When Juneau's Glacier Swim Club joined forces with Sitka and Ketchikan for the first time in December, GSC coach Scott Griffith compared it to a school dance with different factions on opposing walls.
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Those walls were quickly torn down, however, as the newly formed Southeast Alaska Swim Team, or SEAK, dominated the Alaska Age Group Championships in Soldotna for 10 to 14 year olds.
Starting Friday, Southeast Alaska's teams will come together again as GSC hosts the Great Alaska Open at Augustus Brown Swimming Pool. This meet serves the state's senior championships, meaning there are no age-specific divisions. Swimmers of all ages will compete against each other for state titles and top times.
"This meet being held in Southeast this year, in Juneau, we should dominate," Griffith said. "It shouldn't be close. Those kids that are high school - Juneau-Douglas, Sitka and Ketchikan never swam together before. It'll be like an all-star high school team. ... We'll be going for state records in quite a few relays."
Great Alaska Open
Sr. swimming championships
Who: More than 100 swimmers compete in 36 different events.
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. preliminaries and 3:30 p.m. finals on Saturday and Sunday.
Where: Augustus Brown Swimming Pool.
What's at stake? Southeast Alaska Swim Team, or SEAK, looks for its second state title in as many months.
Fans heading down to the pool for the meet could see plenty of state records not only broken, but shattered during the three-day meet.
High school swimmers will compete in the this meet, meaning members of Sitka's boys state championships team and the Crimson Bears' girls state title team will be racing on the same squad. There's also a good chance that a combination of top Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan swimmers could be on the same relay team.
Two-time state champion Kyle O'Brien of JDHS and Ketchikan girls champ Elizabeth Jagusch also are scheduled to compete.
On Friday, Griffith said SEAK will send out Crimson Bears standouts Amanda Jones, Kristin Jones, Sara Bogert and Melissa Bogert in an effort to break the 17-18 year old girls record in the 800-yard freestyle relay.
"Unless they DQ, they should crush the 17-18 state record in the 800 free relay," Griffith said. "They might beat it by a minute."
In all, more than 100 swimmers from throughout Alaska will be competing this weekend. There are 26 Juneau swimmers and 20 more from other Southeast Alaska towns.
Anchorage stars Meghan Cavanaugh, a 2006 state champion in the 500 freestyle, and Josh Yoo, 2006 runner-up in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, also will make the trip.
While this meet will be exciting to see a Southeast Alaska high school all-star team, it is also very important for some of Juneau's younger swimmers.
This will be the first time middle school swimmers will compete against high school or adult talent.
In this competition, everyone had to post a qualifying time to compete. That means 12-year-old Auri Clark of Juneau could go toe-to-toe with a high school state champ five or six years her senior.
"I think it'll be about getting used to swimming against older kids," said Clark, a seventh-grader at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. "We'll be doing it in high school so this is what this is about, getting used to that."
For some of the swimmers, this meet serves as a chance to get ready for the Southeast Regional Championships in mid-February.
For the more elite swimmers, the Great Alaskan Open is a chance to get some more action in before the Senior Sectional or Age Group Section regional championships in march in Federal Way, Wash.
A qualifying time in March means a spot in the U.S. Senior Championships, the toughest competition possible for amateur swimming.
"In March, we'll be trying for the senior national level," Griffith said. "Senior national is the highest meet in America. Not many 18-and-younger swimmers get there. It's mostly college kids."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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