Time to put on your waterproof clothing Juneau. Spray your glasses with Rain-X, splash guard the iPhones and get set for the swim event of the season.
The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons and Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears are hosting a high school swim and dive meet tonight (6 p.m.) and Saturday (4:30 p.m.) at the Dimond Park Aquatics Center. Teams from Craig, Haines, Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Petersburg and Sitka are attending.
“All of southeast is here this weekend,” Thunder Mountain coach Jason Wilson said. “It’s a big meet, a prelude to the regions in a couple weeks. There is going to be some good swimming this weekend. Each community has their own studs.”
The Falcons and Crimson Bears have a number of swimmers listed in the Top 16 swim times from around the state, but so do the Panthers (CRG), Wolves (SIT), Vikings (PSG), and Kings (KTN). These teams, along with the Glacier Bears (HNS) and Chiefs (MET), will be looking for bragging rights heading into the October 26-27 Region V championships at Ketchikan.
“This is going to be a good meet,” Juneau-Douglas coach Kathrin Millhorn said. “It is the first time this season everyone has been together. It is a little later in the season now, we have a little more experience and the kids are really excited to have all of southeast here competing.”
The Crimson Bears and Ketchikan girls have a rivalry going. The JDHS girls are loaded across the pool with Kayhi touching close behind. The Wolves and Vikings just lack the amount of swimmers in the water.
“Our girls are hoping to put on a good show with the Ketchikan girls this meet,” Millhorn said. “To see how our girls measure up to them at this meet, not knowing the swimming order at regions and not knowing if they are using the same strategy as we are, is going to be exciting.”
Thunder Mountain, Sitka and Petersburg are looking to be the boy’s teams to beat. Sitka is deep, Petersburg is not quite as loaded. JDHS and Kayhi don’t have a lot of numbers, but have quality.
“The community will be impressed,” Wilson said. “Swimmers in the Top 16 times in the state, swimmers right on the verge, and swimmers looking to take a spot or two. And divers.”
Boys in the state’s top 16 include JDHS’ Jonah Swanson; TMHS’ Kenny Fox, Jimmie Busch, Matt Segren, Thane O’Brien, Luke Brockman, and Trevor Jones; Sitka’s Louis Belley, Spencer Combs, Carl Sundstren-Brenner, and RJ Miller; Craig’s Brent O’Connor; Petersburg’s Abel Aulbach, Evan Marsh, and Vince Kowalski; and Ketchikan’s Merek Corporon, and Matt Johnson.
“I am excited for our freshmen boys to have the opportunity to see a real meet in progress,” Millhorn said. “Where there are a number of teams here and a little more competition. All our swimmers are excited and are starting to think more about the region meet coming up. It has changed their attitude in the water. They are a little more focused.”
Girls in the top 16 include JDHS’ Cierra Kelly, Talyn Ramos, Dakota Isaak, Haley Mertz, and Abigail Taylor-Roth: TMHS’ Hannah Brockman; Ketchikan’s Ella Sherrill, Isabel Stephens, Maddy Stephens, Kassandra Navales, Aly Walker, Kendra Standley, and Kassandra Klose; and Sitka’s Megan Reid.
To the swimmers, divers, and coaches every meet is a practice leading up to the Region V Championships. Learning from mistakes, knocking eighths-of-seconds off of times, perfecting strokes, understanding what fuels work best, and cruising into their top swims.
Swimmers may be in their region event or they may not. Gamesmanship plays a big role as teams look to get a region title as well as qualify individuals for state.
“We want to go out and swim fast,” Wilson said. “We want to be able to get as many points as we can and our goal is to win the meet, just as much as getting best times. We are swimming strong.”
Said Millhorn, “It is the first time we have all been together for a meet since the beginning of the season. We haven’t decided on our region team and we haven’t decided which events kids will swim at regions. We wanted to use this meet this weekend to see where we are at and make some decisions. We haven’t finalized anything yet.”
Top 16 state relay times include JDHS, Ketchikan, Petersburg and Sitka representing the Girls 200 Medley Relay, and Sitka, TMHS, Petersburg and Ketchikan for boys; JDHS girls top the 200 Free relay with Ketchikan, Sitka and TMHS in the ranking; The Boys 200 Free Relay includes Sitka, Petersburg and TMHS; The Sitka boys top the 400 Free Relay with Petersburg, TMHS and Ketchikan ranked; and the Girls 400 includes Ketchikan, JDHS, TMHS and Sitka.
“Every race is going to be an extremely good race,” Wilson said. “All our kids are looking really good right now and are extremely dedicated. They look tired, which is a good thing, we are at a point where we will start resting a bit more and gearing for regionals.”
Added Millhorn, “Just enjoy the whole show. Having all those kids in the same room is going to have a huge positive impact on the races. It is going to be fast.”
Friday night will also feature a special remembrance for former JDHS swimmer Savannah Cayce, a 16-year-old swimmer killed in a tragic accident on Auke Lake this June.
A special spot in the DPAC lobby will be provided for people to write messages to Savannah. These messages will be placed in a box. At the end of Friday’s meet, the public is invited to gather outside the aquatics center. Special glowing lanterns will be released into the night and the messages will be burned.
“When the lanterns are let go we will burn the notes,” Millhorn said. “To send them to Savannah. It is something the kids have planned. It is a quite activity, not a big blowout, they just want to get together and remember Savannah and send her the messages. If anyone wants to leave a note to Savannah we will burn it in the fire pit.”