It's been about a decade now since the last time the University of Alaska Southeast had any athletic teams, since the Humpback Whales basketball teams were cut from the school's programs.
But a freshman from Juneau has singlehandedly returned UAS to the realm of intercollegiate competition, and she's done it in a big way. Julia Klein, 19, took second place in the `C' figures event during the 2000 U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships held March 15-18 at Ohio State University.
Klein grew too old to compete for the Juneau Aurora Knights synchronized swimming program, so she created a club team at UAS to continue in her sport. Klein has been serving as the interim coach for the Aurora Knights since January, while head coach Christine Tait has been out of the country, and has been working on most of her college routines on her own, with some help from a couple of friends and a lot of videotape.
``I had to have a form signed by UAS saying that it was OK for me to represent the school at nationals, and most people there didn't even know we had synchronized swimming as a club sport,'' Klein said earlier this week.
Klein, who was homeschooled in Juneau, qualified for the national meet by winning the C division figures at the Western Regional Collegiate Championships in early March at Stanford University. At nationals a couple of weeks later, Klein not only took second place in the C division figures but she was also one of several swimmers to earn the 2000 academic excellence award for swimmers with a GPA higher than 3.25. Klein said her GPA at UAS is 3.85.
``At Stanford, it was a very small meet,'' Klein said. ``There were only five people competing in the C figures. There were 48 in the C figures at nationals.''
The national meet brought together synchronized swimmers from around the country, with a wide variety of abilities.
Some of the stronger teams, like national champion Ohio State and runner-up Stanford, have synchronized swimming as a varsity sport and several of their athletes are of Olympic caliber. But there were also a lot of schools where synchro is only a club sport - ranging in size from a soon-to-be varsity program like at the University of Arizona to a first-year one-swimmer program like UAS.
As UAS's team of one, Klein finished 15th overall
in the team standings with 6.5 points. Ohio State won the team title with 95 points, followed by Stanford with 89 and Canisius in third place with 63.5. But Klein still beat teams from Penn State and Michigan.
``I really had no idea how I would place,'' Klein said as she dug her silver medal out of her swim bag. ``With 48 (in the C figures) I figured I'd be about the middle. I was very surprised.''
In the national championships, swimmers compete in two main events - the figures, which are quick compulsory moves that last about 30 seconds, and a 3 minute freestyle program done to music. There are solo, duet, trio and team (up to eight swimmers) programs. Klein took 20th place in the solo program, which featured most of the top swimmers from each team.
The figures are broken down into three basic skill levels - A, B and C. A is for the elite athletes, while C tends to be for newer synchronized swimmers who typically come from the smaller schools. Klein said the C figures are more basic than those for the B and A levels. During the figures competition, Klein performed the tower, Herron, ballet leg and back walkover moves. Each swimmer wore a black suit and a white cap during the figures competition, and they were announced as numbers with no names. The swimmers rotated through four judging stations, doing one move in front of one panel of judges, then moving to another corner of the pool to do another move in front of a different panel.
Jennette Gayer of the College of William and Mary Mermettes posted a score of 65.059 to win the C figures, while Klein took second place with a score of 64.084. Since Klein broke 60 with her score she has to move up to the B figures next year.
``I was looking at their scores, and I figure I still would have been in the middle of the B's,'' Klein said.
Klein said she took up synchronized swimming about four years ago, about the time the Juneau Aurora Knights program started. She had taken swim lessons before, but never competed in swimming, even for the Glacier Swim Club.
``I saw it advertised, so I tried it,'' Klein said. ``The team here wasn't really a team before I started. In 1997 we did a couple of exhibitions and shows, then we started competing in meets two years ago. In Alaska the only synchronized swimming programs are here, Anchorage and Valdez.''
Klein hopes to return to the national meet next year, and she hopes to have a teammate or two with her. Klein said her Aurora Knights teammate Johanna Evans helped her refine her routines and may compete for UAS next year. Klein and Evans are currently helping the Aurora Knights prepare for a regional meet in early May, then the Aurora Knights will present a show on June 10-11 in Juneau.
``Most people don't know how hard synchronized swimming is,'' Klein said. ``You swim a lot of laps and you have to have good breath control. Not only is it physically challenging, but you compete upside down a lot of the time. My solo routine is 3 minutes, and more than half of that may be spent underwater.''
Junior third baseman Rob Conway (Juneau-Douglas) is leading the Iowa State Cyclones in home runs and RBIs this season. Conway, who transferred to Iowa State from Mendocino Community College in California, hit his eighth home run in the sixth inning Tuesday as the Cyclones beat Iowa 15-1. Conway also singled and drove in four runs in the inning. One week earlier, Conway went 4for-4 and drove in three runs as Iowa State lost to Iowa 16-3. Conway is hitting .339 (43for-127) with eight homers, 10 doubles, one triple, 24 runs scored and 37 RBIs.
Freshman pitcher Chad Bentz (JuneauDouglas) has moved to the bullpen with nationally ranked Long Beach State, which is No. 20 in the Collegiate Baseball poll, No. 22 in the Baseball America poll and No. 20 in the Baseball Weekly/USA Today poll. Bentz (0-1, 5.68 ERA) had a no-decision in his last start March 28 against Cal State-Northridge, allowing three runs in three innings.
Senior pitcher Josh Bentz (JuneauDouglas) has a 2-2 record with a 3.74 ERA at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Josh, the older brother of Chad, had a no-decision in relief April 5 allowing one unearned run two innings in a 16-12 victory over Calvin College. Bentz isn't the only person on the roster with a Southeast connection. Freshman pitcher Andrew Currier of Cleveland, Ohio, was born in Sitka.
Sophomore pitcher Allan Cline (Ketchikan) is playing baseball for Southwestern Oregon Community College. No stats were available for Cline.
Sophomore pitcher Toby Staveland and freshman third basemanWade Walter (both Juneau-Douglas) are both playing for Mendocino College in Ukiah, Calif., the alma mater of Conway. Staveland, who is 2-3 with a 4.24 ERA, was Mendocino's freshman of the year last season and was drafted last year by the Atlanta Braves. Walter is hitting .243 with 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored.
Josh Dean (Juneau-Douglas) is playing baseball for Colorado State's club sport team. The school's Web site didn't list Dean's position, year in school or stats.
Two former Juneau-Douglas players - freshman second baseman/rightfielder Kara Lindley and junior first baseman Heidi Brown are both playing softball for Oregon Institute of Technology.
Freshman outfielder Mindy Moffett is playing on the junior varsity softball team at Seattle University.
Track and field
Western State College junior Jim Shine (Juneau-Douglas) has the third-best 5,000 meters time in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, behind two teammates who were also on Western State's NCAA Division II national championship cross-country running team. Shine's outdoors 5,000 time is 14 minutes, 22.04 seconds, which was good for 33rd place during a March 25 spring break meet at Stanford University. Earlier this season, Shine took third place in the 5,000 meters in the NCAA Division II indoors track and field championship.
Adams State College senior (junior in track) Carl Blackhurst (Haines) has the fastest time in the 3,000-meters steeplechase in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, with a 9:08.52. Blackhurst is a two-time allAmerican in the event and posted a provisional qualifying time of 9:20.04 in a meet at Northern Colorado. Junior Danny Pardee (Haines) is also on the Adams State team as a javelin thrower after spending last year as a hurdler.
Freshman Maria Eley (Juneau-Douglas) is competing for the track team at Wheaton College of Illinois. Eley's best time in the 1,500 meters is 5:05.02 this season in the University of Chicago Invitational on Feb. 12. Wheaton has had several meets since then but no results have been available for Eley.
Freshman Shawn Miller (Juneau-Douglas) is competing in distance events at Western Washington University. On April 1 at the Western Washington Invitational, Miller took eighth place in the 5,000 meters with a time of 15:53.12.
Freshman Caryn Flint (Petersburg) is competing in the throwing events at Pacific Lutheran University. On April 1 at the Western Washington Invitational, Flint took sixth place in the hammer throw with a distance of 32.72 meters (107 feet, 4.0 inches).
Junior twins Marika and Tansy Middag (Ketchikan) are both competing on the Willamette University track team, but the school's Web
site did not list their events.
Sophomore sprinter Kara Cozby (Gustavus) is competing for Western Oregon University. Cozby took second place in the 800 meters April 8 during the Western Oregon Invitational.
Freshman Vince Rinehart (JuneauDouglas) is competing in distance events at Linfield College.
Sophomore Rachael Kirchhoff (Juneau-Douglas) is rowing in the fourth seat in the women's varsity eight boat for No. 18 Syracuse University. On April 8, Syracuse took second place to No. 14 Yale in a three-team regatta with Yale and Cornell. On April 1, Syracuse took second place to Boston University in a three-team regatta with Boston and the University of Miami. Earlier this year, Kirchhoff was one of 26 rowers named to the 1999 Fall Athletic Director's Honor Roll for students with GPAs higher than 3.0. Kirchhoff is studying with Syracuse's College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Freshman Katherine Rue (JuneauDouglas) is rowing in the second freshman/novice boat at Dartmouth College. Like most Alaskans competing in crew events, Rue didn't take up rowing until she arrived at college.
Sophomore Andy Dietrick (JuneauDouglas) is rowing in the sixth seat for the men's varsity eight boat at No. 14 Oregon State University. Dietrick, who is studying engineering, rowed in the novice boat last year that took third place in the Pac 10 Championships. On April 8 in a snowy regatta in Wisconsin, Oregon State took third place behind No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 18 Michigan. OSU was leading Michigan in the battle for second place for much of the race, but about 400 meters from the finish line one of the rowers ``caught a crab,'' where an oar drags on the water and catches a rower in the stomach and brings the boat to a complete stop. On April 1, Oregon State took second place to No. 6 Yale in the San Diego Crew Classic.
Sophomore Vanessa DeRoux (JuneauDouglas) is competing in hunter seat equestrian events at Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania. DeRoux earned 39 event points in novice/Level 1, which required a jump to Level 2A where she has earned seven event points.
Junior Annette Evans (Sitka) is playing flyhalf on the Western Washington University Flames women's rugby team, a club sport program. Evans played basketball for two years at Whatcom Community College before transferring to WWU.
The Juneau Empire's College Corner feature runs about twice a month and is compiled by Charles Bingham from college Web sites and tips from readers. To let him know of a Southeast Alaska resident competing at the collegiate level in a sport, please send a note (attention sports) by fax to 1-907-586-3028 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.