An Iceworm recaps a great swim season

By Sierra Westing

While most Cordovans sleep, few know that the Cordova Iceworm Swim Club is waking up four days a week for 6:30 a.m. practice and swimming their little hearts out.

According to swimmer David Head, “What makes it worth it to wake-up, is just getting to swim!” And fellow swimmer Scarlett Tarabochia said the best part is “seeing your friends before school.”

The club has been around for more than 40 years, but has recently grown in numbers. According to Coach Laura Hanson, who has volunteered with the club for over 17 years, until 2021 about 20 to 30 kids ages six to 18 participated each year. In the 2022-23 season, 45 kids participated.

For returning swimmers, practice started in September and there were a few meets before the official club season began. The first meet of the 2022-23 season was the Fall Harvest Invite, hosted in the Bartlett High School 50-meter pool in October. The meet was attended by seven swimmers, Elizabeth Baenen, Skyla Hallquist, Sierra Westing, Bastien Wagner, Macey Wagner, Tage Kinsman and Wesley Sheridan. The swimmers achieved 17 personal bests. Veteran swimmer Skyla Hallquist said, “the best part about swimming is getting to see your teammates, and having a lot of passion for something.”

The next opportunity to compete was in December, and required a qualifying time.


The swimmers that attended were: Macey Wagner, Bastien Wagner, Skyla Hallquist, Sierra Westing, Brady McManus, and Wesley Sheridan. A big achievement was that the Iceworms had the highest percentage of personal bests of any team that participated!

Additionally, Sierra Westing was the 10 and under 50-yard breaststroke champion.

Four swimmers, Skyla Hallquist, Brady McManus, Bastien Wagner, and Macey Wagner achieved qualifying times for the Alaska Age Group Championship in February. Three swimmers attended and competed in eight events, each achieving a personal best in every race.

Additionally, Brady McManus got a third-place ribbon in the 100-yard individual medley. 

“My favorite part is going to meets and knowing you’re going to have a good time,” McManus said.

In March, the Duel in the Pool was hosted in the Cordova pool for the first time in 14 years against the Valdez Torpedoes Swim Club.

For many Iceworm swimmers, it was their first competition. Cordova had 37 swimmers competing and Valdez had 26 swimmers competing. Along with many victories, there were 45 personal bests achieved.

“I like swimming because it’s fun and it gets you stronger,” said Celia Sheridan.

The Valdez Banana Meet is the last open meet of the season. For many swimmers, it was their first time traveling for competition and many families came to cheer them on, nearly filling up the M/V Aurora!

The winner of each heat is given a banana and when you are done eating it, you put the peel in the team’s designated bag. The team with the most banana peels (heat winners) wins! 

“The hardest part is knowing when to line up for your heat,” said swimmer Noah Reynolds.

At this meet, the Iceworms got fourth place. On the girls’ side, 17 swimmers attended, achieving 28 personal records, and winning 8 top-three ribbons. On the boys’ side, 21 swimmers attended, achieving 46 personal records and 19 overall top-three ribbons.

First place ribbons were achieved by Bastien Wagner, Wesley Sheridan, Noah Reynolds, Lander Ammerman, and David Head.

To the excitement of many, Macey Wagner qualified for the Alaska Swimming State Championships (formerly known as AK Junior Olympics or JOs) in the 100-yard freestyle, and 50-yard backstroke. She was allowed to choose two additional events. Wagner placed tenth in the 100-yard individual medley and 50-yard freestyle, as well as eleventh in the 100-yard freestyle.

With interest growing, the team can expect to see more qualifiers in the future!

The Cordova Iceworms Swim Club is entirely supported by volunteers. Chatham Warga, Marcela Wagner, and Laura Hanson are full time volunteer coaches for the team. Charlotte Westing and Karen Hallquist split time coaching the six to seven year olds. Also, Janet McManus substitute coaches and does dry land training (exercises). David Reggiani does bookkeeping for the team.

The team has a number of sponsors including: Wilson Construction, Edward Jones, Lundli Enterprises, Unakwik Aquaculture Group, and Cordova Outboard/Auto Parts. Practices would not be possible without support of the City of Cordova, and the exceptional Parks and Recreation and pool staff. 

The team is also supported by team fundraising and monthly swimmer dues. With so much support, they are bound to “just keep swimming!”

Sierra Westing is 11 years old, and has been on the Iceworms for two years. She loves sports, books, and music.