For many students in the Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls swimming and diving teams, the first day of practice represents the start of the fun part of their schedule.
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The vast majority of the Crimson Bears swim year-round with Glacier Swim Club, Juneau's local club team. Swimming for the club means lots of long hours in the pool and months of practice for just a handful of meets.
JDHS Swimming&Diving Schedule
Aug. 24-25: at Ketchikan.
Sept. 7-8: JUNEAU INVITATIONAL.
Sept. 21-22: at Petersburg.
Sept. 28: at Service.
Sept. 29: at Bartlett.
Oct. 5-6: at Sitka.
Oct. 26-27: at Southeast Championships in Ketchikan.
Nov. 2-3: at State Championships in Anchorage.
(Note: Home games in CAPS)
During high school season, though, the three month buildup to the state championships is an intense sprint. With meets nearly every weekend, swimmers relish the chance to represent their school and compete regularly.
"High school is three months so you only have a short period of time to do something," Juneau senior Jenna Rutecki said. "It's much more exciting and, personally, most people work way harder in high school than club."
For the JDHS girls, this season marks the end of an incredibly successful senior class and a chance at history.
The two-time defending state champs could be the first team since Dimond in the early 1990s to win three straight titles. In addition to that goal, JDHS returns a core of swimmers who've already destroyed the record books.
JDHS brings back three-fourths of the 200-yard medley relay team that set a state record last year in state.
Also returning are twins Sara and Melissa Bogert, who competed at the prestigious U.S. Open earlier this year.
The senior class also includes talented veterans Kristin Jones, Amber Kelly, Lia Heifetz, Erin Oelklaus, Sarah Felix, Koko Urata, MacKenzie Allison and Rutecki.
What will they do for an encore?
"We're all going to be getting faster," Sara Bogert said. "We'll see if we can go after a few records. Maybe, if we work at it, we can go after the 200 freestyle relay. Who knows?"
For JDHS coach John Wray, he's more interested in improvement than numbers.
"I kind of just mentioned to a group of some of them, my goal for them is to match individually or exceed what each one of them did last year," Wray said. "That's the only expectation or goal I'd like them to have. If each one of them does that, the team performances should be indicative of that."
Wray returns to lead the team, as does his assistant Carrie DeMay. Former Juneau-Douglas and collegiate swimmer, Weather Potdevin, will join the staff this year.
For Jones, she has a personal goal of her own she'd like to reach.
"I haven't really reached my goal yet," Jones said. "I want to break five minutes in the 500 (freestyle). I haven't done that yet but that's what I want to do this year."
A number of other girl swimmers will help the team this year. Juniors Katie Busch, Linzie Norman, Shelby Oelklaus and Alex Reishus-O'Brien should contribute, as well as sophomores Lindsay Clark and Kate Lukshin.
A key returning diver for the Crimson Bears is junior Allison Sharp.
She placed fifth at the state championships last season. Diving coach Jamie Miller also returns after a solid first season.
"She's gung-ho to get back at it and adds to the depth of the team," Wray said.
While the seniors will have their last hurrah, a talented freshman class will step up and start learning the ropes.
"The freshmen is another group of girls like my freshman year," Rutecki said. "Hopefully they can work together and pull off something cool too."
Among the girls are Cassie Anderson, Elsa Robinson, Kate Goddel and Haylee Hodgson.
With the girls are a senior-dominated team, it'll be up to the underclassmen to step up for the boys.
Sophomores Alex Barto, Seth Cayce, Cody Brunette, Nick Rutecki and Derik Swanson all return after strong freshmen campaigns.
Cayce, Brunette and Rutecki all placed in the top five in individual events last year at state. The trio also joined with the graduated Kyle O'Brien on two second-place relay teams.
While all of them are experienced club swimmers, Cayce said it took him by surprise how much work the Crimson Bears demand.
"I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I didn't think it'd be that intense," he said. "It's already early in the season and we're working hard. I think it'll be a good season for us because right off the bat we're starting strong."
Three upperclassmen should make immediate impacts for the Bears.
Junior diver Nathan Teal returns for his third year with the Bears. The athletic Teal finished eighth at state last year and should improve.
Senior Josh Clark and junior Mircea Brown also return after barely missing out on the state championships last year.
"I'm really going to try and make state this year," Brown said. "That's all I'm doing. I hope I really make it."
Cayce said three freshman - Evan Norman, Tyler Mickelson and Josh Anderson - may step up as well.
The three are experienced Glacier Swim Club members, but must adapt to the Bears' rigorous training schedule.
"You have to focus mentally and get yourself physically fit too because it's pretty high intensity swimming," Cayce said. "You have to be mentally with it. If you don't want to do it, you're not going to go very far."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at email@example.com.
Hard act to follow
Here's what the JDHS girls accomplished in 2006
Won second consecutive state team title. It was the program's fifth overall state title.
Amassed 140 points, nearly double second-place Service. It was also the second-most points ever amassed (Service had 144.5 in 2001).
Broke the 200-yard medley relay state record.
Won three relay state titles, two individual state title and 13 top-five finishes.
Posted six All-America times.
Won 15th consecutive Southeast Conference title.