Juneau has grown accustomed to having its Crimson Bears represent the capital city at the state track & field championships, but never before have this many kids from a different school gotten the chance to run, jump and throw alongside them.
Juneau-Douglas took first place at the Region V Track & Field Championships on both the girls’ and boys’ sides last weekend, marking the 48th and 49th consecutive combined titles for the two teams.
But this year, the Falcons will be right there with the Bears with 12 athletes — seven boys and five girls — in Fairbanks after only two made it last year.
TMHS coach Scott May said while losing to Juneau-Douglas by four points on the boys’ side at the region meet was difficult, he and the athletes still standing are pleased with the year they’ve had.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished this season. It was disappointing to come up four points short (at the regional), but I think going to the state meet, we’re going to do really well,” he said. “I’m expecting to get well over 20 points, maybe even 30, which would put us as one of the top-10 teams in the state.”
Confidence is understandably high at Thunder Mountain, but the old guard, Juneau-Douglas, is heading to Fairbanks with aspirations of its own.
JDHS coach Janette Gagnon said with both teams winning the Region V meet once again — the boys in somewhat of an upset after not topping Thunder Mountain all season — things are starting to click.
“It was definitely a great way to finish off the region,” she said. “They really came together in a lot of events they haven’t done before, and that’s where all the points came from.”
The girls’ team is sending 13 to state, while the boys will bring six. Despite the low number of boys compared to previous years, Gagnon said the group looks forward to competing.
“I think in 2005 when the boys won state, they might have had only eight or nine there. So it’s possible, but, overall, they’re not ranked really high,” she said. “So we’re looking at some personal bests and maybe even school records, but I really don’t expect really high rankings as far as the team.”
As for the girls, Gagnon said she expects good things from them this weekend. She said there’s also the possibility of at least one state record being broken.
“The girls are looking at setting a record in the 4-x-100 (relay), and maybe even the 4-x-200,” she said. “Emily (Sharp) definitely has her eyes set on the 100 hurdles. She really wants to get that state record.”
Sharp set the 100-meter hurdles record at state last year (14.92), only to see it fall by two-hundreths of a second the very next day in the finals when Dimond’s Keiahnna Engle ran 14.90 to win the state championship.
Sharp’s mark of 15.39 during last weekend’s Region V meet is good enough for the third seed at state. Engle is back again with this year’s fastest time (15.13), followed closely by Bartlett’s Rosie Smith (15.14).
Andre Bunton came out of nowhere last weekend to win the boys’ 110 hurdles Region V 4A title (16.74), a race in which he’s seeded seventh for state after running it just twice in his career.
Bunton and Jesse Miller also could push the school records in the triple and long jumps, respectively, where they are seeded eighth and 11th overall. She said Karissa Jackson and Samantha Sharp also have made great strides in the 300 hurdles, despite being each other’s only real competition this year. Gagnon said she feels they will be pushed to run their best and have a great shot at setting new personal records.
Samantha Sharp said she thinks the girls’ side will have a strong showing at state, and she hopes to place well in both the 100 and 300 hurdles.
“We’re hoping our girls’ team will be pretty strong because we’re bringing quite a few girls,” she said. “My sister (Emily) and I are ranked third and twelfth in the 100-meter hurdles, and hopefully we can step that up a little bit, maybe first, second, third or fourth.”
Samantha Sharp also is seeded eighth overall in the 300 hurdles, while Jackson is the ninth seed.
Despite the Crimson Bears sending more athletes to state than Thunder Mountain, it’s the Falcons who have the highest-seeded participants, aside from Emily Sharp. The 4-x-100 relay team, which spent much of the season with the best time in the state, is seeded third overall, while the 4-x-200 team, with the same lineup, is the second overall seed. Junior Alex Tracy and seniors Donald Stokes and Josh and Ray Jones make up the two relays.
Stokes also is the third seed in both the 100 and 200, and Tracy is the second and fifth seeds in the triple and long jumps, respectively. Shayla Reeves is the highest seed on the girls’ side for the Falcons, ranked sixth in the long jump.
Thunder Mountain junior throwing captain Renier Cava said with all the success the team has had this year, people are thinking positively heading into the final — and biggest — meet.
“I think a lot of us are really excited and morale is really high. I think we’ll build on that morale,” he said. “I want to beat my personal record and hopefully get 40 (feet) up there. I’m working hard at it.
“I’d say my chances of getting there are about 80 percent.”
Cava is the 19th seed in the shot put this weekend.
The 2011 ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Track & Field Championships begin at 9 a.m. today at Lathrop High School.