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Juneau-Douglas High School swimming coach John Wray celebrated his birthday Friday, but the Crimson Bears waited until Saturday to give him his presents.
The Crimson Bears gave Wray a pair of trophies after they swept the boys and girls team titles in the Region V swimming and diving championships Friday and Saturday at Juneau's Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool. The boys championship trophy was Juneau's first in four years, while the Crimson Bear girls won their ninth straight title.
"Yesterday was John's birthday and when we asked him what he wanted, he said he wanted two trophies," Juneau sophomore Martha Kaiser said.
"The two trophies are John Wray's birthday present," Juneau sophomore Jake Kreuzenstein said. "You know next year he's going to want more."
While the Juneau girls were prohibitive favorites to win their team championship, the Juneau boys expected a close four-team battle in their half of the meet. The boys even hung a banner above their bench that said, "Last 4 Events: This is what it's all about."
Juneau's girls had too much depth for any of the other teams in their half of the meet, and they cruised to a 124-74 victory over second-place Petersburg, with Ketchikan third with 43, Sitka fourth with 38 and Craig fifth with 10. Complete results are on the Scoreboard, Page B2.
Water warriors: diver Derek Hirai of Sitka spins toward the water during the diving event on Friday.
The boys meet came down to the final few events, with Juneau claiming a 97-87 victory over Sitka, followed by Ketchikan with 72 points for third and Petersburg in fourth with 49. As the boys lined up for the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, Juneau led Sitka by eight points, a safe lead provided Juneau didn't suffer a disqualification in the event.
"We thought we were right there," Kreuzenstein said. "We didn't know what the team score was, but we knew it would be really close. The last four events have hurt us in past years, and this year we just dominated."
"It was a bigger spread than I thought it would be," Wray said of the final score.
The tale of the boys meet had a twist in the opening event, one that made a difference as the rest of the meet played out.
After Juneau upset top-seeded Petersburg in the boys 200 medley relay, winning by just 0.12 seconds, Petersburg junior Jon McKay punched a wall and broke the fourth metatarsal bone in his right hand. McKay had been the top-seeded swimmer in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, as well as a member of Petersburg's top-seeded 200 free relay team, but his injury meant he had to scratch from the rest of his events.
"There's always next year, I guess," McKay said after returning from the hospital with a cast on his hand.
Making waves: Crimson Bear junior Forrest Preston posts the top preliminary time in the 200-yard freestyle on Friday.
With McKay out, Juneau's other top competitors saw their chances to win the team title improve. Ketchikan's Ben Voetberg won the 200 IM and Sitka's Kieran Jacobson-Ross won the 100 breast, but the Crimson Bears were able to find enough points in other events to hold on for the overall victory.
Juneau junior Forrest Preston won the 200 free and the 500 free, with Kreuzenstein taking second place in both events, and senior Chad Walter won the 100 butterfly to lead the Crimson Bear boys. Also, in the 200 medley relay, Walter and Reid Harris swapped legs so Walter swam the butterfly instead of the anchor freestyle. Kreuzenstein opened with the backstroke, Jeremy Carpenter swam the breaststroke, followed by Walter and Harris.
"We swapped because we thought it would be faster if I did fly," Walter said, adding that the change also matched him against Petersburg's Derek Carlson in the leg (Carlson later won the 50 free and the 100 back). "Reid did awesome."
"We would have improved our time either way," Harris said after Juneau's relay set a season-best time by four seconds.
Preston said the opening relay victory, followed by his victory in the 200 free, got Juneau off to the start it needed in the boys meet. But he also felt the Crimson Bears needed points in every event, even the final relay.
"That last relay, we just knew we had to beat Sitka," Preston said. "Going in, I knew Jake would be with me in my races. It's so close between all the teams, and that'll make a difference."
There were also some top performances from other Juneau swimmers who, while they didn't win events, they finished better than they expected. Among those pleasant surprises were second-place finishes by freshman Kirk Fishel in the 200 IM and the 100 free.
"I think all our other good swims were helping," Fishel said. "We came out and got rolling with that first event."
"We pretty much did what we had to," Juneau senior Jeremy Carpenter said after taking fourth place in the 100 breast, narrowly missing a victory in the closest finish of the meet. "It would have been nice to win."
Carlson, who was the only Southeast swimmer to win a state championship last year, and he made the choice early on that he would defend his 50 free title and try to win Petersburg's fourth straight state championship in the event. But it wasn't until late last week that he chose his other individual event, picking the backstroke over the butterfly even though he's been ranked in the top three statewide in both events.
"They were all right," Carlson said of his times. "My back felt good, and I had my best time in two years. It should be quicker next weekend."
In addition to Jacobson-Ross' win in the 100 breast, Sitka picked up victories from Derek Hirai in the diving event and Ricky Jarvill in the 100 free. Hirai was an easy winner in the diving, and he finished within 20 points of the region record despite picking up no points on his final dive of the night. Sitka also won the 200 free relay.
"That last one was supposed to be a front 2 1/2, and I've never done it well in this pool," Hirai said of the failed dive. "I didn't have a very good take-off, and I wasn't rotating the way I was supposed to. It would have been nice to break it. I would have broken 400 had I completed that dive (the region record is 393.55 points and Hirai finished with 374.80). I've got another shot to break the record at state."
In the girls meet, Juneau picked up a surprising victory in the 200 free by freshman Lisse Focht, who upset Sitka's Alexis Will who'd broken the region meet record in the event during Friday's preliminaries.
"She'd just swam the (200 medley) relay before it, and I was fresh," said Focht, who added that the home-pool advantage helped. "I saw everybody lined up cheering. Yesterday I was a body length behind, and that's the closest I've been to her. Everybody was pumped up today."
Juneau also had victories from senior Christina DiCostanzo in the 200 IM, senior Kylie Manning in the diving, Kaiser in the 100 free and freshman Heather Harris in the 500 free with a meet record. Juneau's 400 free relay team of Annie Fox, Weather Potdevin, Focht and Kaiser also claimed a victory.
"Kinda, yeah," Harris said when asked if she was surprised by her victory and record, which came with Focht taking second place and Potdevin third. "Coach Wray told me to just get a low 30 or high 20 (Harris' winning time was 5:29.89). We were side-by-side. This is a PR by 10 seconds."
Petersburg picked up girls victories from its 200 medley relay team, Amber Beardslee in the 50 free, Teri Jo Hasbrouck in the 100 butterfly, Erin Schwartz in the 100 breast and its girls 200 free relay team. Will won the 100 back for Sitka and was the only non-Juneau or Petersburg winner.