Swimmer Alex Cambell training with coaches Asia Prus and Kimberly Coblentz – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver/KSTK News

 

This report is from our KSTK intern Laura Helgeson

Wrangell has a vibrant swimming program. From summer swim lessons for kids, to the afterschool Wrangell Swim Club for youth, the sport can be found throughout the community. But until this school year, Wrangell had never had a high school swimming team. 

Jamie Roberts is the swim coach. She been at it for years. I asked her what’s the biggest difference between the club and the high school team.

“Maturity level of the kids involved for the most part,” Roberts says.

The swim club is a year round activity supported through Parks and Rec. It is not a school sanctioned activity.

“ With the club, a lot of the kids kind of started around the same point and when we started practice for the swim team this year we had a variety of abilities,” Roberts says.

 

Eight high schoolers are on the team. They’ve already had meets in Sitka and Petersburg. They didn’t crush their competition, but made it out alive.

Roberts got the idea for a high school swim team when an Alaska School Activities Association representative came to town. ASSA oversees all sports, and other extracurriculars in Alaska.

“And the one thing he really said that stuck with me was in order to have a growing club program of younger swimmers you really need to have an established high school swim team,” Roberts says. “It gives them something to work toward and it keeps them coming back year after year because there’s something for them as they get older.”

Starting the first Wrangell High Swim Team was no easy feat. The process took much work and consideration both on the part of Roberts and the School Board.

“The first thing we look at is being mindful of our budget,” says School Board Member Aleisha Mollen. “Cause the last thing we wanted to do was say ‘yes this is a great idea let’s go ahead and do it.’ And then come to find out the funds aren’t there or something else would lose funding in order to do this.”

But, the district did find the money. Administration looked into federal grants to support the team. The school received $16,000 from a Title IV grant, which promotes activities for “well-rounded” students. The funds should pay for the whole program, which includes Roberts’ coaching pay and travel expenses.

Roberts is thankful for the grant and is excited about the team’s future.

“My goals for the season are to help the kids get to wherever they want to get,” Roberts says, “and to attract more swimmers to the program in the future.”

The team’s next meet is this weekend in Juneau. Regionals will be in Petersburg at the end of October.