The recent Alaska Junior Olympics swimming event at Bartlett High School was proof of the strides the sport is making in the state.
“This is the largest championship meet of the year,” said Jodi McLaughlin, the event’s coordinator. “We have 480 swimmers from all over the state — 25 teams.”
That number is where it should be. Between 450 and 500 swimmers generally show up.
Alaska is considered as an outdoor state. While that may be true, more residents are discovering the indoor world especially during the colder winter months. Erika Farring, 15, has been swimming for 11 years. “It’s just a lot of fun and it’s been a big part of my life. I’ve never known without it,” she said.
McLaughlin agrees. There’s a team component and an individual one, too.
“We contribute to the bottom line of the team, but you’re racing the clock and most kids can get a win out of that,” she said.
Essentially, competition times two.
“You get to come in here and be with a lot of nice people,” said swimmer Conrad Renner.
So expect skiing and mountain running to continue to draw people to the great outdoors. But don’t be surprised to find your local pools more crowded.