Friday’s preliminary heats were all about getting a team’s top swimmers into finals and Saturday’s championship races will be one for the ages.
On the girls side it is shaping up into a two-way race between Dimond High School and Juneau-Douglas, and both of those teams have three competitive relay teams, which could tip the point scales in their favor.
Individual scoring awards 9 points for first, 7 for second, 6 for third and 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 down the order.
If, for instance, you scored Saturday’s finals just by how swimmers are seeded, the Crimson Bears girls would get the nod by five points.
But this is state and that is why you swim the races.
Relays are double points (18, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2) and the first finals event of the day will be the girl’s 200-medley relay.
“Those four points between first and second can be huge,” Glacier Swim Club coach Scott Griffith said. “And both Dimond and JD have all three relays qualified. How you swim those finals and the relays decides the meet. It is really exciting. It is anybody’s right now.”
Griffith is another community member, and long time swim coach, who helped organize the state championship bid application to ASAA and has been among the many volunteers to bring the championships to Juneau.
“Basically, who ever swims better on the day will get the title,” Griffith said.
Dimond’s Michael Summers is looking like the favorite in the 200 free, enough to be considered for setting a state mark and moving the 1:40.58 of JDHS’ Cody Brunette (2008) into the second best meet time.
Summers has a shot at two state titles. In prelims Summers was two seconds off the 500 free state mark of 4:37.85 set by Service’s Ben Smith (1990).
Kodiak’s two top girls, Ila Hughes (100 and 200 free) and Tahna Lindquist (200 IM and 500 free), are the favorites in their respective races.
Having only two relay teams, however, make them a presence for the team title but possibly in the spoiler role.
Hughes could break her own state mark set last year in the 100 (50.62) and East High School swimmer Meghan Cavanaugh’s 2007 time in the 200 (1:50.02).
Lindquist can better both her state titles from last year.
JDHS’ Dakota Isaak is knocking on the door of a state title in the 100-breast (2010 – Laura Griffing, Kodiak, 1:04.50).
The boys 200 IM may be a Southeast showdown between Sitka’s Louis Belley and TMHS’ Kenny Fox.
Whoever wins the 200 IM could be a double state titleholder. If Fox swims strong for a 200 IM win it should carry over into his 100 fly. If Belley wins the IM it should prep him for the 100 back.
Fox out-touched Belley at regionals, but Belley is the returning state champ.
The 50 freestyle swims are wide open with all the big time athletes ready to race. The 1998 state record of Lathrop’s Maria Reeves (23.34) could fall in the girl’s race and the 1996 mark of 20.91 from Service’s Andrew Tainter will go down in the boy’s event. Thunder Mountain’s Thane Reishus-O’Brien, Petersburg’s Abel Aulbach and Service’s Nathanial Adams are the front-runners but most of the athletes finished the preliminaries with a little extra left in the tank.
“The boys have a lot of strong teams,” Griffith said. “Dimond, Sitka, Thunder Mountain and Kodiak swam really well all across the board and Service had a few surprises.”
The venue is perfect for a high-powered finish.
The added platform for the swimmers to occupy on one side of the pool, and the boisterous fan base in the bleachers on the other, has already alleviated many of the concerns attending teams had.
After all the individuals have battled the day will come down to the 400 free relays. Petersburg, Sitka and Dimond have the paper advantage for the boys; Kodiak, Palmer, Dimond, Eagle River and JDHS for the girls.
But don’t tell that to TMHS, Kayhi, West Valley, Service or Chugiak.
“It is going to be fun,” Griffith said. “Sometimes at this point you know who is going to win, but this year for the boys and girls team titles I don’t think there is a definite anywhere. But you start off that first relay with Dimond and JD going head-to-head and that is huge… then the second relay (200 free)… and finishing with the 400. Whoever wins two of them is probably going to win the meet.”
Swim fans can expect to see at least five or six individual state records Saturday, at least two girls teams battling from the start of the national anthem to the final stroke, and any one of five boys teams able to reign supreme.