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The Juneau-Douglas High School girls swim team just missed out on winning a state championship last year with a freshman-dominated squad, losing by one point to Service.
So this year, the Crimson Bears have their eyes on the prize.
Their team sweatshirts read, "W.A.T.CH. We Are The Champions," which is the goal for the girls team as well as an accolade for the state title won by the boys squad last year.
The Crimson Bear girls appeared well on their way to reaching that goal as they scored an easy victory in Friday's meet from the Juneau Invitational, beating Ketchikan 157-62 in Juneau's only home swim meets of the season. South Anchorage took third place with 47 points, while Petersburg was fourth with 42, Sitka fifth with 22 and Cordova was scoreless. On Saturday, Juneau scored 158 points for the victory, South had 56, Ketchikan had 55, Petersburg had 38, Sitka had 19 and Cordova scored four points.
In Friday's boys meet, the Sitka Wolves used their depth to claim a 100-79 victory over South. Juneau took third place with 75 points, followed by Ketchikan with 48, Craig with 12, Petersburg with eight and Cordova with six. On Saturday, the Sitka boys scored 110 points, South had 79, Juneau had 59, Ketchikan had 48, Cordova had 14, Craig had 13 and Petersburg was scoreless.
"We're really pumped for state. We're pretty confident about the girls team," said Kristin Jones, a sophomore who set school records in winning the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle races on Friday.
Jones is one of several sophomores leading the Crimson Bear girls this year. In addition to her two individual victories on Friday, Jones was a member of two sophomore-only relay teams that claimed victories, joining Lia Heifetz and twins Sara and Melissa Bogert to win the 200 medley relay with a school record. The same group also won the 400 free relay. Melissa Bogert set a school record in the 100 butterfly, while Sara won the 100 backstroke and sophomore Jenna Rutecki won the 50 free. Senior Tanya Trucano won the diving event for the Crimson Bears.
On Saturday, Jones won the 200 free and 100 back, Melissa Bogert won the 100 butterfly, Sara Bogert won the 100 free, Trucano won the diving and sophomore Amber Kelly won the 500 free. The Crimson Bear quartet of Jones, Heifetz, Sara Bogert and Melissa Bogert broke their school record to win the 200 medley relay; the team of Sara Bogert, Rutecki, Kelly and Jones won the 200 free relay; and the squad of Melissa Bogert, Kelly, sophomore Koko Urata and Rutecki won the 400 free relay.
"The boys won their state title last year, and this year we'll try to win," said junior Amanda Jones, no relation to Kristin. "We've got good girls. Freshman year you're still getting into high school, but now they know what's going on. There are more sophomores than juniors and freshmen."
"We have more experience, so we know what to expect," Kristin Jones said of the sophomores.
While the sophomores have been leading the way, they agree it will take all ages for the Crimson Bears to win state.
"There are a lot of fast people. Gosh, no, it's the whole team," said Melissa Bogert, who designed Juneau's team sweatshirt. "It's different this year. We all want to improve and get better."
"It's going to take all of us," said Kelly, who also took second place in the 200 free and 100 fly on Friday.
While the sophomores were winning their events, Juneau coach John Wray said he had two relay teams of junior girls who broke school records for their grades. Two sophomore relay teams also broke class records, as did junior boy Kyle O'Brien.
Trucano led a 1-2-3 finish by Juneau in the girls diving on Friday and Saturday, with sophomore Hanna Davis second and freshman Allison Sharp third.
"Hopefully we can take four girls to state," said Trucano. "If I can place pretty good, I'll get some points."
Other girls event winners on Friday were Ketchikan's Laura Miller in the 200 free and 100 free, Ketchikan's Elizabeth Jagusch in the 100 breaststroke and the Ketchikan 200 free relay team of Miller, Jagusch, Kirsta Bezenek and Krissy Gallaway.
Other non-Juneau girls event winners on Saturday were Miller in the 200 free and South's Meredith Uldrich in the 50 free and the 100 breast.
In Friday's boys meet, Sitka used its depth to break open the meet, which had the top three teams bunched within five points until the last three or four events.
Juneau was led by Kyle O'Brien, who won the 200 IM and set a school record for juniors in the 500 free. Senior Matt Josephson won the 100 backstroke for Juneau, while the Crimson Bear quartet of Josephson, O'Brien, senior Travis Blair and senior Jon Wendel won the 200 medley relay.
Sitka picked up victories from Gavin McGown in the 50 free, Alex Dailey in the 100 fly, Ben Adams in the 100 free, the 200 free relay and the 400 free relay. South picked up victories from Bret Bye in the 100 breast and Josh Yoo in the 200 free, while Ketchikan's Ryan Borup won the boys diving event.
On Saturday, O'Brien was the only event-winner for Juneau with victories in the 50 free and the 100 fly.
Sitka edged out Juneau to win the 200 medley relay, while Adams won the 100 free and the Wolves won the 400 free relay. Yoo won the 200 IM for South, Bye won the 100 back and the 100 breast, and the Wolverines won the 200 free relay. Ketchikan's Andy Otos won the 200 free and the 500 free, and Borup won the diving.
Even though their depth hurts them during the regular season, the Juneau boys feel they still have a shot at another state title. They won last year with just six swimmers, so the Crimson Bears know a small team can win.
"We're definitely giving it a go," O'Brien said. ""We've got our quality. We've got strong swimmers. South is a good team and so is Sitka. We did it with six guys last year, so why can't we do it again. There are not that many powerhouses."
"We've got a good medley relay," Josephson said. "All we need is a few good men."
"It's quality, not quantity," Wendel added.
The Crimson Bears have two weeks off before the Southeast Conference meet in Sitka on Oct. 27-28. Results from this weekend's meets will run in the Empire sports section later this weekend.