Double dipping

JDHS duo leading boys' swim team, on track for back-to-back state titles

Posted: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

They are the most highly recruited Crimson Bears since Carlos Boozer was throwing down monster dunks in the Juneau-Douglas High School gym.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

But seniors Cody Brunette and Nick Rutecki, both recently named to the Scholastic All-America team, don't make moves on the basketball court; they make waves in the swimming pool, usually leaving the competition in their wake.

The duo helped propel the Crimson Bears boys' swim team to last year's state championship, and JDHS is on course to hang its second state banner in as many years this November.

Brunette is a butterfly specialist, winning solo state titles in the 100-yard fly in both his sophomore and junior years, as well as the 200 free, and another gold medal as a member of the 200 free relay team last year.

"The 100 fly is kind of like ... there's technique to it, but it's also got that feeling that it takes a lot of work and strength to do," Brunette said. "It makes me feel really good to swim it. I had to decide to like it before I got good at it. I used to be good at the backstroke, and then I decided I liked the butterfly."

Rutecki is a freestyle specialist, having won solo state titles in the 50 and 100 free, as well as one more with the 200 freerelay team.

Brunette and Rutecki are best friends who rarely go head-to-head since they specialize in different events, though they will face off sometimes in smaller meets. Whoever loses is "usually who's more tired."

"I win at my races, and he wins at his races," Rutecki said. "Once we're both ready to race, we can't beat each other. He's better at every other stroke besides the sprints, so I'd lose at everything except for the two I swim."

"If I tried to race him in the 50 or 100 free, he definitely would beat me every time," Brunette countered.

The pair's exploits in the pool have garnered them a lot of attention from colleges across the country. There's even the possibility they might end up somewhere together as both are looking at Wyoming, Dartmouth and Wisconsin. Brunette also is considering Duke and California among other schools, and Rutecki is looking at Clemson and Colorado. Both would like to go into engineering, though focusing on different concentrations.

Neither thought much about swimming in college until their sophomore years.

"I didn't really think about where it could take me when I was a freshman," Brunette said. "I just wanted to get faster. I was always thinking about the next meet or making cuts for a national meet, so I didn't really think about how it could help me for college. But ... last year and some of the year before, I really started to realize it. I just didn't really make the connection - I thought I was good for Alaska, but I didn't realize that I was pretty good for the U.S., also.

"I guess I could see it sophomore year, but last year I knew for sure I could get somewhere. At usaswimming.com, you can rank yourself against all the swimmers in the nation," Rutecki agreed. "When you get up into the top 100, then you start thinking about it. That's when I kind of realized it."

Between them, they own a combined seven state championships so far, but state gold isn't what drives them - it's the time that counts.

"Winning state isn't really a big deal for me," Rutecki said. "When you get to the next level of swimming, you can easily tell how good you are because the time says everything. Swimming is just your time. I started off making cuts in Junior Nationals and I thought that was a big deal, and I was more proud of that than winning state.

"Winning or losing isn't where it's fun for me to swim," he continued. "It's more about bettering myself. I've always found that to be fun. When I see the time drop and seeing other people drop time, that's what I like. I like watching other kids win more than I like winning because they really care about it, and it makes me happy that they're happy."

Brunette said winning state as a team last year was the goal all along, and repeating is still the goal that everyone expects them to achieve. But he's always looking forward.

"It was a good motivater," he said. "Right now, my vision is more on the national meets and how I'm going to do in college. State is important, but it's more of a step into the meets that we're planning on going to."

"If we don't win, it will be really bad on our part," Rutecki added. "We would have to do something really wrong."

Both agreed that the future for the program at JDHS is incredibly bright.

"I think we'll probably win state even after all of the seniors leave," Rutecki said. "All of the upcoming kids are going to be pretty fast, too. They'll definitely have a good chance to win state again."



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