It didn't take long for swimming and diving aficionados to realize that something special was happening with the Juneau-Douglas High School girls' team.
With the Crimson Bears' girls team, it wasn't a question if they had enough talent. JDHS boasted skill and power in nearly every single event. It was whether a group of relatively young swimmers could handle the spotlight.
When the state championships rolled around in November, the Juneau-Douglas girls team answered that question with an authoritative yes.
The following is a recap of the Juneau-Douglas girls' successes this season.
SEASON STARTS SUCCESSFULLY IN SITKA
The Juneau-Douglas girls brought a limited roster to Sitka on Aug. 26-27 for a two-day Southeast Conference meet but still came home with first place.
This meet exhibited that the Crimson Bears' depth would be a powerful force throughout the season.
JDHS junior Julia DiCostanzo captured the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races and placed second in the 100 backstroke to pace the Crimson Bears.
Sophomore Amber Kelly helped the cause by winning the 100 butterfly and posting three personal records. She also finished second in the 100 freestyle to DiCostanzo.
Lia Heifetz won the 100 breaststroke and the 200 medley relay team of DiCostanzo, Heifetz, Kelly and Sarah Felix finished first.
BEARS UNLEASH THE BEAST
Juneau-Douglas sophomore Kristin Jones made a big splash in her season debut. She set two school records as JDHS won Sept. 9-10 in Ketchkan.
Jones posted a time of 5:11.18 in the 500 freestyle. She broke an 18-year old record in the 200 individual medley by posting a 2:12.42.
"Things went pretty doggone well," JDHS coach John Wray said following the meets. "We had the motto of unleashing the beast. We did that for sure."
Sara Bogert and Melissa Bogert, two big keys to Juneau-Douglas' run to the state title, each set new sophomore records. Sara broke the record in the 100 backstroke, while Melissa set a new sophomore mark in the 100 butterfly.
DIVING INTO THE SEASON
The divers took center stage during a Southeast Conference meet Sept. 23-24 at Petersburg.
Senior diver Tanya Trucano won the Friday competition, while teammate Hanna Davis captured first place on Saturday. Trucano scored a 166.90 on Friday, and Davis posted a 147.95 on Saturday.
In the pool, Wray experimented with his lineup by putting different swimmers in new events.
Jenna Rutecki, competing in her first meet of the season, took third place in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 freestyle on Friday. She followed by posting a personal-best 58.11 in a third-place finish in the 100 freestyle on Saturday.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Juneau-Douglas battled through its most intense weekend of the season by enduring a whirlwind tour of Cordova and Anchorage over a three-day stretch.
After winning every event except one against Cordova on Sept. 29, the Crimson Bears traveled to Anchorage the next day to take on South Anchorage and Dimond in a tri-meet on Sept. 30.
The 200 medley relay team of Sara Bogert, Heifetz, DiCostanzo and Melissa Bogert set a new Region V record on Friday with a time of 1:52.71.
"They were excited by the rushing around and in our very first event we set a new Region V record," Wray said after the weekend.
After winning the tri-meet, JDHS entered the Bartlett Invitational on Nov. 1.
The 30-team invitational meet was seen as a warm-up to the upcoming regional and state tournaments in a few weeks. The Crimson Bears' girls dominated the event, amassing 437 points. East took second with 292.
Melissa Bogert broke the Region V record in the 100 butterfly at the event with a time of 59.33, finishing second in the event.
Sara Bogert won the 100 freestyle in 55.17 while Kristin Jones took the 500 freestyle in 5:11.37, nearly three-and-a-half seconds better than her closest competition.
The 200 freestyle relay team of DiCostanzo, Melissa Bogert, Rutecki and Amanda Jones won their event in 1:43.05.
Heifetz captured the 100 breaststroke title in 1:11.298 while the 400 freestyle relay team of Kristin Jones, Amber Kelly, Sara Bogert and DiCostanzo won in 3:46.20, more than nine seconds better than second-place East Anchorage.
JDHS DOES SOME HOME COOKING
The Crimson Bears finally swam in front of their friends and family on Oct. 7-8, competing in the Juneau Invitational.
JDHS dominated the event, winning both the Friday and Saturday meets against Ketchikan, South Anchorage, Sitka, Cordova and Petersburg.
Kristin Jones continued her assault on the record books by setting school records in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle races on Friday.
Jones joined sophomore teammates Heifetz, Sara Bogert and Melissa Bogert to win the 200 medley relay with a school record time of 1:54.22.
Rutecki won the 50 freestyle in 26.09, Tanya Trucano led a 1-2-3 Juneau finish in the diving competition, Melissa Bogert won the 100 butterfly in 58.42, Sara Bogert took first in the 100 backstroke, and Kristin Jones demolished the field in the 500 freestyle by posting a time of 5:11.06 on Friday.
In Saturday's competition, Juneau-Douglas walked away with the title. Kristin Jones won the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle. She also teamed up with Heifetz and the Bogert twins to win the 200 medley relay in 1:53.33.
JDHS also won the 200 and 400 freestyle relay events.
JDHS WINS REGION TITLE
Juneau-Douglas captured its 14th consecutive Region V championship on Oct. 29 in Sitka.
The Crimson Bears amassed 154 points, followed by Ketchikan, Petersburg and Sitka.
Kristin Jones won two events, the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle. DiCostanzo won the 50 freestyle, Trucano took the diving competition, Melissa Bogert won the 100 butterfly and Sara Bogert held down the 100 backstroke.
JDHS finished either first or second in every single girls' event to run away with the title.
Juneau's golden girls won two-of-three relay championships and took second in the 200 medley.
The team of Sara Bogert, Rutecki, Amanda Jones and DiCostanzo won the 200 freestyle in 1:40.34, while DiCostanzo, Amber Kelly, Kristin Jones and Melissa Bogert won the 400 freestyle in 3:49.54. They were the only team to break the four-minute barrier in the competition.
BRINGING HOME THE GOLD
Juneau-Douglas exhibited the talent and maturity of champions on Nov. 5 in Anchorage, bringing home the first girls' state title since 1983.
The Crimson Bears captured one individual title - Kristin Jones took first in the 200 IM in 2:13.61 - but the team amassed so many points in different events that the meet's outcome was never in question.
JDHS racked up 101.5 points, 31.5 points better than second-place South Anchorage.
The 400 freestyle relay team took second by finishing in 3:39.15. The team featured Sara Bogert, DiCostanzo, Amber Kelly and Rutecki.
Tanya Trucano sealed up sixth place in the diving competition.
Melissa Bogert completed her fabulous season by breaking her own school record in the 100 butterfly, finishing third in a time of 57.56 seconds.
Bogert's 100 butterfly time and the time set by the 200 freestyle relay team placed them in consideration for All-America status. At the end of national swimming season, the National Interscholastic Coaches Association compiles the best performances in the nation.
The top 100 will then be given All-America designations.