles and being part of the school’s record-breaking 200-yard medley relay in 2017.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to something that has always been a part of my life,” she said.   

Kodiak’s swimmers enter this meet, having logged only four practices since the school district returned to in-person learning on Nov. 13. The swimmers were out of the water for two weeks, which was not ideal when preparing for a state meet. The coach considered not attending this weekend’s meet because of the lack of training but didn’t want to squash her swimmers’ hopes in a year filled with disappointment. Rocheleau said she hasn’t set time expectations for her group consisting of five state placers from a year ago. 

“At the end of the day, these kids are athletes and they want to compete, which is fantastic. It means I did part of my job as a coach to get them to that place where they are eager to go and race and compete,” Rocheleau said.

State Qualifers 

Ian Rocheleau — 200-yard individual medley and 100 backstroke

Leslie Spear — 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke

Alison Narog — 50 freestyle and 500 freestyle

Nick Carver — 100 breaststroke

Alicia Sarnowski — 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke

Jacob Sarnowski — 500 freestyle 

Jackson Krug — 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle

Boys — 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay

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