The Southeast Alaska Swim Team proved that bigger is definitely better at the Great Alaska Open this weekend at Augustus Brown Swimming Pool.
The Southeast Alaska Swim Team, or SEAK, is a combination of swim clubs from Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau's Glacier Swim Club. The team, featuring members of the Sitka High School boys state champs and Juneau-Douglas girls state champs and numerous individual title holders, dominated the competition over the weekend.
SEAK amassed 1,583 points to win the combined team title. The boys racked up 696 points and the girls won with 887 points.
Individually, Meghan Cavanaugh of Northern LIghts Swim Club won the girls' points title while Juneau-Douglas High School senior Kyle O'Brien tied with Northern Lights' Josh Yoo for the boys' points championship.
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"We knew these senior-age swimmers, they're more together already from competing in high school and swimming against each other for eight years," SEAK and Sitka High School coach Robby Jarvill said. "They know each other. We were very confident these guys would have no problem coming together."
With a bigger team and a bigger pool of talent at its disposal, SEAK ran away with the overall title.
More impressive, however, was how SEAK's relays dominated.
Southeast Alaska set five new state records for 17- to 18-year-old girls during the meet.
Juneau-Douglas' Melissa Bogert, Sara Bogert and Amanda Jones joined forces with Ketchikan state champion Elizabeth Jagusch to set new marks in the 400 yard freestyle, 200 medley and 400 medley races.
The Bogerts and Jones joined up with Crimson Bears' teammate Julia DiCostanzo to set a new mark in the 200 freestyle. Also, Juneau's Kristin Jones swam with Amanda Jones and the Bogert twins to set a new 800 freestyle record.
"It was pretty exciting," said Amanda Jones, a member of all five relay teams. "Now we'll have our names on the board and say, 'Yep, we swam there, we did that.' It's really exciting."
The SEAK boys teams also won all their relays. The teams consisted of two-time state most outstanding swimmer Kyle O'Brien, Sitka state champs Ben Campen and Ben Adams along with Cody Brunette.
In addition to trophies, there were other things at stake for swimmers.
This senior championship gave athletes a chance to qualify for the upcoming senior sectional championships in March. The sectional serves as the Northwest championships and a chance to make the national championships.
Brunette, a JDHS freshman, qualified for the 200 butterfly and 200 backstroke senior sectional races over the weekend.
In the 200 backstroke, Brunette went toe-to-toe with O'Brien. Though Brunette finished one-tenth of a second behind O'Brien, he posted a fast enough time to qualify for March's meet.
"I was kind of worried and didn't want to care about this meet because it looked like I was going to get my butt kicked," Brunette said of the large, experienced field. "But once I got here and figured out I could do pretty good I kind of went for it."
One of the benefits of racing on the bigger SEAK team is to get the best quality out of the swimmers, Jarvill said.
A bigger team means better, faster relays and pushes individual swimmers to go harder to win a race.
"They rise to the occasion," Jarvill said. "It gives them motivation to keep working hard and putting the time in the pool."
For the vast majority of swimmers this weekend, this meet served only as a preliminary event to the bigger events in March. Instead of training specifically for the Great Alaska Open, this weekend served as a solid indicator of how they are training and how much they will need to improve or tweak before March.
"It shows where I'm at for the midpoint," Amanda Jones said. "I did OK and I know I'll do really good in the future. It's nice to know where I'm at so I know how to train."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.