ANCHORAGE - The last time a female Southeast swimmer won an event at the state swimming and diving meet was seven years ago.
That winless streak ended Saturday when Juneau-Douglas High School freshman Kristin Jones won the 500-yard freestyle at the Bartlett High School pool. With the victory, Jones became the first Southeast swimmer to win an event since 1997, when Juneau's Jesie Lewis won the 50 free and was earned her second award as the state's female swimmer of the year.
"That was half a lifetime ago," said Jones, who is 14 years old. "I'd be 7, and I'd be a year away from starting swimming."
If that wasn't enough, two other long winless streaks ended for Southeast girls.
Abbey Jackson won the first girls state title in Petersburg high school swimming history when she won the 100 backstroke, and Juneau won Southeast's first girls relay state title since 1985 as its 400 free relay team of Kelsey Potdevin, Sara Bogert, Julia Dicostanzo and Jones closed out the meet with a victory.
Ketchikan almost got into the act, too, as Elizabeth Jagusch came close to ending the Kings' event winless streak that goes back to 1980 when she took a brief lead in the 100-yard breaststroke before fading to third place.
The two victories for Juneau helped give the Crimson Bears their highest team finish in more than two decades, as Juneau took second place just one point behind the Service Cougars. The last time the Juneau girls finished among the top two teams in the state meet came when they won their only championship in 1983.
Service won the title with 90 points, followed by Juneau with 89 and 2003 champion Lathrop with 86 points. East Anchorage took fourth place with 59 points and South Anchorage rounded out the top five with 56. Petersburg, which won its third team academic award in four years, took 10th place with 15 points, while Ketchikan was 12th with nine points and Sitka finished 16th with one point. Juneau won the team title in the boys competition.
"Not to belittle what the boys did, but the girls getting second place is more of an achievement than the boys winning," Juneau coach John Wray said. "I thought the boys had a pretty good shot at winning, but the girls I thought might get third on a good day. That 400 free (relay) was totally, totally incredible. I didn't expect that."
The Crimson Bears - largely freshman and sophomores - were hoping their depth would carry them to victory, and it nearly did. Juneau didn't have the top seeds in any events entering the state meet, but in two events - the 500 free and the diving event - with four entrants, the maximum allowed. Juneau also had all three of its relays qualify for state, and the relays count double points.
"It's exciting because we haven't done that well in recent years," said Potdevin, a senior and the girls team captain. "We've got a lot of freshmen, and they don't know how unusual this is."
The Crimson Bears started slow, as they finished fourth in the 200 medley relay to open the meet, then Jones took fourth in the 200 free with freshman teammates Bogert and Amber Kelly seventh and eighth. Service won the two opening events to jump out to the early lead in the team standings.
Freshman Melissa Bogert, Sara Bogert's twin sister, took sixth place in the 200 individual medley, then Potdevin finished fourth in the 50 free. Senior Marnita Coenraad was the only diver to reach the finals, finishing fifth. Coenraad, a four-year state meet qualifier, struggled with her first two dives before finding her form in the semifinals. Melissa Bogert reached the podium in the 100 butterfly, finishing fourth.
The 500 free started Juneau's run for the title. Jones led two of her teammates onto the podium, as Sara Bogert took third place and Kelly finished fourth. Those three finishes gave Juneau 20 team points.
"We all made it onto the podium," said Jones, who dropped 8 1/2 seconds off her seed time and 3 1/2 seconds off her personal best. "I didn't feel like I was going beyond what I could do. An eight-second drop, I hadn't dropped time for a year."
Service extended its lead when it won the 200 free relay, with the Juneau quartet of Dicostanzo, Kacey Klein, Jenna Rutecki and Jones finishing fourth. And Lathrop's second-place finish in the relay put the Malemutes into second in the team standings.
Potdevin had the fastest preliminary time in the 100 backstroke, but in the finals Jackson and Lathrop's Jamie Bratten both pulled ahead on the last lap to drop Potdevin to third place.
The Crimson Bears didn't have anybody in the 100 breaststroke, so they entered the final event of the meet in third place. Service led Lathrop by 17 points and Juneau by 19, but the Cougars didn't have a team in the 400 free relay. The only way Service wouldn't win the team title would be if Lathrop won the relay.
Juneau opened the event with Potdevin grabbing a slight lead, then turning it over to Sara Bogert, Dicostanzo and Jones. They not only held onto Potdevin's lead - they increased it.
"Kristin and Sara both did 54s. They were crazy fast," Potdevin said of the splits turned in by Jones and Bogert. "You can't lose it (the lead) because once you have it, that's special."
"The first seed was only a second faster than us, so we thought we'd have a chance at it," Dicostanzo said. "When I dove in, it was about even."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
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