The Juneau-Douglas High School swim team has racked up impressive wins this season against its Southeast competition and top programs from elsewhere in the state.
But aside from the confidence instilled by those victories, the Crimson Bears' past triumphs mean little as they compete in the Region V swim meet Friday and Saturday in Petersburg with state meet berths on the line.
"We've had good practices the last couple of weeks, the kids are getting excited and our goal for this weekend is to qualify as many people for the state championships as possible," Juneau coach John Wray said.
"We want to be able to eat at the dinner table," Wray said, drawing an analogy to standing on the awards podium at the state meet. "This weekend we have to get invited into the house. That's the challenge, to take the first step this weekend."
Event winners at the Region V meet - as well as the other three regionals held around Alaska - will qualify automatically for the state meet in Anchorage on Nov. 8-9.
The next 12-fastest swimmers in individual events from all the region meets combined, as well as the next four fastest relay teams, also qualify for state - but must endure a nerve-wracking wait until state officials have compiled all the times from this weekend's meets.
In addition to eyeing state berths, the Crimson Bears also will seek to defend their Region V team titles. The Juneau girls have won 10 straight Region V titles, and the Juneau boys have won two in a row.
With Juneau socked in by fog much of the last week, the Crimson Bears changed their travel plans for getting to Petersburg. The team boarded a ferry Wednesday rather than risk a flight cancellation; Juneau already has missed two days of competition this season because of travel delays.
Wray said he hopes the 29 swimmers making the trip will look past the surrounding distractions and keep focused on the meet.
"We'll have time to catch up on sleep and get ourselves acclimated," he said Tuesday. "It's just something you deal with."
Going into the region meet, one of Juneau's strengths is its relay teams. In every relay event - girls and boys 200-yard medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle - the Crimson Bears have posted one of the top six times in the state so far this season. The Juneau boys 200 medley relay owns the fastest time in state at 1 minute, 43.32 seconds.
Individual leaders for the Crimson Bears include sophomore Paul Hughes, who has the state's best times in the 200 individual medley (2:00.94) and 100 breaststroke (59.55) this season. Hughes is among the state's top 10 in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
Junior Kirk Fishel is ranked third in the state in the 100 backstroke (57.25) and sixth in the 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley. Junior Olin Robus is fifth in the state in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.92).
Other Juneau boys with times among the state's top 10 are freshman Aaron Hughes (100 breaststroke), senior Jake Kreuzenstein (500 freestyle) and sophomore Tyler Hennon (500 freestyle).
The Juneau girls are led by junior Lisse Focht and the Potdevin sisters, senior Weather and sophomore Kelsey. Focht is ranked ninth in the state in 500 freestyle (5:34.72) and 11th in the 200 freestyle (2:04.45).
Weather Potdevin is sixth in the 500 freestyle (5:29.12) and 16th in the 200 free, while Kelsey has the state's 11th best time in the 100 backstroke (1:04.43), 14th in the 200 freestyle and 16th in the 100 free.
Freshman Claire Gross has the state's 13th-fastest time this season in the 100 breaststroke.
Juneau will send four divers to regionals, with sophomore Marnita Coenraad seeking to defend her region girls diving title.
"We all have our own individual scores we're hoping for," said freshman Lexy Wagoner, who also will dive for Juneau this weekend.
Wagoner said the anticipation of regionals has been building in the last few weeks of practice.
"We're all really excited," she said.
Sophomore Mike Kasten will swim the 100 backstroke and 50 freestyle for Juneau this weekend.
"I'm more excited than nervous," he said. "It's my very first high school region meet. I'm just trying to enjoy myself.
"For the last couple weeks we've been tapering" in training to be in peak form for regions and state, Kasten said. "We'll be ready."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
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