Nothing stopped the Juneau-Douglas High School girls in their quest for a state title on Friday and Saturday at the State Swimming and Diving Championships at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
Not injuries, not illness, not even the other swimmers.
"They showed to themselves that they could swim with confidence," JDHS coach John Wray said. "Don't go up there scared, go up there with a purpose, with belief in themselves and in their teammates."
The Crimson Bears' girls team captured their first state championship since 1983 by racking up 101.5 points, 31.5 more than second-place South Anchorage.
Juneau-Douglas finished in at least the top eight in every single event.
"It was really exciting," Juneau's Lia Heifetz said. "We worked hard all season and it finally paid off. Everyone felt good about it."
Though the Crimson Bears won just one individual title, the consistency of the entire roster helped push JDHS to the top.
Juneau-Douglas sophomore Kristen Jones captured the 200-yard individual medley championship on Saturday in 2:13.61, one day after going to Alaska Regional Hospital following Friday's preliminary race for the 500 freestyle.
Jones, who's been battling a respiratory infection for a few weeks, fell ill after Friday's race and could not compete in her usual series of events. The sophomore delivered, however, by winning the 200 IM and swimming a leg in the 200 medley relay team that finished third in state. Jones, Heifetz, Melissa Bogert and Amanda Jones swam the 200 relay in 1:52.67.
Bogert broke her own school record in the 100 butterfly, finishing third in the event with a time of 57.56 seconds. The 200 freestyle relay team of Sara Bogert, Julia DiCostanzo, Amanda Jones and Jenna Rutecki then took third-place in 1:39.87.
Melissa Bogert's 100 butterfly time and the 200 freestyle relay time were also good enough for All-American consideration. At the end of the national swimming season, the National Interscholastic Coaches Association will pool together the best high school times in the nation. The top 100 will then be given the designation of All-American.
Sara Bogert broke the school record in the 100 backstroke with a third-place time of 1:00.85, while Heifetz took fifth place in state in the breaststroke.
Amber Kelly then joined up with Rutecki, Sara Bogert and DiCostanzo to help the 400 freestyle relay team take second place with a school-record time of 3:39.15.
"Amber Kelly had three incredible swims," Wray said. "Her 100 butterfly was a personal best. She came back a short time later in the 500 freestyle - we told her she had the ability to do that - and had a personal best. She also swam in the 400 freestyle relay and did a blazing time and took second place in the relay with another school record."
JDHS senior Tanya Trucano ended her high school carrier by taking seventh place in the diving competition on Saturday.
"It's pretty exciting," Heifetz said of winning state. "It was our goal from the beginning of the season so it feels great to achieve it."
In the boys competition, JDHS finished in third place overall and just three points behind second-place East Anchorage.
"For them to finish tied for third, three points away from the runner-up trophy, that was a solid performance," Wray said. "They did their part to boost up the girls too."
JDHS junior Kyle O'Brien won outstanding male swimmer honors for his exploits on Saturday.
O'Brien captured the 100 freestyle state title in 47.27 and won the 200 freestyle in 1:42.83, just .16 seconds off the state record.
"Kyle swam a very confident and controlled race (in the 200)," Wray said. "In the 100 freestyle, the kid he beat from Kenai (Landon Mishler) won the 50 and has more flat out speed than Kyle, but Kyle used his power and conditioning and confidence.
O'Brien also helped the 400 freestyle relay team achieve their best time of the year. The junior, along with Jon Wendel, Matt Josepheson and Japanese exchange student Yuichi Sato took fourth place in 3:24.33.
"The 400 relay was an outstanding race," Wray said. "Our foreign exchange student and two seniors ran their best swims of the year."
The 200 medley relay team of O'Brien, Josepheson, Wendel and Travis Blair took fourth at 1:43.02.
Josepheson took fifth in the 200 IM and sixth in the 100 backstroke. Wendel claimed fifth in the 100 backstroke while Travis Blair finished seventh in the 100 breaststroke.
Freshman Nathan Teal made the semifinals of the diving competition.
This is the second-straight outstanding state performance for the boys and girls swimming and diving teams. In 2004, the JDHS boys won the state title while the girls finished second by one point.
"Overall, I was happy with how the kids swam," Wray said. "They handled themselves well. They dealt with everything. They were positive. It ranks up there with last year with being a special year. This year we had more adversity, we had trials."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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