The Juneau-Douglas High School track and field team may be missing some of its star power from last year, but the Crimson Bears hope they can make up for the lost stars with big numbers as the 2003 season gets underway today and Saturday with the Sitka Invitational.
The Crimson Bears lost several runners who scored state meet points for them to graduation and family moves. Plus, another couple of hopefuls decided not to turn out this season - namely senior Loreen Tupou, who won the state discus title as a sophomore and took second in the shot and third in the discus last year.
But the Juneau runners, jumpers and throwers are optimistic this season because the Crimson Bears have one of the largest squads in school history.
"I had to tell 16 people who were eligible that I couldn't take them to Sitka," said head coach Scott May, who plans to take 30 athletes to the Sitka Invitational. "Normally we only have 25 or 26 who are eligible for this meet. We had over 60 people come out for track."
The preseason roster for the Crimson Bears lists 67 athletes, and May (distance runners) will be assisted by coaches Guy Thibodeau (jumps, relays), Kevin Hamrick (throws) and Krista Williams (hurdles). The Juneau roster includes 20 freshmen and 17 sophomores, which means the nucleus is there for future years.
"There are a lot of new people, and a lot of freshmen look fast," said senior co-captain Rachel Chenoweth, who finished third in the girls 300-meter low hurdles at state last year and is Juneau's top returning state-meet point scorer.
"There are a lot of new kids, lots of them," added senior Molly Krehlik, who finished seventh at state in the girls 3,200 meters. "I think it will be interesting. Lots of kids went out (for the team), but a lot of our state guys left. We'll know more after Sitka and Skyview (April 25-26)."
The Crimson Bears, as usual, will be strong in the distance events with several runners from the cross-country running team running track. Even with the loss of state-meet scorers Jesse Stringer (graduation) and Bryce Iverson (family move), the distance corps should be one of Juneau's strengths.
Besides Krehlik, other runners who should do well in the distance events include senior co-captain Gabe Hayden, sophomore Tristan Knutson-Lombardo (ninth at state in cross country), sophomore Greg Frank and freshman twins Wesley and Tyler Dinnan for the boys, with senior Phoebe Rohrbacher, freshman Jaci Hayden, sophomore Stephanie Joyce and freshman Jordan Moser scoring points for the girls.
"The distance team, we've got a lot of good people," Gabe Hayden said. "Everyone on the distance team has been working all winter. We still look good. I don't know if we'll speed up during the season."
"It's actually really exciting," Knutson-Lombardo said. "We've got a lot of new guys and we might be able to put together two 4x800-meter relay teams. We did a lot of recruiting around the school, and we look a lot better than I thought we would."
Chenoweth will lead Juneau's hurdlers, but they won't be able to show their stuff in Sitka since Sitka doesn't hold the hurdle events during its lone home meet. Many of the team's hurdlers won't be announced until before the Skyview Invitational later this month.
"We're not doing the hurdles in Sitka, but maybe that's a good thing," Chenoweth said. "It takes a little longer to get into them. I'm getting prepared for the season. I just want to have fun this year, and hopefully win the 300. I went to camp again this summer, at BYU (Brigham Young University) and I learned a lot of form. I know what I need to do."
When she's not running the hurdles, Chenoweth will join the sprinters. Sophomore Heather Bennett took sixth place in the 100 meters and seventh in the 200 last year, while freshmen Sophia Smith, Claire Gross, Gwenn Miller and sophomores Elizabeth Stickel and Mary Rehfeld will lead the girls sprinters, with help from seniors Abby Lawson and Meghan DeSloover.
"I know what to expect this year," Bennett said. "I was sick last year at state, I was puking. Staying healthy will be big. I was so tired and I wasn't eating right. I'm excited to be racing Sophia."
Senior co-captain T.J. Mason, who went to state in the 4x400-meter relay last year and in the 200 the year before, will lead the boys sprinters. Other top boy sprinters include seniors Ernest Monts, Leo Winn, Geoff Meyer, Robert Vicario, Tevita Talamai, juniors Efitoni "Toni" Talamai, Brian Felix and sophomore Greg Chilton.
"I think it looks pretty good," said Mason, who battled a knee injury last year and hopes a healthy season will allow him to qualify for state in the 200 and 400 meters. "I'm pretty stoked about my 400. We've got a lot of guys out who didn't run last year. Leo and Ernie are running, and so are Toni and Tevita. There should be some good scoring there."
Tevita Talamai will lead the jumpers and throwers this week, with help from his brother Toni and Vicario in the throws. In the boys long and triple jumps, Tevita Talamai will be joined by Toni Talamai, Monts, Chilton, sophomore Michael Kasten, Vicario and freshman Andrew Capacci. Capacci and Chilton will compete in the high jump this week.
Juneau won't have any throwers this week for the girls, but they will be strong in the jumps. Rehfeld, Miller and Lawson will compete in the long and triple jumps, with Stickel also doing long jump. Rehfeld and Gross will do the high jump.
The Crimson Bears will host one regular-season meet - the Juneau Invitational on May 2-3 - and they also will host the Region V meet on May 16-17 at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.