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Throughout the season, the Juneau-Douglas High School swim and dive team has been gradually building a wave of success. And today, the Crimson Bears hope the wave doesn't break too early as they swim preliminary rounds of the 2001 State High School Swimming and Diving Championships at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
The Crimson Bear girls were once again the dominant team in Southeast and easily won their 10th consecutive Region V title last weekend in Sitka. The boys started a bit slow, taking third in the first Southeast meet, but steadily improved through the season and won their second-straight region title by a respectable margin.
However, a sweep of the region titles was not a priority for the Crimson Bears. They had their sights set much higher - the state meet.
"We look at regions as just a qualifying meet for state," Juneau-Douglas High School head swim coach John Wray said before last week's competition. "We have some swimmers who are tapered for regions, but most won't taper their training until next week for state."
Wray's strategy paid off. His team qualified 20 swimmers for the state meet, nine boys and 11 girls in 30 events and five relay teams.
"Twenty kids, that's the biggest thing," Wray said after the Crimson Bears' final practice at Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool on Wednesday. "A lot of them won't swim on Saturday, but that's not the point. It would be great for some of them to make the finals. I just want the kids to feel satisfied."
The swimmers are excited.
"It's so awesome we have so many people that are going," said junior Martha Kaiser, who will be competing individually in the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard freestyle. "It wasn't really a surprise. We have a really good team this year."
"This is it. This is my last meet," said senior Forrest Preston, who will represent Juneau in the 200- and 500-yard freestlye. "Some of us didn't swim as fast as we wanted to at regions, but we weren't shaved and tapered either. I'm feeling a little pressure, but I'm trying not to. It's just going to be a lot of fun."
Although a state team title is the ultimate goal, Wray doesn't think it is a reach for his teams - at least this year.
"If the boys finish fourth or fifth, it would be more than I expect," Wray said. "For the girls, top 10 would be outstanding. I don't want to downplay my team, but most of our points are coming from freshman and sophomores. What they achieve this year, I want them to build on that potential for next year. If we can swim some personal bests and not swim scared, like they did last year, I'll be happy."
Juneau's best shot for an individual title will likely come from freshman Paul Hughes, who holds the state's second-fastest time in the 100 breaststroke this year. Hughes also swam the fourth-best 200 medley this year while sophomore Kirk Fishel holds the state's third-best time.
"He (Hughes) understands he's got a shot," Wray said. "He's pretty savvy for a 14-year-old."
"It'll be good experience," a modest Hughes said. "I'm feeling some pressure, but I figure I got three more years after this one. I'm just going to try to improve on my times."
After the region meet on Saturday, only the winner of each event was assured of qualifying for state. The rest of the athletes had to wait until the ASAA compiled the next 12 fastest times of scores from the state's four region meets.
In addition to Preston and Hughes, the Juneau boys individual qualifiers are: senior Greg Albrecht (diving), junior Guy Barnes (500 free), junior Jake Kreuzenstein (200 free, 500 free), junior Ryan Stidolph (diving), Fishel (100 back, 200 medley), sophomore Olin Robus (100 breast) and freshman Tyler Hennon (200 free, 500 free).
The Crimson Bear boys also qualified in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.
In addition to Kaiser, the Juneau girls individual qualifiers are: senior Liz Brooks (diving), senior Christina DiCostanzo (200 medley, 100 back), senior Annie Fox (all relays), junior Weather Potdevin (200 free, 500 free), sophomore Lisse Focht (200 free, 500 free), sophomore Robyn Grayson (100 breast), sophomore Heather Harris (200 free, 500 free), sophomore Natalie Hale (100 fly), freshman Marnita Coenraad (diving) and freshman Kelsey Potdevin (50 free and 100 fly).
The Crimson Bear girls also swept the relay events at the region meet where they earned an automatic state bid in each.
Preliminary races of individual swimming events begin at 4:30 p.m. today. On Saturday, diving preliminaries begin at 9 a.m., followed by final competition for all events at 3 p.m.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org