High School Sports

Dimond Lynx freshman swims like a dream, causes nightmares for opponents

Fifteen-year-old Dreamer Kowatch is the top swimmer in the Cook Inlet Conference and before you ask, yes, Dreamer is her real name.

And yes, it's a nightmare trying to keep up with her.

Kowatch, a freshman at Dimond High, headed into this week's CIC championships with the state's best times in five of the eight individual events.

She started swimming when she was 5 and never stopped.

"It takes a lot of time," she said. "Two hours every day. On Saturdays. Christmas Eve. New Year's Eve."

Kowatch, who trains year-round with the Aurora Swim Team, has impressive versatility, in terms of both distances and strokes.

On the list of this season's state-best high school times, released prior to conference championships, Kowatch owned the fastest times in the 100 freestyle (54.84 seconds), the 200 free (1:59.47), the 500 free (5:18:18), the 100 butterfly (1:00.09) and the 200 individual medley (2:14.47). She ranked fifth in the 50 free (25.82) and fifth in the 100 backstroke (1:03.04).

"She's a hard-working kid and pretty well-rounded with all the strokes and even all the distances," said Dimond coach Scott O'Brien, who is also an Aurora Swim Team coach.

"We sometimes have kids that are pretty good at all the things, but as you can see in the results, she's at the top in so many events. It's not too often you get many like that, especially as a freshman."

Among those chasing Kowatch is sister Breckynn Willis, a Dimond junior whose name also populates the list of state-bests.

The sisters are separated by 12 months and 19 days, and both said their relationship is close. Willis proved a valuable ally when Kowatch started classes at Dimond after two years at Steller Secondary School, a much smaller school.

"At the beginning she didn't know what to expect," Willis said. "Her being my little sister, I was always giving her advice — 'It'll be fine, don't freak out.' ''

Kowatch said she was so nervous about the transition — "At Steller there's no lockers with combinations, no (going) up and down stairs," she said — that before school opened she and her mother, Meagan, went to Dimond so Kowatch could practice opening her locker.

"It took me 30 minutes to get it right," she said.

She's a quicker study in the pool, where hard work and talent makes her a top club swimmer — she has set numerous age-group records — as well as a top high school swimmer.

As a beginning swimmer, she was urged by former Aurora Swim Team coach Debra Reger to swim all strokes and distances, "and I stuck with it," Kowatch said.

As Kowatch's high school coach, O'Brien faces the challenge of deciding which races his star will sit out. At the club level, a swimmer can compete in seven individual events. In high school, they can compete in two.

For the CIC championships, O'Brien said he picked one of Kowatch's races (the 200 IM) and she picked the other (the 500 free). She won them both.

Willis won two events too — the 100 butterfly and the 200 free. And both swam legs on Dimond's winning 400 freestyle relay team.

At next week's state championships at Bartlett High, Kowatch and Willis will help lead Dimond's bid for a fourth straight girls state championship.

Willis, a member of state championships teams as a freshman and sophomore, is a team leader too, though like so many others she isn't often able to keep up with her sister. And Willis is OK with that.

"My little sister's faster than me, but she has been swimming so much more. It doesn't bother me," she said.

"I think it's just that she really loves the sport. This is her top priority. It's always swimming, swimming, swimming. She's loved it since she was little. It gets boring for everyone, but she loves to win and she loves to work hard.

For several years, Willis' passion was tumbling and stunt cheerleading, activities that allowed her to flash skills Kowatch said she could never match.

"I admire her, because it's so scary to me," she said of watching her sister turn handsprings and backflips.

Willis, 16, and Kowatch have four other sisters — Tatumn, 18; Harmony, 13; Legend, 10; and Sparrow, 8.

Their mom likes names that are different, they said. So do the sisters, who chose Sparrow's name.

"We made a bet and Mom lost," Willis said. "I think (the bet) was reading books — Mom really wanted us to keep reading over the summer, so she bet us that we couldn't read, like, 100 books over the summer and we did, so we got to pick the name."

"She wanted 'Summit,' '' Kowatch said of her mom's preference. "Tatumn, Breckynn and I wanted to name her after Captain Jack Sparrow."

And so Sparrow it is. Just don't call her a bird.

Said Willis: "She hates it when people ask her if she's a bird. She's a pirate."

Said Kowatch: "She gets super-mad when you call her a bird. Because she's a girl."

As for Dreamer Kowatch? It's OK to call her a dreamer. She competed in her first age-group national meet last summer, and she said she's hungry to return to that level of competition. It's a path that could lead to the U.S. championships and the Olympic Trials, the kind of stuff swimmers dream of.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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