Six weeks into the swimming and diving season, the usual ailments are starting to crop up for the Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls teams.
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Sinus infections and body aches are the norms for this time of the season. Despite the dip in health, expect the Crimson Bears ready to go this weekend for their first meets of the year.
"It'll be fun," said Juneau's Lia Heifetz, one of the Crimson Bears battling illness. "We have a good advantage with our home pool. We practice in our pool every day. We're used to the wall, the blocks."
Visiting Juneau will be South Anchorage, along with the crew coach John Wray refers to as "the usual suspects." Those would be are Sitka, Ketchikan, Petersburg and Craig.
JDHS battled those four schools twice already this season and will face them at least three more times before November's state championships.
Who: JDHS, Sitka, Ketchikan, Craig, Petersburg and South Anchorage.
When: 6 p.m. tonight, 3 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Augustus Brown Swimming Pool.
What to expect: South's Josh Yoo boasts the state's best 100-yard breaststroke time while Sitka, the defending state champion boys team, and the 2005 girls state champion Crimson Bears take the pool.
While Juneau faces the same few teams multiple times, it's not like Southeast isn't full of talent. With only three 4A schools in the entire region, Southeast boasts the defending state champion boys team, Sitka, and girls team, JDHS.
"There's a very strong competitive aquatic history in Southeast Alaska," Wray said. "Back in the '80s, Ketchikan was a powerhouse and Juneau was right behind them. Individual quality swimmers competed here. Sitka has quality swimmers. Right now, there's quality in Southeast. Our meets are competitive. It gives us an idea what state championships are going to be like."
While competing in a strong conference helps Juneau-Douglas excel with tough races every meet, it also helps the school attract teams from throughout the state fly down to Southeast.
Having to state championship squads in one conference definitely has its benefits. In addition to South Anchorage, West Valley will travel down from Fairbanks to take on Southeast competition in Juneau in mid-October.
"Like I'm telling the kids, 'Why does South want to come down here? Why does West Valley want to come down here later,'" Wray asked. "Well, they get to race against the defending boys and defending girls state championships. Their coaches aren't dumb. You want to get fast? You want to race fast people. I'm not trying to blow our ego here or toot our horn, but I have no doubt that's one of the reasons why teams come down here."
As for this weekend's action, the Crimson Bears' girls team has yet to lose a meet and boasts a significant amount of talent in nearly every event.
Kristin Jones and Sara Bogert have posted the state's top times in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, respectively, while the Crimson Bears' 200 and 400 freestyle relay squads are both ranked first.
They'll face tough competition this weekend, however.
Ketchikan's Laura Miller posted the state's top times in the 500 freestyle and 200 individual medley while Elizabeth Jagusch is first in the 100 breaststroke.
South bring with it the state's fastest 200 medley relay team thus far.
For the boys, JDHS boasts one of the state's top individual swimmers and a host of young and hungry freshmen.
Kyle O'Brien is among the state's elite. A multiple state champion, he's currently posted the fastest times statewide in the 200 IM, 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle. He's also second to Lathrop standout Caleb Severns in the 100 backstroke.
The team also boasts four freshmen - Cody Brunette, Seth Cayce, Nick Rutecki and Alex Barto - who are adjusting well to the rigors of high school swimming.
Defending boys champion Sitka brings a deep, talented and senior-laden squad to JDHS this weekend. The Wolves rank first in the 200 freestyle relay and medley relay while junior Ben Adams' time of 22.55 seconds in the 50 freestyle ranks tops in Alaska thus far.
"Sitka is just so very, very deep," Wray said. "They have all those seniors who race with confidence. That's a big factor. ... That's the way they mentally approach races."
South brings senior Josh Yoo, whose 1:01.88 in the 100 breaststroke is good for first in the latest rankings.
This weekend should be a spirited, and loud, couple of meets.
It's also at home, which is something special for Juneau-Douglas.
"I'm very excited," sophomore Katie Busch said. "It's good to have support and cheering."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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