The Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain High School swim and dive teams’ home debut and finale is this weekend.
The Juneau Invitational takes place at 6 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center. The invitational is the third Southeast meet of the season. The Crimson Bears and Falcons swam in the Petersburg Invitational Aug. 31-Sept. 1 and Sitka Invitational Sept. 14-15.
Thunder Mountain coach Josiah Loseby is ready to turn the page after guiding the boys team to a state championship last year. The core of that team has graduated, and it will be challenging to rise to the same heights this season. Seniors Christopher Ray and Raymie Matiashowski are two of the top returners. Ray anchored the 200-yard medley relay to first-place showings at the region and state meets. Matiashowski also came on strong at the end of the season, and won the 500-yard freestyle in the same two meets.
“About halfway through the season something clicked and I was like, ‘You know what? I want to win,’” Matiashowski said. “I really worked my butt off and I did. It really showed me how much I can do if I want to.”
Matiashowski is focused on the same race this season. He said he cares more about improving his time (4 minutes, 52 seconds) than winning another state title. Some in-house competition from junior Micah Grigg should help him do that, whose fastest time this season (5:04) is just one second off his teammate’s (5:03).
Matiashowski and his twin sister, Selma, were voted team captains this season. Loseby said the siblings embody sportsmanship, one of the program’s core values. Senior leadership has been all the more important with the addition of nine freshmen to the team this year.
“We’re lucky to have Raymie and Selma as our boys and girls team captains but (also) just as swimmers and older leaders on our team,” Loseby said.
Kristofer Ely, Samson Anderson, Ryan Kahle and Karthik Sanguni are fresh faces on the boys side, while Riley Traxler, Jamie Heidersdorf, Jenny Chester, Teslin Smith and Nancy Liddle make up the girls freshmen class.
“They work hard and don’t complain. It’s really positive,” Selma said of the freshmen. “When everyone’s complaining it’s a lot harder to try hard, even if you think you’re trying hard.”
Juneau-Douglas has virtually the same team coming back. Fourth-year head coach Seth Cayce said his boys team have the pieces to win the region title, something that hasn’t happened since 2010. One such piece is senior Tyler Weldon. The senior captain has posted top-10 times in the 50 and 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, according to statewide rankings released last Thursday.
“It’s definitely Sitka that’s going to be our competition,” said Weldon, one of 12 seniors on the team this year. “They’ve got some pretty strong seniors but we do too so we’ll see where it goes. As far as the Southeast goes — compared to the rest of the state — I’d say that we’re pretty close. Honestly, sometimes it seems like it’s just one big Southeast team.”
The team had a similarly large senior class two years ago, the last time the JDHS girls won regions.
Cayce said his other captain, Cameron Howard, will be a top freestyler and should figure in heavily to what unfolds at the region meet.
“I haven’t put too many huge goals on myself just because anything can happen,” Howard said. “But pretty much do as best I can at state.”
The Region V Southeast Swim Meet is Oct. 26-27 in Petersburg.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.