Coaches at Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain all agree that the team championship at this weekend’s Region V Track & Field Championships is going to be a matter of inches or seconds.
“Overall it is going to be a competitive meet,” JDHS distance coach Greg Frank said. “One of the reasons for that is because the 4A meet is scored as a Tri-Meet. Calculating it out, it’s very close between Ketchikan, JDHS and TMHS for the boys. So close in fact that one DQ, slip up, great or poor race can decide the region title. It becomes more about top athletes than depth.”
In the Region Meet, there are only three 4A schools. Therefore, scoring is only 4 deep. According to coaches a Tri-Meet scores 5 points for a first place, 3 points for a second and 1 point for a third in the individual events; and 5-3-0 for relays.
“If you look at the top four performances to date, for each event this year in Region V (4A) and score them out like it was a meet, you get a VERY close meet,” TMHS coach Scott May said. “With only a few points separating all three boys teams, and another close meet for the girls, with Juneau Douglas coming out ahead by about 10 points over us and Ketchikan. I’m sure that all three team’s coaching staffs are staying up late trying to figure out ways to get those valuable points. It’s going to be a great meet.”
JDHS coach Janette Gagnon pointed out that the most recent event at Thunder Mountain, the Capital City Invitational, would score out in a region championship format as the JDHS boys getting 51 points, Ketchikan 50 and TMHS 48; the girls would show JDHS with 64 points, TMHS 59 and Kayhi 25.
“As you can see, both titles will be closely contested,” Gagnon said. “So it is anyone’s guess as to how the meet will play out. Here were some very close races at the invite, so if any of them have a change in lineup or winners, then the points could change significantly. Also, we had some surprise performances at the Haines Invite, and we hope those athletes will affect the overall point totals.”
Juneau Douglas has won the Southeast Region Track & Field Championship all but two years since 1966. The last time anybody beat the boy’s team was 22 years ago, when Sitka edged them out.
“Juneau – Douglas has a great record,” May said. “And as they proved last year, they know how to win by beating our boys by four points, after we had won every regular season Invitational. It appears that the JD girls have an even longer winning streak, which spans the last 27 years.”
For teams like the Thunder Mountain Boys who have great depth, the region does not necessarily reward that, like it did at the Capital Invitational, where the scoring was 8 deep. Great athletes like Jesse Miller and David Francis, will get big points at the region meet. For anybody placing beyond 4th, there will be no points awarded.
While Crimson Bears runner Francis has the best ranked times in the region in the 1600 and 3200, he can not seem to shake the Falcons Khalil English who has finished 1 second behind.
“Both of those guys ran more aggressively and ran smarter races at the Capitol Invite two weeks ago,” Frank said. “And it’s helped both of them run their best season times. I’m expecting some very good, close races between them. For the distance boys, we’re focusing on working with the other runners in the race so they can be the best runners they can be.”
Ian Andrews (senior), Luc Browning (sophomore) and Shadd Rudick (senior) will also be very important for JDHS. If they can gain distance points in an event or two, that will be huge. The distance pack includes James Steeves (TMHS), Nicolas Wright (TMHS), Beau Albertson (KHS) and James Dodson (KHS) and all will be battling for points in the 800, 1600 and 3200 (Beau and James in the 800, specifically, are ranked 3 and 2 in the Region, respectively).
Like the boys, the JDHS and TMHS girls will be pretty close. Crimson Bears’ Martina Miller and Sarah McDermott (both seniors) will be leading the distance.
Miller can show strong in the 800, 1600 and 3200 and McDermott has been one of the hardest working athletes, and both have been juggling multiple commitments.
JDHS hopes to get a boost from a couple of athletes who have not been able to run for most of the season. First year trackster Claressa Ullmayer (senior) will be a big help for the girls this weekend. Claressa has been battling injuries but is also a great swimmer so her cardio is at a high level and she is a fierce competitor. Freshman Leah Leibelt is another strong runner.
The girl’s 800-meter race will be pretty tightly packed as Thunder Mountain’s Maddie Hall and Estie Dawson are having breakthrough track seasons. JDHS freshman Emily Wood will also get valuable region V experience.
“I’ve learned from my team this year that some things are best kept a secret,” TMHS’ May said. “And that when playing poker, you never show your hand, even to the guy next to you, who is not playing. We are preparing to mix things up a bit, and try to catch them off guard. All athletes competing for us at Regions have already competed at one point or another this year. With other commitments and some injuries, we have not all been together during any one meet yet. We are excited that as long as we stay healthy and injury free, everybody should be together for the first time at the Region Meet”
JDHS has nine captains and 17 seniors on their roster. The Falcons favor youth. Currently the Falcons’ Alex Tracy is sitting atop the state triple jump standings.
Currently the Crimson Bears have these rankings in the state according to Athletic.net:
Jesse Miller has a chance for a school or regional record in the long jump. Miller is 4th in the long jump, 6th in the 400, tied for 10th in the 100 and tied for 18th in the 200. Malik Brown is tied for 17th in the triple jump. David Francis is 6th in the 1600 and 10th in the 3200. Esra Siddeek is 18th in the 200. Karissa Jackson is topping the 100m Hurdles.
The JDHS boy’s 4x100 is 14th, the 4x200 is 16th and the 4x400 is 17th. The JDHS girl’s 4x100 is 16th, the 4x200 is 17th and the 4x400 is 17th.
TMHS has top shot putter and discus thrower Cheyenne Ekis and long jumper Shayla Reeves. The Falcons relay teams are sandwiched among the JDHS and KTN batons. For every Crimson Bears’ flash like Miller, there are fleet Falcons such as Joe Ia, Tracy and Chris Luna.
Over every Crimson Bears’ shoulder has been a Falcons athlete, all season, sometimes a step ahead, sometimes an inch behind. Add a few shots and a discus, a hurdle achieved and a tape broken and this could be the closest Region V Championships in history.
Haines will feature Devin Light (100), Hannah Wing (100), Marnie Rasmussen (400) and Serena Badgley (triple) and Sitka will have Jon De LaCruz (100, 200), Gabriella Cagle (200) and Ketchikan’s Kelton Thompson (200) to name but a few. Other’s to watch are Petersburg hurdlers Bessie Johnson and Grace Weller, Yakutat’s Tina Esbenshade and Ben Rockwood; there are even Gustavus athlete’s Nicole Wagner, Geordy Ewing, Sophie Peters, and Kenny Marchbanks
“There is an air of excitement around the school about what we’ve accomplished in just our third year,” TMHS’ May said. “We’re past the terrible twos, and ready to give Southeast Track & Field a run for their money! It should be a great weekend. I hope that lots of people come out to support all the athletes from around southeast participating in the 17 different events this weekend. I hope that for those who do make it out, that they notice the sportsmanship and positive interactions between and within all the Southeast teams. It’s a great sport with a great Juneau history, and we look to this weekend for some fun, suspense, and excitement, as anything can happen and usually does.”
Event and starting times will be posted when made available.