Coach Seth Cayce shifted his gaze to Lane 6, where Thunder Mountain High School’s Samson Anderson was making his way to the finish of the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The coach’s relay team, Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé, was two lanes over, but his attention wasn’t needed as much there with the boys title hanging in the balance at the Region V Swim & Dive Championships on Saturday. The Crimson Bears built a comfortable lead and were on the way to winning the event, but it was going to take more than that to leapfrog TMHS in the team standings at the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Aquatic Center in Sitka.
“Coming down to the last relay there I knew that we needed to win and Thunder Mountain needed to get fourth place,” Cayce said. “So we could obviously only control what we were swimming.”
That left Cayce — and the rest of his swimmers — on edge right up until the final second of the meet when Sitka’s relay team edged TMHS by 0.31 seconds for third place, elevating JDHS to its 21st Region V championship in school history. JDHS, which also won the Southeast region meet last year, finished with 134 points, TMHS had 133 points, Sitka had 78 points and Ketchikan had 77. Petersburg took fifth with 48 points, Wrangell had 29 points and Craig had 5 points.
“It was really exciting,” said JDHS junior Caleb Peimann, the anchor leg in the decisive relay and 200- and 500-yard freestyle runner-up. “I didn’t necessarily think we were going to win that meet. Last year it was definitely talked about a lot more before.”
JDHS qualified 11 swimmers for the state meet at the Bartlett Pool in Anchorage this weekend. Chaz VanSlyke (200 IM and 100 butterfly) and Tahlia Gerger (100 backstroke) automatically qualified as winners of their respective individual events. The remaining nine are on relays or swam one of the 12 fastest times (besides the winning times) at the Region III, Region IV, Region V and Region VI meets.
The JDHS boys were fifth at last year’s state meet, while the remaining three Juneau teams placed eighth or lower.
TMHS qualified 18 swimmers for state, including four relays: the boys and girls 200 medley, girls 400 freestyle and boys 200 freestyle. Like the Falcon boys, the TMHS girls narrowly missed out on a region championship, losing to Sitka 133-129.
“Regardless of what we placed, and I told the kids this too, we had an exceptional meet,” TMHS coach Josiah Loseby said. “All the kids swam really well. It wasn’t for a lack of performance on our end. It’s just the JDHS boys swam really well and the Sitka girls swam really well as well.”
It was the first regional title for a number of the JDHS freshman boys, including VanSlyke, Aaron Mulgrew-Truitt and Chris Degener. The latter two placed second in at least one of their individual events.
“They all did really well,” Peimann said. “Chaz VanSlyke, he’s going to be a really good swimmer and he performed very well. It was exciting to watch him and all these younger boys get to swim. I think they will do well at state here as well.”
Cayce described the rivalry with Thunder Mountain as a positive one. Most of the opposing swimmers grew up together in Glacier Swim Club, and Cayce and TMHS assistant coach Tyler Mickelson are former high school teammates.
“We were at tables right next to each other at regions and we help each other out in ways that we can,” Cayce said. “But at the same time it is a competition and we do want to beat the other team. There’s no negative feelings at all. If TM would’ve won … I would’ve been the first to congratulate them and shake their hands.”
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.