Friedli looks to win back-to-back conference titles
If Kaitlin Friedli wants to defend her state title, she just has to continue to do what she has all season — win.
The Chugiak High senior diver has won every meet she’s competed in this season — and her form and attitude couldn’t be better heading into today’s Cook Inlet Conference meet, said Mustangs’ assistant swim coach Katie Espe.
“She’s been looking wonderful,” Espe said. “Her focus has been really good.”
Last year, Friedli separated herself as the conference’s top diver by more than 86 points and was ranked No. 1 entering state.
Diving preliminaries start today (Thursday, Oct. 25) at 4:30 p.m. at Bartlett High. Swimming prelims start Friday at 3 p.m., and both diving and swimming finals are set for 3 p.m. Saturday.
For relays, the conference champion and next best four times statewide make state. Conference champs and the next best 12 times statewide qualify for individual events.
The Mustangs are a much-improved squad from the beginning of the season, Espe said.
“They’re a really hard working team,” she said. “Really exuberant.”
While there’s no shortage of camaraderie, Espe said, the Mustangs also compete hard against one another.
“They really push each other,” she said.
A good mix between 10 seniors and strong underclassmen has led to a successful season, Espe said.
“That has provided a lot of that growth,” she said.
It’s also a great combination for a relay team.
Underclassmen Abby Blackstone, Sammy Burke and Emmie Jennings paired with senior Cierra Holtman have a good chance at making state in the 200 medley and 400 free relays, Espe said.
“It’s so nice to have a field of girls that have so much strength,” she said. “It’s really an impressive group of talent.”
Burke (200 free, 100 back), Holtman (50 free, 100 free), Jennings (100 breast, 100 free) and Blackstone (200 IM, 500 free) also have a great opportunity to make state in their individual events, Espe said.
“All those girls are top 16 in those events,” she said. “They should show well at regions.”
Along with Friedli, Burke and Holtman reached finals at state last year for Chugiak.
On the boys side, Ethan Espe (100 fly, 100 breast), Grant Ensign (100 free, 200 free) and Jonah Hennings-Booth (500 free, 100 fly) have good chances at making state, coach Espe said.
The Mustangs — whose girls finished fourth as a team and the boys placed fifth last year — have a lot of confidence heading into the CIC meet, coach Espe said.
“We’ve been working really hard getting everyone to know their jobs,” she said. “We feel really good about our team as a whole.”
Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike[email protected].