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After back-to-back runner-up and three top-three finishes the last three years, the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears girls' track and field team is ready to see what the view is like from the top of the 4A mountain.
"They've been second two years in a row now, so they definitely have their eye on moving up," said new head coach Janette Gagnon, who took over the reigns after six years as an assistant at JDHS. "We've got more girls in all the different events, so we're hoping to fill out our team a little better to where it's more rounded out so that we can get some points that we missed out on last year."
The boys' team is looking to reload after a 17th-place finish at last year's state meet.
"We have quite a few back. We graduated a lot of boys, but we seem to be getting a lot of new boys this year, and they seem to be pretty well-rounded," Gagnon said. "We've got a lot of boys for different events, and that's been a struggle in the past.
"I'm looking forward to seeing if they can mesh," she continued. "We always get kids coming out as juniors and seniors, but we do have a lot of freshmen and sophomores. We're looking forward to a couple years of building with the boys. It would be nice, overall, if they can do better than last year because it's somewhat of a rebuilding year."
The season begins today at the Ketchikan Invitational.
The girls have several candidates to run sprints, such as returnees Emily and Sam Sharp, Maya Rieselbach and Annette Highley, and newcomer Esra Siddeek, who was a strong sprinter in middle school last year, Agnon said.
"And we have a lot of girls fighting for a relay spot or the final spot on a second relay, and that's always nice when we are deep enough to have a couple relays."
Karissa Jackson and Lily Burger-Pothier will be counted on to handle middle distances, along with several other candidates.
The girls' have the top distance runner in the state in Stanford-bound senior Leah Francis, the defending state champion in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
"We also have some good backups with Lily, and Alice Ottoson-Mckeen is strong," Agnon said. "And Mary Gianotti has always done cross country, so she will be a nice addition to the team."
Several candidates are in line for the three jumps - long, high and triple.
"We have Emily Sharp in the high jump, and Cassie Orbistondo in the long jump and high jump, and a lot of other girls trying it out and showing a lot of potential," Gagnon said. "We just don't know yet. It will be interesting to see where their potential takes them. A lot of them have had too many events to even think about trying jumps in the past."
Annette Highley is the girls top thrower in both the shot and discus.
"We're hoping to have a couple more (throwers), but that's been one of our weaknesses is girls not willing to come out and throw the shot or disc," Gagnon said.
For the boys' team, Zane Chapman is one of the top returning sprinters and throwers, and there are several new comers in line to get a shot at the short-distance races, such as the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
"A lot of the rest of the guys are new," Agnon said. "It will be interesting to see where boys' sprinting goes."
The mid-distance to distance crews are mostly made up of the same kids. Robin Woodby returns with after recovering from a neck injury suffered in a car crash during the hockey season, and Zach Bursell, Dawson Walker and Andre Bunton also will be key contributors. David Francis also returns after an injury last season.
Jesse Miller and Bunton will be counted on to score points in the jumps.
"And we have a couple others just trying it out this year for the first time," Gagnon said. "John Nichols is looking good, and Christian Parker and Brandon Lumbab are showing some promise in both the sprints and the jumps. We'll see how they round out."
Agnon said both Bears' squads will be strong in the region, as always.
"I think we're more well-rounded than we have been in the last couple of years, and we're aiming for the top," she said. "But it's always individual and personal records that we really focus on and really want to improve over the next couple of weeks."