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Archive for Friday, July 9, 2004

Aquahawks tuning up for sectional meet

July 9, 2004

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More than 600 swimmers representing 25 teams from six states will be in town this weekend for the Roger Hill Invitational.

But the spotlight will be on the host Lawrence Aquahawks as they attempt to post their best marks of the season in their home pool.

Competition will begin today and conclude Sunday at the Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center adjacent to Free State High.

"For some of our kids it's going to be their biggest meet of the season because if they don't qualify for the next level (sectionals) it's their last meet," Aquahawks coach Mike Soderling said.

The Aquahawks boast several standouts.

Free State High graduate and Indiana University signee Alex Brunfeldt and Firebirds Chris Sellon, Anthony Portela, Ashley Robinson and Katie Swank will be competing. So will Lawrence High sophomore Chelsea Dirks-Ham.

Those are just a few of the Aquahawks who are expected to be in the running for individual titles in their respective events.

For the more experienced swimmers like Brunfeldt -- who already has qualified for the junior and senior national championships later this summer -- the meet will be used primarily for training purposes.

For others, however, it offers a final chance to earn or improve upon qualifying times for the sectionals Aug. 23-26 in Oklahoma City.

"For some, it's do-or-die," Soderling said. "For others, it's to see where we're at in July and get ready for August. We expect good things from all of our kids this weekend. July is a great month for swimming fast."



The Roger Hill Invitational has grown since it was moved indoors in 2001. Prior to that, the annual meet was conducted at Lawrence Aquatic Center.

"Our organization is very well known for putting on well-run meets," said Scott Bliss, another Aquahawks coach. "It's a pretty central location, and it's a good facility. Then you have a group of parents and volunteers who run the meet and do a top-notch job. Everything about it is top-notch."

Five male and female age divisions will be contested -- 8-and-under, 10-and-under, 11-12, 13-14, and Open -- with the open division consisting of some of the Midwest's top high school swimmers and about a dozen Kansas University swimmers.

"The last couple of heats are real fast," Soderling said. "There's a mix of college swimmers and elite club swimmers, so the last two heats end up being heats that stand up very well regionally."

The annual meet was named the Roger Hill Invitational in 1989 in honor of an Aquahawks' volunteer who died in 1988 at the age of 49.

Sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. today. On Saturday and Sunday, sessions will begin at 8:15 a.m. and 2:10 p.m.

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