Juneau-Douglas High School's Forrest Preston donned a 'Superman' T-shirt around Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool while waiting for his events Saturday at the Juneau Inivitational ... and rightly so.
Preston broke out of his Clark Kent shell and was Juneau's top performer, sweeping the 200- and 500-yard freestyle on Friday and Saturday night as well as swimming legs of two winning relay teams. The rest of the schools from Southeast did not have the kryptonite to slow Preston down, or the rest of the Crimson Bear swimmers for that matter as Juneau swept the invitational in dominating fashion.
On Friday, the Crimson Bear boys scored 135 points to second-place Sitka's 69. Petersburg placed third with 50, edging fourth place Ketchikan, who competed with just five swimmers, with 49. Haines finished fifth with five points.
The Juneau girls won Friday with a whopping 163 points, easily outdistancing second-place Sitka with 59 points. Ketchikan place third with 57 and Petersburg and Craig finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Saturday's results were much the same with Juneau boys winning with 132 points, far ahead of Sitka with 55 points. Ketchikan placed third with 49 and Petersburg was fourth with 44 points.
The Crimson Bear girls won again on Saturday with 149 points, while Sitka placed second with 57 points. Petersburg scored 55 for third and Ketchikan scored 52 points for fourth, while Craig place fifth with 10 points.
Preston is the reigning Region V champion in both the 200 and 500 free and placed sixth in the 500 free and seventh in the 200 free at last year's state meet.
By sweeping his events at the Juneau Invitational, he showed the rest of the Southeast that he's once again the man to beat. But it hasn't been easy for the senior co-captain to get back to where he was last season.
"I had quite a slow start," Preston said before the meet. "I took a lot of time off after last season and did a lot of other stuff other than swimming. I played a lot of Ultimate Frisbee."
Preston said his 'Superman' shirt was actually his team uniform for his Ultimate Frisbee team during the summer. However, when Preston got back to swimming, he knew he would have his work cut out for him if he wanted to stay on top.
"At the beginning of the season, all the other kids were so much faster than me," Preston said. "But John (Wray) said just keep up what you're doing and it will come."
John Wray, the Crimson Bears head swim coach, hints that he always knew Preston could come back from his time off of swimming.
"He's always had the potential," Wray said, "As hard as he can train and the way he built up his endurance -- that was it. He's a senior in his last home meet. He wanted to make a statement."
Preston's times have steadily improved over the season. His time of 1 minute, 52.90 seconds in Friday's 200 free was his best of the season and would have been good enough for fifth in last week's best times in the state.
Preston also improved his time in the 500 free, coasting to victory in 5:06.07 on Saturday, ahead of teammates Tyler Hennon (5:12.15) in second and Jake Kreuzenstein (5:20.44) in third.
"I felt really great in the water," Preston said. "It's easier when you're out in front. I just try to stay really relaxed -- that's the key for me."
Preston wasn't the only Crimson Bear to have a great performance. On the girls side, Juneau junior Martha Kaiser won four individual events as well as swimming legs on two winning relay teams.
Kaiser won the 100 free and the 100 back on both nights and also swam the first leg of the winning 200 free relay on Friday and the anchor leg of the 400 free relay on Saturday.
"I've been working really hard," Kaiser said. "Last week, I felt great and this week being at home and sleeping in my own bed, really made a difference."
Junior Weather Potdevin won the 500 free on both nights as well as swimming on three winning relay teams. Sophomore Lisse Focht won the 200 free on Saturday after placing second in the event on Friday and also swam legs on three winning relay teams.
Senior co-captain Annie Fox won the 50 free on Saturday, upsetting Craig standout Shona Pierce, who has the Southeast's best time in the event this year.
Sophomore Robyn Grayson won Friday's 200 individual medley and sophomore Natalie Hale won Saturday's 100 butterfly.
Sophomore Kirk Fishel won the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke, as well as swimming the opening backstroke leg of the winning 200 medley relay on Saturday. Fishel also swam on two winning relay teams on Friday.
Finally, freshman Paul Hughes continued his impressive swimming by winning the 200 individual medley on Friday and sweeping the 100 breast on both days.
Hughes has the second-best time in the state in the 100 breastroke and improved his time in the 200 medley by over a second with a time of 2:04.28, which would have been good enough for the state's third best time according to last week's rankings.
Juneau's diving squad gave a good showing despite having no competition from the other southeast schools. Junior Ryan Stidolph was impressive for the boys, winning both days with a season-high score of 182.00 on Friday.
Senior diver Liz Brooks also had her best performance of the season on Friday with a score of 170.30, putting her near the state's top ten. But freshman Marnita Coenaard came out on Saturday with her best performance, winning with a score of 163.95, which could also put her close to the state's top 10.
In all the Crimson Bears won 15 of the 24 events on Friday and 16 events on Saturday. However, much of the fan excitement came from the Juneau swimmers who did not win events.
Several personal best times were swam over the weekend and the Crimson Bears were able to field up to four relay teams for some races, giving everyone on the team a chance to compete in front of the home crowd.
"On one hand you should be thinking that it's late in the season and they should be tired," Wray said about the surprising fast times swam over the weekend. "On the other hand, it must have been a combination of home cooking, home bed and home pool. All the swimmers got pretty focused to perform."
The rest of the Southeast schools could not compete with Juneau's depth, but did add some excitement to the invitational.
Sitka senior Ricky Jarvill kept his title as the state's fastest swimmer by sweeping the 50 and 100 frees. His longtime rival, senior Joey Rauwolf of Ketchikan, holds the state's second-best time in the 50 free and came up just short of Jarvill on both days.
"I set a couple of school records last week and I was just trying to swim faster and faster," Jarvill said after his races. "The last two years in my sophomore and junior years, me and Joey have been going back and forth, but he always catches me in regions. Hopefully, I can get him this year. He hasn't beat me yet this year."
Sitka girls standout Alexis Will won the 200 free and the 100 fly on Friday and the 200 individual medley on Saturday, but her quest for four individual wins was lost when Kaiser defeated Wills in a highly contested 100 back on Saturday by a mere 0.33 seconds.
The Crimson Bears take a week off before the Region V meet in Sitka on Nov. 2-3.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at email@example.com.
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