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This weekend two Juneau swimmers will compete on the national stage while 37 others face their first state-wide test of the season.
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Juneau-Douglas High School juniors and Glacier Swim Club members Sara and Melissa Bogert will travel to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., to race in the U.S. Open Swimming Championships. The 16-year-old twin sisters qualified for the event at the Alaska High School State Championships on Nov. 4 and will face the nation's best swimmers starting Thursday.
"It's huge," Glacier Swim Club coach Scott Griffith said. "It's kind of the next step. Everyone so far has swam at the state level and had some experience at the regional level. This is the first national to almost international meet. ... It's the best professional swimmers, the best college swimmers. They could be warming up with Michael Phelps."
Sara Bogert qualified to race in the 50-meter freestyle while Melissa will compete in the 100 butterfly.
The U.S. Open is similar to an Olympic swim meet. There are no separate age divisions so the Bogerts might possibly go toe-to-toe with Olympians and U.S. record holders.
World record holders Phelps and Aaron Piersol are scheduled to compete while American record holders Katie Hoff, Katelyn Sandeno, Ryan Lochte and Klete Keller will take to the pool. In addition to these athletes, many top international and collegiate swimmers will be testing their skills.
"This is a best against the best kind of deal," Griffith said. "Last I saw there were about 1,000 athletes and 250 teams there and international athletes. There's at least three world record holders that I know of."
Sara Bogert's qualifying time of 23.87 seconds places her 108th out of 113 swimmers in her particular race. Melissa Bogert ranks 101st out of 115 swimmers with a 56.38 in the 100 butterfly.
Griffith said the Bogerts' dedication to their sport and desire to improve sets them apart.
"The first practice (after qualifying for the U.S. Open) I said we have three and a half weeks," Griffith said. "I wanted them to write down their one race and things to improve on. For the 50 free, she gave me a list of 26 things and the other one was more than that. The first one they both listed was 'everything.' Their desire is almost of a perfectionist.
"They love everything about it. They love the opportunity, the process. Intense and dedicated are good words to describe them and they're their own persons as well."
JDHS swimming coach John Wray will coach the Bogerts at the U.S. Open.
While Sara and Melissa compete in the Midwest, 37 other GSC swimmers will head to Soldotna for the Alaska Age Group Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday. This is the first major competition of the swimming season for GSC. The competition is for athletes 14-and-younger.
"This is my third season as coach and this group has been more focused as a whole as I've ever seen," Griffith said. "We've been swimming great up to this point."
Griffith said about 80 percent of his team posted personal-best times at the ABC Invitational meet at home on Nov. 10-12 - which served as a tune-up for this weekend's meet.
Though Glacier Swim Club will look to win races and set fast times in Soldotna, they will not be alone. GSC will join forces with swim clubs from Ketchikan, Sitka and Craig to form Southeast Alaska Swim Club. The move is designed to give Southeast's clubs, which are significantly smaller to swim clubs in Anchorage, a shot to compete in more events.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.