The Crimson Bears have no reliable race times, throwing distances or leaping marks after more than a month of practicing indoors, but don't question if they want to get outside for a meet yet.
The Juneau-Douglas High School track and field teams will head into Ketchikan's third annual meet to open their season a week later than planned today and Friday against Southeast foes Sitka, Petersburg, the hosting Kings and possibly Haines.
Sitka's scheduled season-opening meet was canceled a week ago due to wet track conditions and KayHi's meet seemed doomed to a similar fate until co-coach Scott May received a phone call early Monday morning.
"They finally said they were going to go ahead with the meet - it was real touch-and-go there for awhile," May said. "Last year there were 40-mile-per-hour winds and torrential rain. It was by far the worst weather I've ever experienced as a coach. None of us have great memories going back there."
The team will brave the elements, although the boys squad will be decidedly short-handed on sprinters. Three of the team's top five short-distance racers will miss the season's first meet due to injuries. Seniors Jake Pernula, Josh Smith and Rey Delacruz will miss out on their planned 100- and 200-meter events for the Bears, further dwindling the numbers for an already short-handed boys side.
"The numbers for the boys are definitely down on the boys side," May said. "We've got some good depth with the girls, but not so much with the boys. We've still got some quick kids ready to go, though."
Regardless of numbers, May says he still feels confident that his team can continue the Region V winning streak that has brought his team both the girls and boys titles every year since 2002.
The girls' depth is exactly what helped the JDHS girls place second at the State Championships a season ago, and the squad brings back both of its top performers. Junior runner Leah Francis heads that group after sweeping the 800, 1600 and 3200 titles in 2008. The one-girl wrecking ball of team points appears poised to repeat the feat in 2009 after capturing her third-straight cross country championship last fall in dominant fashion.
Senior Kristie Ely also returns to defend her state high-jump title from a season ago, while hoping to move up from her second-place showing in long jump.
Katie Krehlik also returns after finishing second behind Francis in the 3200.
The boys lost their top individual finisher from a year ago - Eric Bickmore who placed second in the 100 sprint - to graduation, and May is as yet uncertain of who will step up in his absence.
"It's been a tough year. We haven't been able to do any time trials or jump in a pit and we're throwing discs into nets," May said. "We don't know what our strengths are going to be. This first meet is going to give us some answers that are impossible to give right now."
In all, 81 athletes make up this year's JDHS team, including 20 seniors and 26 juniors who make up the largest class. On the boys side, May pointed to Jeff Cordle and Robert Partin as a pair of midclassmen who could emerge as threats while working an odd mix of events - throwing and sprinting. Cordle will be picking the 100 back up after a strong showing in 2008 and will add shotput, the 800-meter relay and the 400-meter relay to his schedule. Partin will throw both the discus and shotput while running the 100 and 400 relay.
May also expects young distance runners Andre Bunton and Zach Bursell to lead the boys' youth movement after both had strong showings during the cross country season.
May also pointed out sophomores Emily and Sam Sharp as the "hurdlers extraordinaire" who he expects to lead the younger girls in the 300- and 100-meter events.
"I'm excited to see their improvement already," May said. "We were able to put up some hurdles indoors and they've been working real good."
While May and co-coach Jeanette Gagnon are simply hoping for every athlete to get a personal record in their events this weekend - the team's traditional emphasis that often overrides overall finishes in celebration. Of course, having some reliable hard data for each athlete on a real course will also be a nice change this spring.
"It's just not about winning for us," May said. "If each kid goes out and gets a personal record, that philosophy will lead to success in other areas."
The Crimson Bears will continue their season with the biggest meet of the year, outside of state, at Skyview April 24-25. A whopping 21 teams are expected to show up at Skyview and May said it will be good indicator of where his team stands early in the season.
May will actually leave the team from Ketchikan on Friday to follow a race of his own - the 113th annual Boston Marathon.
"I'm really excited about that but I'll be back on Tuesday to get ready for Skyview," he added.
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