The Service boys swimming and diving team may have taken success for granted at last year’s state meet. The Cougars weren’t going to do that again this season.
The Dimond girls team had a more immediate challenge in their quest for yet another state title. And the Lynx knew they had to find another gear to continue their string of championships.
Dimond found that gear and won its seventh straight state team swimming and diving title on Saturday at the Bartlett High pool, edging out Colony 86-77. Behind in third place was an upstart South team that had upset Dimond a week prior at the Region IV meet.
“There’s a lot more depth out there and a lot of good swimmers,” Dimond head coach Scott O’Brien said. “So it was exciting. I was really impressed with our girls. We found a way to take it to a next level this week from last week.”
The Service boys were simply dominant Saturday, racking up 118 points to far outpace Eagle River and Seward, which each finished with 51 points. In 2021, it was Kodiak in first with Service well down the line in 5th.
“Last year we kind of had that mindset that we would come in and kind of have it handed to us,” Service’s William Kitchen said. “But this year, we knew that it wouldn’t be handed to us. We had to work for it. We had to go hard so I think everyone just gave it their all we tried our best and came out on top.”
Kitchen had a big hand in the win. He won the 100 yard backstroke, swam legs on two of the team’s winning relay efforts.
“We knew we really needed to win a couple of the relays,” Service coach Ben Kitchen said. “So that was key, getting the first and last relay. Our middle relay moved up, which we weren’t planning on that necessarily points-wise. Sometimes you get lucky with picking the events and who swims what. But the guys really just swam great.”
The relays were also key for Dimond, which won the 400 freestyle relay to seal the title. It was a tight battle , with the Lynx posting 3:41.69 to Colony’s 3:41.87.
“It came down to the relays,” O’Brien said. “You know, getting two firsts and a second in the relays, that’s really what helped us get over the top. So all the girls and how the combined in the relays really put themselves the team in front of themselves.”
Anchoring the 400 relay was senior Hannah Boyce, who said being the last to touch the wall on the winning relay was a great way to cap her career.
“We were looking to have fun,” Boyce said. “I’m a senior and this was the last time swimming high school with these girls. We knew it was going to be a tough weekend, but at the end of the day when you’re swimming with a bunch of girls who love what they’re doing, it makes it a lot more enjoyable. And we were just there to pick each other back up.”
Despite Boyce’s mandate for fun, O’Brien said the team was feeling some pressure after falling to South in the regionals.
“They were a little nervous,” O’Brien said. “I’m not gonna lie. You know, last year, we won by quite a bit and we knew it was gonna be a lot closer this year because of how good everyone else is.”
Service too, put an exclamation on its title by winning the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. The team came from behind to top the Seward team that won the 200 free relay.
“I think you get to share the pressure versus it being on the single individual,” Ben Kitchen said. “And the kids, especially at the end of the meet, they’re getting up there and throwing down whatever they have left after almost a full day of hard work. So that makes it really emotional. You have to get really fired up.”
State Swimming and Diving Meet
1. Dimond 86; 2. Colony 77; 3. South 61; 4. West Valley 54; 5. Juneau Douglas 52; 5. Eagle River 52; 7. Thunder Mountain 45.50; 8. Kodiak 21.50; 9. Chugiak 21; 10. Homer 19.
1. Service 118; 2. Eagle River 51; 2. Seward 15; 4. Juneau Douglas 48; 5. Dimond 47; 6. Chugiak 43; 7. West Valley 39; 8. Thunder Mountain 28; 9. West 24; 10. Wasilla 21.