Juneau to host 2013 swim championships

First time in 23 years event held outside Anchorage

Imagine if you could have watched Juneau-Douglas High School’s Haley Mertz, Ciera Kelly, Dakota Isaak and Talyn Ramos win last year’s 200-yard medley relay state championship. Or Thunder Mountain High School’s Kenny Fox battle in the 50-freestyle state final. Those thoughts can now be a reality, at least for next swim season.


On Tuesday the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) awarded the 2013 Swimming and Diving State High School Championship to Juneau during the ASAA board meeting in Anchorage. This is the first time in 23 years that the November meet will be held outside Anchorage’s Bartlett High School 8-lane pool.

A roll call vote accepted a proposal that has been in the works since 2007.

“We told the community at that time we would work to bring meets like this to Juneau,” Glacier Swim Club board member Max Mertz, a key facilitator in the proposal, said. “We are all so elated that ASAA liked what so many volunteers have done to make the presentation. We know ASAA has concerns with travel costs but we will be working like crazy over the next year to get everyone’s travel costs as reasonable as we can.”

Mertz’ swimming daughters will be a senior (Haley) and a freshman (Sarah).

“They could be swimming at the state meet together,” Mertz said. “And to have it in Juneau for one year of Haley’s career, with family here, is nice.”

The annual state athletic event that gathers the top swimmers and divers from Alaska’s 4 regional tournaments (Cook Inlet, Mid Alaska, Northern Lights, and Southeast) will be held on November 8-9, 2013 at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center, adjacent to Thunder Mountain High School.

The construction of the DPAC, completed in May 2011, with its 8-lane pool and the quality tournament gatherings that have already been held in the facility were major factors in the decision by ASAA.

Minimum requirements by ASAA for the facility included pool deck space for swimmers, a warm down pool, viewing area for fans, and adequate parking. Ample room must be available for internet connectivity, power, radio, medical area, concessions, awards, hospitality, PA System and timing and scoring. There must be adequate supervision and security, emergency action plans, and host site and city information.

Glacier Swim Club recently hosted the Alaska Age Group Championships and the Southeast Championship Swim Meets. ASAA staff had attended various meets in Juneau as part of their determination.

At the ASAA meeting, letters of support from Anchorage-based swim personalities praised the GSC and coach Scott Griffith and their ability to host major events.

The Age Group Championships actually involved more swimmers and attending families than the state meet will envision. More adults travel with their children to age group events and the GSC ran the tournament flawlessly.

The parent volunteers of the GSC, the Juneau School District and the City and Borough of Juneau will be hosting the state championships.

GSC coach Scott Griffith stated, “It will be a lot of work because we want to put on a first class show but it is awesome to be able to showcase your swimmers. Not just our swimmers, but Southeast’s.”

In the past five years the Southeast Region has had at least one girls and boys team in the top five final placing at the state championships. When point totals are added, Southeast is the second highest scoring team in the past five years.

“A lot of our families and our community never see that because it is never here,” Griffith said. “They know that just through the results but to be able to show our community, and the whole state, what kind of meets we run and also what kind of talent we have here will be really exciting.”

Next season the JDHS girls and the Sitka boys are favorites to win state titles. The cost for a Sitka swim coach to travel by ferry to Juneau with his family against the cost of flying to Anchorage saves roughly $5,000.

Juneau swim fans that could not afford the expense of traveling to Anchorage or the time away from work can now experience the thrills of the state’s most prestigious swim event by just driving, or walking, to the DPAC.

Many local individuals and organizations have participated in obtaining the event and were involved in the proposal to ASAA. Local businesses including hotels and airlines have offered reduced rates to make the experience more affordable for schools and families outside the Southeast Conference.

While cost for attending participants weighed heavily against Juneau’s selection, prominent Anchorage swim coach Cliff Murray spoke on behalf of the proposal at the ASAA board meeting.

Murray is the East High School and Northern Lights Swim Club coach and swam and coached competitively in Fairbanks where he was born.

Murray, a 1988 North Pole High School graduate, stated the experience of youth traveling to see other parts of Alaska was a key part of his own high school and club swimming background and experiences. The Bartlett pool was not completed until the Spring of ‘88, so every year the state meet rotated to a different region with a smaller six-lane pool.

“I was fortunate to make state all four years as a swimmer,” Murray said. “Each year was in a different area of the state. Just from a purely experiential stand point I vividly remember going to each state meet and getting exposed to a different community. It was a big deal to me as a student athlete. Since Bartlett has been built, I feel like the Anchorage kids in particular don’t get that experience. And at the same time, everyone goes to Anchorage and they might be missing out on traveling to other regions as well.”

The Juneau community has already showed it completely supports youth and sporting events, and can invest significant energy and volunteer time, when it hosted the 2010 State High School Soccer Championships.

Juneau School District Athletics Director Sandi Wagner stated the prospect of hosting the meet in Juneau was exciting. Wagner attended her final ASAA board meeting on Tuesday as the Southeast Region V representative. ASAA’s main concern for a state event in Juneau was the cost of travel for attending participants.

“Every time ASAA runs an event it costs them money,” Wagner said. “You want the events to break even or make money. We are going to work very hard to make sure we make money, break even or lose as little as possible on this event. I think we were able to show ASAA we could cut the costs drastically. So many people in Juneau have been working to make this all possible. Just knowing that Juneau will host this event is really exciting.”

The accepted bid won by Juneau is for one year. The hope is that a rotation can be established for every fourth year. Currently just three 8-lane pools operate in Alaska: Bartlett High School, the newly completed Ketchikan Gateway Aquatic Center, and Juneau’s Dimond Park Aquatic Center.

“When Dakota (Isaak) and I heard the news we were just freaking out,” JDHS state record relay member Ciera Kelly said. “We are so happy it is here because when we are around friends and family and in our own pool we do a lot better.”

• Contact Sports Editor Klas Stolpe at 523-2228 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.


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