Spencer Holt, a sophmore, swims during Thunder Mountain High School swim team practice at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Wednesday.

Spencer Holt, a sophmore, swims during Thunder Mountain High School swim team practice at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Wednesday.

Prep swimmers set course for state meet

It’s just before 8 a.m. on a Wednesday and Thunder Mountain High School swimmer Bergen Davis stands on a bench before his teammates, who are yelling at him. It’s the sophomore’s birthday, and his young Falcons teammates chose to subject him to a grating, discordant serenade made worse, somehow, as it echoes off the walls of the Dimond Park Aquatic Center.

Across town, Juneau-Douglas swim and dive athletes gear up for class, college prep and prom on their minds. Unlike the Falcons, all of the Crimson Bears leading swimmers can currently drive themselves to first period: they’re led by a group of 11 seniors, a tight-knit group at midpoint of their best season in four years.

Both of Juneau’s teams have set their sights on qualifying for the State Championships, which take place at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center Nov. 4-5. The Crimson Bears and Falcons are poised to represent the host city well, as at the season’s midway, both teams have already posted some of the state’s best times.

“We probably have the best team in the last four years right now,” JDHS coach Seth Cayce said after a recent practice. “We’re swimming particularly well and we’re only halfway done with the season. If that’s any indication of what we’ll do at state, we’re in good shape.”

[Slideshow: TMHS Swim Practice]

As 2015’s 200-yard medley and 100 breaststroke state champ, JDHS senior Mia Ruffin can safely make the claim as Juneau’s top prep swimmer. In just two meets this year, Ruffin has already posted times fast enough to qualify her for four events at the state meet (100 butterfly, 100 freestyle, 200 free, 500 free).

“She could probably place in the top three in any event at state,” Cayce said of Ruffin.

Following Ruffin’s lead for the girls are seniors Gabi Kito (currently top 16 in the 100 butterfly, 100 free and 500 free) and Lena Kawakami (1-meter dive). Senior boys team member Aiden Seid has posted top 16 times in the 100 back, 100 breast, 200 medley.

In addition to Ruffin’s two state championships, JDHS took home gold in the girls 200 medley relay last year and placed second in the girls team overall competition. They return three of their four medley relay team members this year, replacing the graduated Eliza Chappell with Sarah Mertz.

“We’ve been putting in all the hard work and hopefully it will pay off at state,” Mertz said.

The girls 1 minutes, 55.04 seconds time in the 200 medley, set at their home meet on Sept. 17, currently stands as the state’s fastest time.

The Crimson Bears’ success this season culminated at their home meet Sept. 16-17 where they took team first both Friday and Saturday. The look forward to an away meet at Petersburg Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. They then travel to Bartlett Oct. 7-8, and to Ketchikan Oct. 28-29 for Regionals before the state meet Nov. 4-5.

TMHS swim & dive: swimming in a fountain of youth

If JDHS is peaking, TMHS is just getting started.

A groundswell of freshmen and sophomores lead the Falcons, who are particularly strong on the boys side. Sophomore boys team captain Noatak Post said he’s confident they’ll see results at the state meet, but he’s more excited for the years to come.

“What’s cool this year is that we are starting with a group that is already good and we’re looking forward to two, three good years together,” Post said.

In the state’s top 16 for TMHS are sophomores Davis (100 free, 200 free, 200 medley, 100 backstroke) and Spencer Holt (100 free, 200 free); as well as Hannah Taube (500 free) and Amber Kahklen (1-meter dive).

Davis exhibits a maturity in the water Juneau residents can only hope the new driver replicates on the road. As a freshman at last year’s state championships, he finished second in the 200 medley with a time of 1 minute, 57.24 seconds and third in the 100 breast with a 59.09.

His goal this year is to break state records.

“I want to hopefully win the 100 breast at state and I’m going for a couple state records,” Davis said.

Davis is surpassed only by Holt in the 200 free. Holt currently hold the state’s second-best time and Davis is third. Both of Thunder Mountain’s boys will chase Kodiak’s Talon Lindquist, a two-time state champion and current holder of six of the state’s fastest times.

“Having the whole state here, it’s going to be exciting. I expect some very fast swimming,” Post said.

TMHS enjoys the leadership of first-year coach Josiah Loseby. Loseby is a good fit for his young team: he’s still a student himself, albeit in college.

“Coaching is definitely my passion, it’s what I look forward to each day,” Loseby said. “I don’t believe age is a factor in ability in all situations.”

The 20-year-old University of Alaska Southeast student is a recent graduate of Thunder Mountain; his team’s lone senior was a freshman when Loseby was a senior.

Loseby has an advantage when working with younger student-athletes. “If they ever complain about anything, I can say ‘I am doing the same thing you guys are.’”

TMHS travels to Sitka Sept. 30-Oct. 1, then hosts a home meet at the Dimond Aquatic Center Oct. 14-15 before Regionals in Ketchikan Oct. 28-29.

• Contact Sports writer Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.

Spencer Holt, left, Christopher Ray, center, and Bergen Davis, all sophmores, take a break during Thunder Mountain High School swim team practice at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Wednesday.

Spencer Holt, left, Christopher Ray, center, and Bergen Davis, all sophmores, take a break during Thunder Mountain High School swim team practice at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Wednesday.

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