Nome Northstar Swimmers shine at Northern Area Championships
A large contingent of Nome Northstar Swim Team members traveled to Fairbanks to participate in the Northern Area Championships swim meet at the Hamme Pool from Friday, April 7 through 9. “This is the biggest meet for our area,” explained NNST Head Coach Kristin Riall. “We brought with us 23 swimmers with a range of ages from nine to 15 years old.”
The Nome swim team competed against nine swimmers from the Delta Greely Tide team, 57 swimmers from the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Swim Team; 58 swimmers from the North Pole Aquatic Club and 77 swimmers with Fairbanks’ Stingray Swim Team. The competition had 116 events – both relay and individual events – on the schedule that were held from Friday night through Sunday evening.
The combined team scores put the Stingray Swim Team in the lead with 3,693 points; followed by the North Pole Aquatic Club with 2,046 points. The Midnight Sun Swim Team placed third with 1,974 points, followed by Delta Greely Tide with 467 points and Nome Northstar Swim Team with 396 points.
Coach Riall said after the meet that the highlight for her was to see new swim team members come to Fairbanks and participate in their first major competition. “We had a lot of first year swimmers compete in their first meet, because it’s so hard for us to travel from Nome,” she said. “We don’t get this opportunity very often, so it was great to see them come out and have their chance to shine.”
Longtime coach and NNST organizer Brenda Menadelook was also pleased to see this many swimmers from Nome. “In my experience I haven’t seen this many swimmers come to Fairbanks in quite a while. It’s been more than 10 years that we had this caliber of swimmers here,” she said.
“It’s a very important meet,” she said. “It’s very important for kids from our town to get exposed — in a competitive manner — to swimmers from other towns and see some of the greatest swimmers in our state and maybe be one of the great swimmers in our state. Without that exposure you kind of lose the drive and the desire to keep swimming and to keep bettering your swimming. You could see huge improvements in some swimmers just from Saturday morning to Sunday night. They see it, they’re getting it, they understand it so much more and they love it so much more.”
Many swimmers brought home ribbons for placing in the top six of preliminary events, and several NNST swimmers brought home medals. Dustin Otton, competing in the under ten years age group received three medals. “He’s one to watch as he gets older,” said Coach Riall. Lupe Callahan received the silver medal for the 200-yard butterfly in the 13-14 age group. Ava Earthman brought home bronze in the 100-yard breaststroke in her age group of 15-years and older. She accumulated 58 points for the team and placed fifth overall in her age group.
Riall highlighted swimmers like Katie Smith, who did very well in the butterfly and 200-yard Individual Medley; Brianna Menadelook swam very strong; Lupe Callahan was the only swimmer to compete in the 1,000-yard swim. Riall also pointed out Jon Smith, who aged out of the ten-and-under category and had to swim with older kids. “He made it to finals in almost every event,” Riall said. This meet was the first “outside” competition for Collin McFarland and he made it into the finals in a couple of events. Riall said, of all, Elijah Tozier was the most improved swimmer compared to last year.
The level of competition was stunning and Nome swimmers learned valuable lessons when it came to competing in a very regulated sports environment. The expectation was that many new swimmers would have to swallow the bitter pill of being disqualified for infractions that seem minor to the casual observer. Overlapping one’s fingers at a turn off the wall –DQ. Not touching the wall — DQ. Doing a wrong kick during the breaststroke— DQ. “We have been practicing rules throughout the season,” said Coach Riall. But a DQ does wonders. “I always say a DQ slip is the best I can teach them. I can stand on the deck and say “Do this, do that’ a hundred times, but I if I hand them the yellow slip and say ‘You’re disqualified’, usually they remember that. We don’t have a lot of repeat offenders.”
Riall says these lessons are valuable beyond the swimming pool. “We also try to teach them to keep a calm head and rather go a bit slower but keep the strokes legal rather than go all out and lose their heads. That’s a really important skill to have when you grow up.”