ANCHORAGE - The Juneau-Douglas High School boys swim team won its second state title in three years on Saturday, and this time the Crimson Bears don't have to share.
With just six swimmers seeing action during this weekend, the Crimson Bears held off the Kodiak Bears to win the title at the state swimming and diving meet Friday and Saturday at the Bartlett High School Swimming Pool. It was Juneau's third state title (in 1984, 2002 and 2004), and the second time the Crimson Bears have won it with just six swimmers. They also won with six in 1984.
The Juneau boys won the 200-yard medley and 400 freestyle relays, while Kyle O'Brien won the 500 free and Q Smyth claimed the 100 free to lead the Crimson Bears. The other title claimed by a Southeast swimmer went to Sitka's Matt Way, who won his second straight 100 breaststroke championship.
"There's no words to describe the amounts of elation I feel right now. This is indescribable," Juneau senior Tyler Hennon said after Juneau's 400 free relay team of O'Brien, Hennon, Abe Levy and Smyth clinched the team title with a victory over Kodiak in the meet's final event. "I'm a senior and this is a perfect way to end my high school swimming experience. Personally I'd have liked to do better, but if I had to choose between an individual title and the team title, I'll take the team trophy. I'm so proud to be a part of this team."
"This is awesome," O'Brien said, as Levy led team cheers in the background.
Juneau led by three points entering the final relay, and Kodiak gave the Crimson Bears a good run for the title. For Kodiak to win the crown, it needed to either finish first while Juneau was second in the relay, or finish at least two places ahead of Juneau without winning.
The Crimson Bears' victory gave Juneau 86 team points, while Kodiak finished second with 79. Lathrop took third place with 58 points, followed by Sitka with 45 and South Anchorage with 38. Ketchikan finished seventh with 35 points, while Craig finished in a three-way tie for 20th place with two points.
The Crimson Bears opened the meet on a strong note, as the quartet of O'Brien, Hennon, Levy and Smyth rallied from fourth place on the third leg and third place starting the final leg to claim their second championship in the event in three years.
"I was looking at that. I thought we wouldn't have the lead when it got to me," said Smyth, who swam the anchor leg for Juneau. "We seemed to do well in this medley relay. We wanted to get the ball rolling."
"That was pretty exciting," Levy said. "We wanted to get the ball rolling because there are going to be a lot of races like that."
O'Brien finished second to Kodiak's Greg Rose in the 200 free and Hennon followed with a third-place finish in the 200 individual medley as both Juneau swimmers posted personal records. In the 50 free, Smyth took second place to Service's Jared Jaime, also in a personal record time.
The Crimson Bears had a slim lead in the team points standings entering the diving event (Juneau and Kodiak had no male divers in the finals), which was won by David Arlington of Anchorage's Pacific Northern Academy with Ketchikan freshman Ryan Borup second. Arlington and Borup both used to be teammates on a club team known as the Chugiak Divers, and they were an obvious level above the other divers in the field.
"I felt great. I felt I'd done the best I could," Borup said. "I had a shot at him (Arlington) the whole time. He's gotten a lot better. I'm very happy with what I did."
After the diving, Levy took seventh place in the 100 butterfly, which was won by Jaime.
Smyth claimed the title in the 100 free, with Way taking second place. It was the first individual state title for Smyth, who also has been on three state champion relays over the years.
"I thought I'd be a 48, and my goal was to go under 48 (seconds)," Smyth said of his 47.96, a personal record, before looking ahead to the final relay. "I've got one race left, and I'll try to make sure I go faster than that."
In the 500 free, O'Brien beat Kodiak's Ryan Bateman with Hennon taking third place as all three swimmers broke the five-minute mark. That solidified Juneau's lead in the team standings, especially since the Crimson Bears had just one swimmer left before the final relay. Juneau also didn't have a 200 free relay team, and Kodiak won that event over Sitka's quartet of Ben Adams, Ben Campen, Alex Dailey and Way to close the gap in the team standings.
"That was awesome, a PR (personal record) by 5 1/2 seconds," O'Brien said of his winning time of 4:50.32. "I was hoping to go right there (4:50)."
"That took it all out of me," said Hennon, the boys team captain.
Juneau's only individual swimmer left in the finals was Matt "Zippy" Josephson in the 100 backstroke. Josephson finished fourth to earn five valuable team points, even if he did get knocked back a spot when Ketchikan's Jon Wendel took a surprising third place even though he'd been the eighth seed in the finals.
Way won the 100 breast with a time that was nearly two seconds faster than his winning time last year. James Seley of Craig took seventh place to score his team's only points.
"This year I wasn't in first place (in the state's rankings) for a couple of weeks," said Way, who played baseball most of the summer and didn't swim. "But it was easier this year. I was swimming to win. Last year I was swimming to keep (Juneau's) Olin Robus from winning. I was kind of disappointed our team didn't do a little better."
Then it was time for the grand finale, as Juneau led Kodiak 68-65 entering the 400 free relay. Lathrop took the early lead, but Hennon put Juneau ahead in the second leg. Lathrop, East Anchorage and Kodiak were either a little ahead of Juneau or within a second after the third leg, when Smyth hit the water. He recorded a final 100 split of 47.29 to give the Crimson Bears the victory.
"For the guys, I thought they had a really good chance to win it," Juneau coach John Wray said of his pre-meet prediction. "As soon as Abe hit the wall in the 400 (relay), I knew we had it."
State meet results can be found here. Additional photos from the meet will run later this week in the Empire.