Juneau-Douglas High School sports teams are the ultimate road warriors as they spend most of their seasons traveling to events around the state.
That's why there's always an extra energy in the practices before rare home meets.
This week, you could feel it when the Juneau swim team worked out at Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool. The Crimson Bears host their only home meets of the season this weekend - at 6 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday.
"We're really looking forward to this weekend," Juneau sophomore Giselle Stone said. "Everybody gets kind of pumped up for the home meets. Your family's here to watch and your friends come out to root for you."
Teams from Southeast Alaska will congregate on Juneau for this weekend's two meets, and for most of the teams it's been two weeks since they last competed. With another two weeks of practice under their belts, the swimmers are looking to drop their times.
"I think we've improved. Everybody's been working pretty hard," Stone said.
The Juneau swimmers enjoy the energy of home meets, and they enjoy being able to sleep in their own beds instead of camping out on an opponent's living room floor.
Plus, with budgets being what they are, there's another advantage to home meets - all the Crimson Bears get to swim. Juneau usually travels with a limited roster when it goes out of town, even to meets within the Southeast region.
For some of the veteran swimmers, the added distractions of a home meet - housing opponents, getting family and friends to attend, etc. - are old hat. They've done it before. But for the seniors, this will be their last chance to compete in Juneau.
For one Juneau senior, this also will be his first chance to compete at home. John Malaby just joined the high school team this year and hasn't been swimming competitively since he was in elementary school and a member of the Glacier Swim Club.
"I just came out for the team," said Malaby, whose older sister Sharon was a diver for the Crimson Bears for three years. "It's my senior year so I figured I might as well do something productive. The swim team's a great group. It's a blast."
Malaby said he's looking forward to his first, and last, home meets. He doesn't consider himself a speed demon, but he might score a few team points and the Crimson Bears can use him to improve their depth.
"I'm pretty slow compared to the others, but I went up to Ketchikan and most of the teams have no depth," Malaby said. "I'm looking forward to that (dropping his times). I'm just going one step at a time."
The Crimson Bear girls will be led by their relay teams and divers this week.
Juneau is ranked 11th in the state in the 200-yard medley relay, seventh in the 200 freestyle relay and eighth in the 400 free relay. In the 1-meter springboard diving event, Marnita Coenraad is ranked second in the state and Kaitlin Niewoehner is ranked 11th. The only other Juneau girls who appear in the state rankings are Lisse Focht (16th in the 200 free), Kelsey Potdevin (ninth in the 100 backstroke) and Amanda Jones (16th in the 500 free).
Carol Triem of Petersburg is ranked in four events - sixth in the 200 free, seventh in the 200 individual medley, third in the 100 back and ninth in the 100 free. Other ranked Southeast swimmers include Abby Jackson of Petersburg, Kate Gallaway of Ketchikan, Reba Trani of Sitka, Helen Reimer of Petersburg, Angela Henderson of Petersburg and Elizabeth Jagusch of Ketchikan. Petersburg and Ketchikan are ranked in all three relays, while Sitka is ranked in two.
In the boys meet, the Crimson Bears will make their first appearance in Juneau since winning a share of the state title last November.
Juneau is ranked second in the 400 free relay, third in 200 medley relay and sixth in the 200 free relay. Ketchikan and Sitka also are ranked in all three relays.
The top Crimson Bears are Olin Robus (fourth in the 100 breaststroke, 11th in the 200 IM and 16th in the 100 free); Kyle O'Brien (fifth in the 200 IM, 11th in the 50 free; 11th in the 100 butterfly and 10th in the 100 free); Tyler Hennon (fifth in the 100 back, seventh in the 200 free and 15th in the 100 fly); Q Smyth (ninth in the 50 free and 11th in the 100 free); and Patrick Hoke (fifth in the diving event).
Two Southeast swimmers are the top-ranked athletes in an event - Ketchikan's Ben Voetberg in the 100 free and Sitka's Matt Way in the 100 breast. Other ranked Southeast swimmers include Carrington Gorman of Sitka, Karl Chaudhary of Ketchikan, Alex Dailey of Sitka and Ben Campen of Sitka.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.