Just days before the Alaska School Activities Association State Swimming and Diving Championship in Anchorage, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls teams spent some time trying to shave that extra fraction of a second off their times.
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Using a new machine at the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool that measures starts and relay transitions, Crimson Bears coach John Wray to take stock of his swimmer's reaction time.
The times varied from one-tenth to three-tenths of a second.
"Not to sound obnoxious, but we're doing (two-tenths of a second) and it's still two-tenths of a second faster than everyone else," Wray said. "To have this technology, it's ridiculous not to use it."
The lightning-quick times also offer the hyper-competitive team another chance to try and best one another.
One boy and one girl lined up on blocks during Wednesday's practice and took off into the water. After emerging, both immediately looked to Wray for their times. A little good-natured ribbing or a satisfied smile normally followed.
Juneau's crew at the State meet
Mackenzie Allison SR.
Josh Anderson FR.
Alex Barto SO.
Melissa Bogert SR.
Sara Bogert SR.
Mircea Brown JR.
Cody Brunette SO.
Katie Busch JR.
Seth Cayce SO.
Josh Clark SR.
Lindsay Clark SO.
Sarah Felix SR.
Lia Heifetz SR.
Kristin Jones SR.
Amber Kelly SR.
Tyler Mickelson FR.
Jenna Rutecki SR.
Nick Rutecki SO.
Allison Sharp JR.
Nathan Teal JR.
Koko Urata SR.
"This season we've been focusing a lot on that," senior Jenna Rutecki said of the starts. "It's a confidence booster because sometimes he'd be like, 'You're as fast as an Olympian.'"
Like most teams, Juneau-Douglas is in the final stages of tapering its athletes. Tapering involves light workouts so the swimmers won't burn themselves out before the big meet this weekend.
However, just because the Crimson Bears are taking it easy doesn't mean there isn't an opportunity to improve.
At last year's state championships, 10 of the events were decided by less than a second.
"Do we try to pay attention to detail? We do, because that's our philosophy," Wray said of monitoring reaction times. "The ones who pay attention to details are the ones who make their own luck."
For the Juneau-Douglas girls, this weekend's meet will be the final one for nine seniors.
The two-time defending state champs will be looking to be the first team since Dimond to win three consecutive state championships. The Lynx won state titles in 1992, 1993 and 1994.
"I'm really excited and sad because it's the last time," Rutecki said. "I think we'll do great. Hopefully we'll win again."
Wray said the girls team is trying to score points in every event.
Regardless of how the team finishes, this group of seniors will go down as one of the premier collection of athletes in school history.
"As far as here in Juneau goes, it's probably the best collection of female swimmers Juneau-Douglas and Glacier Swim Club has ever produced," Wray said. "Glacier Swim Club has to be given a large amount credit."
In the diving competition, junior Allison Sharp has a great chance to find the podium in her third state championship meet.
Sharp took second in the Southeast Conference championships last weekend and finished just 5.80 points out of first place. Last year, Sharp took fifth at the state championships.
"If Allison is on her game, if she's focused and then all things considered equal with the judging, she could be on the podium," Wray said. "What step on the podium? That's up to her."
The JDHS boys team should enter this weekend with confidence.
Sophomore Nick Rutecki, Cody Brunette, Alex Barto and Seth Cayce return to Anchorage a year stronger after helping the team place third last year.
"I think they're a lot more confident," Wray said. "I think they know what to expect. It won't be a big mystery. They know all the people they'll swim against. I think they have a level of confidence. Channeling that in the right direction is key."
Two freshmen - Josh Anderson and Tyler Mickelson - will also make the trip. The duo played big factors on the Crimson Bears' relay teams last weekend in the regional championships.
Senior Josh Clark and junior Mircea Brown also will be making their state championship debuts this weekend. Clark qualified for the 100-yard backstroke while Brown will compete in the 500 freestyle.
Junior diver Nathan Teal will be making his third appearance at the state championships. He placed eighth overall last year.
While Ketchikan's Ryan Borup is considered a favorite to win the title, Teal's experience could lead to a strong finish.
"I think he's in the mix for anywhere from second to eighth," Wray said. "After you get past (Borup), the talent is all over there. A few bad dives here and there, a few good dives here and there by different people, things could work out for him."
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