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SE Alaska team enters big event with high hopes

Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan swimmers join forces at western sectional championships

Posted: Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The swimming season for Southeast Alaska's athletes sometimes seems like a non-stop cycle of competitions in and out of the state.

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Starting today, the swimmers will dive into an event that could pit them against former Olympians.

Ten members of Juneau's Glacier Swim Club, along with Sitka's Ben Campen and Ben Adams and Ketchikan's Elizabeth Jagusch, will compete together in Federal Way, Wash., at the Speedo Championship Series Western Region Section Short Course Championships. Short course refers to swimming races in yards instead of meters.

"Probably for us, it's the second-highest meet," GSC coach Scott Griffith said. He said the only more competitive meets are the national competitions - the U.S. Open and the United State Short Course National Championships.

If the swimmers post a good enough performance in Washington, they qualify for November's national championships.

The 13 swimmers will compete against nearly 200 other squads as the Southeast Alaska Swim Team, or SEAK.

Last year, Glacier Swim Club's women finished 27th out of 134 teams.

Southeast's squad

Southeast Alaska Swim Team at sectional championships

• Melissa Bogert

• Sara Bogert

• Kristin Jones

• Amanda Jones

• Julia DiCostanzo

• Jenna Rutecki

• Amber Kelly

• Elizabeth Jagusch

• Kyle O'Brien

• Matt Josephson

• Cody Brunette

• Ben Campen

• Ben Adams

This year, Griffith believes top-10 finishes for the men and women are achievable goals.

To reach those goals, however, SEAK must go up against some of the West Coast's more established swimming programs and even former Olympians.

"They'll be 150-200 teams there and we think we have a legitimate shot to be in the top 10," Griffith said of finishing in the top 10. "Even if you look at teams in the top 10 - King Aquatics, Mount Hood - perennial national powerhouses that will send teams to nationals. We think we can be competitive with them."

Based on qualifying times, some of SEAK is already on par with some the nation's best.

SEAK's 200-yard freestyle relay team is seeded fifth out of 52 teams.

Kyle O'Brien is seeded 4th out of 162 swimmers in the 200 freestyle and 15th out of 135 swimmers in the 100 freestyle.

"This group has been focusing on this meet since high school season ended," Griffith said. "All the other meets have been competition but they've been preparing for this one. They've been training for this meet."

SEAK features arguably the best high school talent in Alaska.

At the 2006 state championships, O'Brien won two titles last year while Melissa and Sara Bogert swam on three state relay titles with Juneau-Douglas High School. Jagusch and Campen won titles in 100 breaststroke for Ketchikan and Sitka, respectively. Campen and Adams also joined up with their Sitka teammates to win three relay championships.

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com.



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