Trio of Stingray Swimmers take talents to collegiate pools
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - When pondering the top youth sports in Fairbanks, Alaska, popular activities such as hockey, skiing and basketball quickly come to mind. However, swimming has produced an impressive number of collegiate athletes coming out of the Golden Heart City recently, specifically from the Stingray Swim Team.
In front of masked supporters Friday, West Valley high school senior and Stingray Swim Team member Logan Fox penned his national letter of intent to compete for Saginaw Valley State University’s Division II program in University Center, Michigan.
“Everything from the location of the school, to the facilities, to the coaches and team, all of it just kind of clicked and I knew this is where I wanted to go,” said Fox of his collegiate decision.
Fox, a Region VI Champion with the Wolfpack, is the 11th Stingray swimmer to sign to a college since just 2018, according to head coach Josh Gregory.
“He’s currently our senior athlete [representative] on the team and he’s also a member on some committees for Alaska swimming,” said Gregory, who was in attendance of Fox’s signing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center Pool. “He’s very involved leadership-wise, someone that a lot of our swimmers look up to and he’s gonna be able to carry that over to the collegiate level.”
Although there wasn’t much of a high school swim season, the Stingray Swim Team has been hosting regular time trials, including the Alaska Senior Championships at the end of January. At the meet in Fairbanks, Fox swam to victories in the 50-yard freestyle (22.53 seconds), the 500 free (4:48.82), the 200-yard breaststroke (2:14.23) and the 400-yard Individual Medley (4:12.10).
“I have learned a lot from swimming. The biggest thing would be discipline, that has gotten me through a lot,” said Fox. “I have had a lot of really good people to look up to from this team and it has been really helpful to be friends with them and learn from them.”
It can be difficult to sign to college in any sport, at any time, but especially this year, with NCAA recruiting restrictions and lack of pool availability due to the pandemic. That made putting pen to paper that much sweeter for Fox.
“It was pretty overwhelming for a long time, getting on a college recruiting program and talking to a bunch of different coaches everywhere and trying to remember things about the school and the team, so it was really relieving to make my decision.” he said.
Officially undeclared, Fox is interested in studying nutrition or physical therapy in college. Saginaw Valley State swimming is led by head coach Jason Lintjer.
Fellow West Valley and Stingray swimmers Ezra and Heidi Billings were among many other local swimmers in attendance of Fox’s NLI, displaying the tightknit swimming community in Fairbanks.
On November 11, NCAA National Signing Day, Ezra and Heidi made their collegiate decisions official when they both signed to swim for Northern Michigan’s DII program.
Twins who grew up together in, and out of the pool, the Billings will have a smoother adjustment to the collegiate level with a familiar face by their side.
“I am excited to bring a part of home with me to college, I think it’ll make a little less nervous.” said Ezra of attending NMU with Heidi.
“I think it makes the transition way easier because we will be very far away from home, and we have never even been there because of [the pandemic], we were relying on virtual tours, so it definitely makes the transition a lot less nerve-wracking.” Heidi added.
Both seeing success at the high school level, Ezra was the Alaska State Champion in the Boys 100-yard Freestyle event in 2019 (47.84), while finishing runner-up in the 50-yard free (21.03).
“I think it’s great,” said Ezra of the Fairbanks swimming community. “I love how supportive everyone is, my coaches, my teammates, they keep me going and they keep me trying my best.”
As for Heidi, she placed second in the Girls 100-yard Backstroke at State and was a part of West Valley’s third place performance in the 400-yard Freestyle Relay.
“I’m just looking forward to racing at that slightly higher level,” said Heidi. “I think that’ll push me, just being around faster people and my everyday [lifestyle] will make me faster. "
Northern Michigan’s men’s program finished third in the 2020 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference Championships, while the women won their seventh conference title in program history. Both programs are led by Heidi Voigt.
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