Some championship hurdlers count their steps from the starting block to the first barrier, some between hurdles, and some, well, some just attack.
“My form is really bad,” Welling said, standing on the infield after her record run. “So I just book it between the hurdles.”
Naomi Welling attacked the 300-meter hurdles at Saturday’s Region V Track & Field Championships on the TMHS oval, setting a new Southeast record time of 46.56 seconds, eclipsing the mark set by Juneau-Douglas High School’s Sara Parsons in 1995 (47.20).
The eight hurdles were barely obstacles for the red-haired runner.
“I just try to get there as fast as I can,” Welling said.
Welling, launched at the first hurdle from five feet away, her lead leg slightly bent to reduce time over the barrier’s height, her heel narrowly clearing the upright, her trail leg tucked in horizontally and flat to minimalize center-of-gravity deviation from normal sprinting and reduce time spent flying through the air.
As Welling’s lead leg began its descent, she forced a strong downward push, enabling her trailing leg’s knee to come up under her armpit in front of the chest and recover energy lost in flight.
And then she did it seven more times until her slight weight broke the electric timer and the numbers left behind were the fastest in the state on that day.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Welling said. “But wow, a great feeling. The first big step for the school. I am really excited for next week, to get up north with those girls.”
While Welling’s run was the only Region V record set during the two-day meet, there were numerous outstanding performances.
Ketchikan senior Kelton Thompson was the leading male point scorer for 4A athletes, taking first in all three of his individual events: the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and the 400 meter dash.
“Thank goodness,” Thompson said. “It is pretty amazing. I came out here my sophomore year and I was getting my butt kicked, and I didn’t like that so I have been practicing hard ever since. This is the greatest moment ever.”
After the Ketchikan boy’s 4x400 took first place by a large margin, Thompson, who ran the anchor leg, went across the finish and straight to each of his teammates, praising them for their efforts.
“A few were doubting themselves in the beginning,” Thompson said. “I was just trying to get into their heads and pump them back up. They came out here and just smoked them. They did so good, I am just so proud of them.”
Juneau-Douglas’ Riley Moser topped cross-town rival Kahlil English in the 1600 meters 4:37.52 to 4:38.72.
“I feel really good,” Moser said. “Kahlil and I, we just push each other and it helps us both do really good, we usually go back and forth all the time.”
Said English, “This was definitely the most fun race of the season. I am so happy Riley is doing track and not soccer.”
English would take the 800 in 2:06.73 and the 3200 in 10:08.72 with Moser second in 10:11.24.
Kayhi’s Alexis Crellin won the 400 and upset Thunder Mountain’s Maddie Hall in the 800, winning by a show length at the finish, 2:32.49 to 2:32.68.
“This is my first time at regions,” Crellin said. “I like to try something new and that is what track is too me this year. It is great to end the meet that way. I feel really accomplished and can’t wait until state.”
Crellin also nipped JDHS’ Kaitlin Fagerstrom in the 400 by a slim 1:03.15 to 1:03.63.
Hall ran away with the 1600, taking a 5:32.67 stroll around the track while teammate Katie Jones hit a personal best of 6:04.00 for second. Hall also won the 3200 in 11:26.62 with Jones second in another PR of 12:52.16.
The Falcons Jenna Luhrs won the discus with a 105-foot-plus throw. She holds the state’s unofficial top mark of over 110-feet.
“I was really just focused on winning,” Luhrs said. “Because last year I didn’t win regions. I wasn’t really focused on the big throws, but just getting that first place. For state I will work more on getting those big numbers out there.”
TMHS’ Joe Ia set a school record in the 110 hurdles, Nick Bursell in the high jump, Hall in the 3200, Tompkins in the 100 hurdles, the 4x800 girls (Emilyanne Lohrey, Hall, Estie Dawson, Jones).
But the meet may have belonged to Welling, who also won the long jump and triple jump and was a member of the 4x200 winning relay team with Ava Tompkins, Ashlynn Kay and Jenna Luhrs.
The state record for the 300-meter hurdles was set by Chugiak’s Laura Kelly in 1994. That time is 44.93. Kelly won the event in three straight state championship meets.
Welling’s time puts her ahead of 16 state champions since 1985. It also puts her behind 17 state champions, but not by much; just a bent leg, a heel clear, and a trailing knee.
(See the complete meet results beginning on Page B3).