The Juneau-Douglas High School girls' swimming and diving team has a very realistic shot at winning the state championship this weekend at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
But JDHS coach John Wray doesn't want to talk about it.
"We talked about three things this week - no expectations, have fun and swim against yourself," Wray said. "If we race hard and rested, and swim hard and loose because we're having fun, we'll see what happens."
The Crimson Bears' girls team finished one tantalizing point shy of a state title last season.
Even though the team is a year older, they are still mostly sophomores and juniors. Wray believes they're too young to saddle them with high expectations.
"If they want to look at it, that's fine but I'm not going to make a big deal about it," Wray said of the state girls' title. "If I'm going to look at it, I want them to look at it with confidence."
How the team emotionally deals with their expectations will remain a mystery until the whistle sounds for preliminary races today. But the team is certainly talented enough to make some very loud noise in Anchorage.
For a complete list of who's competing at state, check out http://www.asaa.org, click on swimming and diving then click on state qualifiers.
"I think we had six school records among the girls during the course of the season," Wray said. "Two new relay marks. A while there in the 200-yard freestyle relay, we broke that record three times with different combinations of girls."
The team boasts talent across the board in the swimming and diving events.
Juneau's girls will have at least one representative or relay team competing in every event.
Sophomore Kristen Jones has been among Juneau's most consistent swimmers, though Wray said she still battling an illness.
"She's very talented and has a lot of confidence," Wray said. "But we're facing an uphill issue right now because she's still sick. Whatever she's got, it's straining her. We'll see what happens. One redeeming thing is that it's not her senior year."
Fellow sophomores Melissa Bogert, Sara Bogert, Amber Kelly, Lia Heifetz, Amber Kelly and Jenna Rutecki will also represent Juneau-Douglas in a variety of swimming events.
Junior Julia DiCostanzo qualified for the 50 and 100 freestyle, while fellow junior Amanda Jones will make the trip to Anchorage.
The girls' diving team qualified four different athletes as seniors Tanya and Holly Trucano, sophomore Hanna Davis and freshman Allison Sharp will all compete.
"They're a lot more focused than they were earlier in the season," JDHS diving coach Cathy Tide said. "Some are looking consistent, which is important in diving."
For the boys, it would take perfection and a lot of help to capture a second-straight state title. Despite the long odds, the boys' team boasts enough talent to bring home some individual and relay hardware.
Junior Kyle O'Brien, the 2004 state champ in the 500 freestyle, has qualified for the 100 and 200 freestyle events and will also compete on the relay teams.
"He seems pretty upbeat," Wray said. "He knows he's going to have a couple tough races. I think he's kind of quietly confident but there's no forgone conclusions. He has this ability a lot of adult athletes would love to have and that's being able to rise to the occasion on race day. When the big races are on, that spark turns on."
Senior Matt Josepheson will compete in the 200 individual medley. Josepheson will also race with senior teammate Jon Wendel in the 100 backstroke, while Travis Blair will swim in the 100 breaststroke.
JDHS freshman Nathan Teal will compete in the state diving championships despite having picked up the sport just 10 weeks ago.
The boys team will also send relay teams in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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