Chugiak swim/dive sweeps to open season

Mustangs return six with state experience


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Chugiak diver Shawn Fugere prepares to hit the water during a dual meet against West on Aug. 26.

STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH

Chugiak High’s swimming and diving team swept West High on Friday, Aug. 25 to kick off the 2011 campaign. The boys notched an 88-66 victory while the girls edged the Eagles 98-84.

Samantha Burke (50 freestyle, 500 freestyle) and Erin Cockerham (100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke) led the girls with wins in two events. Chugiak’s boys had first-place finishes in seven of 11 events.

Chugiak junior Kaitlin Friedli took first place in the 1-meter diving competition. Last year, Friedli finished second in the Cook Inlet Conference meet and fourth at state. Friedli said she’s hoping to take gold at both meets this season.

Both are attainable goals, said Chugiak’s fifth-year head coach Jessica Kopischke.

“She’s gonna be a contender for top place at regions and top place at state,” Kopischke said.

Friedli’s work ethic sets her apart from other divers, Kopischke said.

“She works really hard,” Kopischke said. “She’s got a fantastic attitude about it, which makes her great to coach.”

Six of the 13 Mustangs who went to state last year are returning. Cierra Holtman, who took first in the 100 backstroke against West, Cockerham and Maegan Lange join Friedli as returners with state experience.

For the boys, Andrew Espe and Grant Ensign earned state berths last year. Espe swam to victory in the 50 freestyle against West and Ensign took first in the 200 freestyle.

A smaller-than-usual 28 total swimmers and divers were on the team as of Aug. 25, Kopischke said.

Kopischke said eliminating swimming at the middle school level has hurt sport throughout the Anchorage School District.

“The teams over the years have been dwindling in the district,” she said.

The number of boys and girls is nearly even for Chugiak, Kopischke said, with returners making up about 2/3 of the team.

The diving team, too, has shrunk. The average of five to seven has dropped to just two divers this season.

“It’s a lot smaller this year,” Friedli said.

Fewer swimmers shouldn’t affect the boys, said Espe, a senior captain in his third year on the team.

“We’re gonna be at least as strong or stronger than last year,” he said.

A top-three finish in the 100-meter backstroke at state is a personal goal for Espe. As a team, he said, the boys are hoping to send a relay team to state.

A strong freshmen group will keep Chugiak’s girls competitive, said senior captain Amy Hartke.

“We have a pretty good girls team,” she said.

After finishing ninth at the CIC meet — one place away from qualifying for state — in her individual events (200 IM, 500 IM), Hartke said she’s hoping to make state this year.

Hartke took first in the 200 IM against West.

As a team, the girls want to send as many to state as possible — which could be quite a few — and a relay team, Hartke said.

“I think we have a very good chance of getting lots of people to state,” she said. “Potentially, we have a really good team.”

The entire team has been giving maximum effort at practices, Kopischke said.

“Our team as a whole is doing a fantastic job,” she said. “They’re working hard. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids for work ethic.”

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