ANCHORAGE -- Juneau-Douglas High School swimmers Paul Hughes and Jake Kreuzenstein showed up for the state swimming and diving championships with hair faded to pink after the chlorine in the Bartlett High School Swimming Pool bleached the red die they used on their hair.
Forrest Preston wore his trademark Superman t-shirt, draping a red towel over his back like a cape. He also wore a camouflage bandana given to him by Juneau assistant coach Marc Bucat in honor of the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. Bucat, a former Marine, also led the team in a chant of "Gung Ho," before the meet started.
"It's team spirit," Hughes said after the Juneau boys swim team finished fourth in the team standings with 55 points. "High school swimming is fun. Club swimming takes me farther, but this is a lot more fun."
"I think we're doing really good," senior Christina DiCostanzo said as the Crimson Bear girls took 10th place with 21 points, the top finish for a Southeast girls team. "This is one of our best years ever."
The Dimond Lynx won the boys team title with 74 points, edging second-place Lathrop's 70 and third-place Service's 69 points. Ketchikan took fifth place with 51 points, while Petersburg was eighth with 32 and Sitka took 10th with 24 to round out the boys teams from Southeast. Dimond also won the boys team sportsmanship award, with Valdez posting a 3.63 team GPA to win the academic award. Lathrop's Hunter McAllister was voted the outstanding male competitor of the meet.
The Service Cougars easily won the girls meet with 144.5 points, followed by Soldotna with 59.5 in second place and Dimond with 57 in third. Petersburg took 13th place with 9.5 points, while Sitka was 16th with four points, Craig was 17th with two points and Ketchikan didn't score. Sitka won the girls team sportsmanship award, with Petersburg posting a 3.94 team GPA for the academic award. Service's Rachelle Kula was the outstanding female competitor of the meet.
Juneau's top individual finishers were Hughes, a freshman, and sophomore Kirk Fishel, who took second place each in the 100-yard breaststroke (with a time of 1 minute, 0.21 seconds) and the 100 backstroke (56.73 seconds), respectively. Hughes also took second place in the 200 individual medley (2:01.50).
"I tried my hardest," Hughes said of his 200 IM finish. "I got a PR (personal record) by two seconds. I cruised it in the preliminaries, just to get in. I hope to win it (the 100 breast), but all I can do is try my hardest."
Fishel took fifth place in the 200 IM, and he said he was feeling "kind of bummed" by his performance. He felt better after his 100 back.
"I felt like after the first leg, I'm not going to take anything from these guys," Fishel said. "We're doing a lot better than last year."
Many of the Crimson Bears made comparisons to last year's performance, when Juneau felt it didn't swim up to expectations. This year, the Crimson Bears were excited to do better, especially since some of their better swims came from underclassmen.
"I'm excited for next year," said sophomore Olin Robus, who took seventh place in the 100 breast. "Since last year I've dropped three seconds on my time, and I want to see what I can do next year. We're also excited since last year we kind folded a little at state."
While Juneau's top finishers were from underclassmen, there were some outstanding swims by older Crimson Bears.
Preston took fifth place in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:52.15, plus he added a fifth-place finish in the 500 free with a time of 5:00.16. Kreuzenstein, a junior, took seventh place in the 500 free, while junior Martha Kaiser was eighth in the girls 100 free. Sophomore Lisse Focht took sixth in the girls 200 free with junior teammate Weather Potdevin eighth in the same event.
"It was awesome. I went from seventh to fifth on the last leg (of the 200 free) and I touched them out," Preston said, adding a similar sentiment to his swim in the 500 free. "It was awesome. It was great. It was a good swim to finish with. It would have been nice to break five minutes, but it was a nice way to go out."
Juneau's girls 200 medley relay team of DiCostanzo, Robyn Grayson, Kaiser and Annie Fox took fifth place, while the girls 200 free relay team of Fox, Kelsey Potdevin, DiCostanzo and Heather Harris took eighth place. But Juneau was most excited about its sixth-place finish in the 400 free relay, as the team of Weather Potdevin, Focht, Fox and Kaiser broke the school record with a time of 3:51.11.
Juneau's boys 200 medley relay team of Fishel, Hughes, Robus and Kreuzenstein took fifth place, while the Crimson Bear boys 400 free relay team of Fishel, Kreuzenstein, Preston and Hughes closed out the meet with a fourth-place finish after being seeded eighth entering the meet.
The only event winner from Southeast was Ricky Jarvill of Sitka, who won the boys 100 free in 49.33 seconds. Jarvill said he was motivated by his fourth-place finish in the 50 free, an event he's held the state's top time in all season.
Other top finishers from Southeast included a second-place finish in the boys 200 medley relay by the Petersburg team of Jon McKay, Alec Schramek, Josh DeGayner and Brenton Coon; a second-place finish by Ketchikan's Joey Rauwolf in the boys 50 free; a third-place finish by Petersburg's TeriJo Hasbrouck in the girls 100 butterfly; and a pair of second-place finishes in the boys 200 free relay and the boys 400 free relay by the Ketchikan quartet of Rauwolf, Nick Rosenfeld, Ryan Seaver and Ben Voetberg.
Complete results will run on the Juneau Empire's Scoreboard page later this week.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.