It's an environment that can easily devour an unprepared athlete.
From Friday to Sunday, the Speedo Alaska Age Group Swimming Championships at the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool was a cacophony of whistling, yelling and announcements. Parents and teammates stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the steamy building shouting words of encouragement.
The races rattled off one after the other for 10-to-12 hours at a time, as more than 300 swimmers competed for state championships.
Fortunately for Juneau's Glacier Swim Club, the 8-to-14 year old swimmers were well-prepared and delivered masterful performances.
GSC claimed third place overall at the championships, finishing behind champion Alaska Pacific and second place Northern Lights. Glacier Swim Club also won the best-time percentage award. The honor meant GSC had the highest percentage of team members who set new personal bests. More than 80 percent of the swimmers set new marks.
"What impresses me just as much with these kids is that they swam so well every day," GSC coach Scott Griffith said. "We had a two-hour break each day and an hour of that was warm-ups. Most of the kids were here from 7 to 7 at night every day, swimming races and they kept getting faster and faster. I'm worn out and I expected the kids to be dead and they just kept pulling it out."
Cody Brunette helped lead the way for GSC by winning the individual point title in the 14-year-old division.
The eighth-grader at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School amassed 45 points and won five events. In addition to winning the 100-yard backstroke, 400 individual medley, 200 IM, 200 breaststroke and 100 breaststroke, Brunette took second place in the 200 butterfly and the 200 backstroke.
Not bad for a swimmer who had some misgivings before the meet.
"Then I came to the meet and I saw the people I had to race were like two feet taller than me," Brunette said. "Then I went and pretty much won all my races. I did a lot better than I thought I would."
In addition to Brunette's impressive performances, the 13-year-old duo of Seth Cayce and Nick Rutecki took second and third, respectively, in total points.
Cayce took first place in four different events, while Rutecki claimed the 100 backstroke title and finished second in five other races.
Despite the grueling three-day schedule, the team showed grit throughout the weekend.
"I'm kind of used to it but for a three-day meet all weekend long swimming in the pool is hard," Cayce said. "It gets tiring."
The 13-and-14-year-old boys 200 freestyle relay team of Rutecki, Cayce, Brunette and Alex Barto took second at 1:40.82. The foursome also took second in the 400 freestyle relay, finishing in 3:38.86.
Cody Schick set a new 12-year-old club record in the 200 backstroke by finishing in 2:19.73, good for second place. Schick also joined Nathan Messing, Tyler Mickelson and Josh Anderson to win the 200 freestyle relay race in 1:52.27.
For the girls, 11-year-old Auri Clark tied for fifth in the 10-and-under points list. Clark won the 400 IM in 5:40.22 and took second place in the 100 breaststroke and 200 butterfly.
Cassie Anderson, 12, made six finals appearances and finished third in the 50 butterfly, while 11-year-old Kerry Barto took third in the 50 and 200 backstroke races.
Lindsay Clark, 13, made six finals appearances; 12-year-old Elsa Robinson took third in the 200 breaststroke; and the 400 freestyle relay team of Clark, Robinson, Anderson and Katy Goodell took third in 4:18.11.
"We had a heck of a meet," Griffith said. "I told the kids the first day to swim with confidence and enthusiasm and by far this is the best meet we've had as a team since I've been coaching."
In addition to the remarkable efforts in the pool, the Glacier Swim Club parents and volunteers did a solid job of hosting the event.
With people from throughout Alaska descending on Juneau for the weekend, it was up to the volunteers to make sure the meet ran smoothly.
"That's a huge part of it," Griffith said. "It's every parent on our team putting in time, running the meet, preparing for the meet, concessions, setting up, timing, it's thousands of volunteer hours. We got quite a few compliments on how the meet was run."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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