Nome Northstar Swim Team places fourth in Northern Area Championships in Fairbanks
A contingent of 25 Nome Northstar Swim Team members competed last week in the Northern Area Championships at the Hamme Pool in Fairbanks. They joined stiff competition from two Fairbanks swim teams, the Midnight Sun Swim Team and the Stingrays, as well as a large team from North Pole and a smaller contingent from Galena.
“The Northern Area Champs is our region’s swim meet,” explained co-coach Davis Hovey. “All of the swim teams included in the Northern Area are eligible to participate in the Northern Area Champs swim meet, competing for as many points as they can as each team finds out how they stack up against the other teams. It’s a big deal for NNST specifically because this is one of the only opportunities, if not the only opportunity for our swimmers to compete against other teams outside of Nome.”
He said it gives Nome-grown swimmers the experience of competing on a larger stage. “This year we brought 25 swimmers to Fairbanks for the Northern Area Champs, which was the largest number we've had participate at this meet in the last three to five years,” he said. Sixteen swimmers placed high enough to earn points and with a total of 558 points, the Nome Northstar Swim Team placed in fourth position, ahead of Galena.
Most notable, about half of the swimmers were first time competitors. “I was really impressed with our new swimmers who just joined the team this year. Quite a few of them scored points for the team, which means they were fast enough to be in the top six out of all swimmers in their respective events for their age group,” explained Hovey.
Co-Head Coach Melissa Ford teaches the six to eight-year-olds, aka Guppies. She said that there are 10 guppies who completed the season, nine were able to travel to Fairbanks for Northern Area Championship and five of them were first year swimmers. “Skill development at this age group is incredibly rapid,” she described. Many swimmers will progress from doggie paddle to butterfly stroke during one season. “The confidence these swimmers get as they progress to the next ‘step’ is enormous. At the start of each season we focus a lot on building each stroke by focusing on the components that make the stroke, and building endurance. When they pull all the components together and successfully complete their first ‘50’, the smiles will blind you!” said Ford. Indeed, the smiles were big when Nome guppies were on the podium, collecting their medals.
Denali Walrath medaled gold in a 200-yard Freestyle event. Liam Erickson-Ford won gold in the 100-yard backstroke event, with Rohn Peacock winning silver and Devyn Walrath winning bronze. “I was amazed at how well the guppies performed,” Ford said. “One of my big yardsticks for the success of my group is backstroke; it’s extremely difficult to control the inclination to turn around and look, which is a DQ. I’m so very pleased that all guppies performed the backstroke and remained on the back, even during the turns and touches. It sounds like a small thing but leaning to trust your own ability is a real challenge for young people.”
This year, over 40 Nome Northstar Team swimmers registered with USA Swimming and attended a number of practices from November to the first week of April. Hovey explained that each has a different background in swimming, some have been with this team for three or more years while others just started their first season of competitive swimming this year.
“The ages of our swimmers are just as varied, covering kids from six-years-old all the way up to teenagers in high school.” As Co-Head Coach, Hovey oversaw two practice groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The older swimmers also practiced Fridays.
“I've done this for three full seasons now because I personally love the benefits that come with learning how to swim competitively and how that can positively impact a kid’s life,” Hovey said. He began swimming on a team at the age of eight-years-old and continued until he graduated from high school. “I saw a need here in Nome to keep a swim team going and for me it was a no brainer to help coach the next generation of swimmers in my local community.” He added that he was pleased with their performance in Fairbanks. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team and their showing in Fairbanks this year!” said coach Hovey.