The Juneau-Douglas High School swimming and diving teams begin their quest for Region V titles today and Saturday in Sitka.
Today's preliminary events begin at 6 p.m. and continue at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Blatchley Middle School Pool, where 24 Crimson Bears swimmers and five divers will make their charge towards the state meet.
The Juneau girls will be heavy favorites in their pursuit of 10 straight region titles. The Juneau boys, however, will likely find it much harder to win their second title in a row.
"The girls are a very strong favorite to win," head coach John Wray said. "The boys have to be considered the favorites, but it ain't no slam dunk."
However, with legitimate chances for the both Crimson Bears squads to show well at next week's state meet at Bartlett High School, Wray says he will be holding something back at regions.
"We have to stay with our focus -- the state meet," Wray said. "We don't want to spend all our gunpowder this week, so we can have a bigger blast the next week at state."
Wray's training program this year has been set up for his swimmers that should easily qualify for state to peak next weekend at the state meet. The rest of the swimmers have been put on a training schedule that sets them up to peak at the region meet, giving them their best chances to qualify for state.
"For some of the kids, we're looking for their best times of the season," Wray said. "We're tapering a little less than half of the team. They're going to have to swim very well at regions to qualify."
Sixteen athletes in each event qualify for state with the winner in each of the state's four regions receiving an automatic bid. The rest of the slots are filled with the next 12 fastest times of all the combined region meets.
This leaves several swimmers in a state of limbo until state officials can compile the results and determine the state qualifiers on Sunday.
"We're looking at this meet as not just regions, but the qualifying meet to get a ticket to state," Wray said. "If I have to get 17 plane tickets for next week, I'll be ecstatic."
Junior Martha Kaiser, who won four individual events at the Juneau Invitational Oct. 19-20, doesn't want to wait through the weekend to find out if she qualifies for state in her events.
"I want to win," Kaiser said. "It just depends on who wants to win the most. I'll just have to swim past the pain. It's really important to swim fast now to get a good seeding when we get up north. That's when it counts -- at state."
"We're hoping to get qualifying times this weekend so we can perform our best the week after," Wray said. "If the kids perform well, we'll do well."
Several Crimson Bear swimmers and divers continue to be ranked among the state's best in their events.
For the boys, freshman Paul Hughes leads the way with the state's second-best time in the 100 breast (1 minute, 0.44 seconds), fourth in the 200 medley (2:04.28) and seventh in the 100 free (50.99). Sophomore Kirk Fishel is third in the 200 medley (2:03.82) and fifth in the 100 back (57.71).
Senior Forrest Preston is fifth in the 200 free (1:52.90) and sixth in the 500 free (5:06.07). Junior Jake Kreuzenstein is fourth in the 200 free (1:51.96) and seventh in the 500 free (5:06.08), while sophomore Olin Robis is sixth in the 100 breast (1:04.78). Junior Ryan Stidolph is the team's top diver with a score of 182.00 points, good for 13th in state.
The girls are led by Kaiser who is eighth in the 100 back (1:03.79) and 11th in the 100 free (56.03). Sophomore Lisse Focht is ninth in the 500 free (5:34.26) and 11th in the 200 free (2:03.08) while junior Weather Potdevin is 10th in the 500 free (5:34.84).
Senior Liz Brooks (170.30 points) and freshman Marnita Coenaard (163.95) are ranked ninth and 11th, respectively in one-meter springboard diving competition.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.