ANCHORAGE - All it took was one event for the Juneau-Douglas High School girls swimming and diving team to reinforce the fact that it was the state's most dominant program.
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The Crimson Bears opened Saturday's Alaska School Activities Association State Swimming and Diving Championships by setting a new state record in the 200-yard medley relay and romped to a second-consecutive state title.
The JDHS girls amassed 140 points, almost twice second-place Service's total.
"There's no words to describe it," JDHS junior Kristin Jones said. "After the first race I just burst into tears because there are so many things. We've worked all season for today."
The quartet of Julia DiCostanzo, Lia Heifetz, Melissa Bogert and Sara Bogert won the 200 medley relay title with a state-record time of 1:48.93 - breaking Service's 3-year-old record of 1:49.32. The Bears won the event by nearly three full seconds and earned automatic All-America status with the time. Melissa Bogert said the team started to think about breaking the state record after posting a region-winning time of 1:51 last week. Bogert and her teammates hard work took care of the rest.
"It was great," Melissa Bogert said. "I was really exited. We're real pumped up to get it."
The victory seemed to have a snowball effect for the JDHS girls. After winning the relay race, Bogert captured the 200 freestyle title in 1:55.54 on the very next event.
"I'm very proud, I have no other way to put it," JDHS coach John Wray said of his team, "I knew we were going to start fast in those medley relays and in the 200. I've always loved getting out the chute fast and playing head games with the rest of the teams."
The Juneau-Douglas girls dominated the relay events, winning the 200 and 400 freestyle races as well. Numerous Juneau-Douglas girls lit up the scoreboard with personal bests and tremendous finishes. Melissa Bogert took second in the 100 butterfly, Sara Bogert took second in the 50 and 100 freestyle races while Kristin Jones placed second in the 200 individual medley and competed in perhaps the meet's most exciting race by taking second to East's Meghan Cavanaugh in the 500 freestyle.
Jones and Cavanaugh, a three-time All American, enthralled the crowd by dueling neck-and-neck throughout the entire race. Cavanaugh had just enough left in the tank in the final 50 yards, however, to pull out a one-second win.
Amanda Jones took second in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 100 butterfly; Jenna Rutecki placed sixth in the 50 freestyle; Amber Kelly was third in the 100 butterfly; Sarah Felix was fourth in the 100 butterfly; Heifetz placed fifth in the 100 breaststroke and DiCostanzo took sixth in the 100 freestyle.
By placing so many swimmers in so many different events, JDHS rolled to the title. Juneau-Douglas even scored in the diving competition as sophomore Allison Sharp placed fifth overall. JDHS coach John Wray, named the girls coach of the year, lauded new diving coach Jamie Miller with helping Sharp reach her potential. "Wray also credited assistant coaches Carrie DeMay and Scott Griffin, along with trainer Stephanie Yates, for getting his team ready to compete throughout the season."
"At the very beginning, she forced the divers to not do easy dives," Wray said. "Allison Sharp was 13th or 14th last year and was a deer in the headlights. Now she was fifth and the four girls in front of her were all seniors." Juneau-Douglas led an impressive girls contingent from Southeast Alaska.
While Ketchikan didn't challenge for a team title, the Kings made their mark. Kayhi's Laura Miller was named the meet's most outstanding female swimmer after winning the 100 freestyle title and setting a new state record in the 50 freestyle with a winning time of 23.82. Ketchikan's Elizabeth Jagusch won the 100 breaststroke in a state-record time of 1:05.61.
Juneau-Douglas will have a legitimate shot at a third-straight state title next season as it returns the bulk of this year's squad. For the graduating seniors, like Amanda Jones, they'll leave the Juneau pool with memories and friendships they will treasure.
"It feels really good but I'm really sad at the same time because it's my last year," Jones said. "But it was really fun."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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