The Juneau-Douglas High School track and field team nearly wasn't represented at this weekend's Skyview Invitational, one of the state's largest regular-season meets.
But the Crimson Bears are glad three distance runners and a coach scraped together enough bonus miles to make the trip to Soldotna.
Led by junior Tristan Knutson-Lombardo's sweep of the three distance events, the three Crimson Bears took fifth place out of 22 teams in the boys' half of the meet. Sophomores Tyler and Wesley Dinnan also competed in the distance events for Juneau.
The Kenai Central boys won the meet with 78 points, followed by host Skyview with 66, Palmer with 60 and Kodiak with 58. The Juneau trio scored 50 points, six points more than the Crimson Bears scored with a dozen runners last year. Sitka didn't score in the boys meet.
In the girls meet, Soldotna won the title with 132 points. Colony took second place with 94 points, followed by Kodiak with 62 for third place. Sitka took 13th place with seven points. Juneau did not have any female athletes at the meet.
"We're particularly excited because with Jason (Lunasin, a senior sprinter-jumper), Toni (Talamai, a senior sprinter-thrower) and our sprint relays, we're right in there," Juneau coach Scott May said. "Tristan won everything - the 3,200 (meters), 1,600 and 800 - and all three made finals."
There was a lot of wind during Friday's 3,200-meter race, so the Crimson Bears held back at the start and tried to let the other runners shield them from the wind gusts as much as possible.
Knutson-Lombardo didn't take the lead until halfway through the race and went on to win in 9 minutes, 58.41 seconds. Peter Doner of Colony took second place in 10:05.44, followed by Wesley Dinnan in 10:10.59, defending state champion Stig Yngve of Kodiak in 10:10.69 and Tyler Dinnan in 10:15.33 for fifth place.
"They ran smart races," May said of his three runners. "Tristan didn't lead until halfway through, and they tucked themselves in as much as they could, then used the backstretch to make their moves with the wind behind them."
In Saturday's 1,600 meters, Knutson-Lombardo again won the race but the story came behind him. During the second lap, Yngve accidentally stepped on the back of Tyler Dinnan's shoe, popping it off his heel. Dinnan limped through about half a lap, then kicked the shoe into Lane 5 and finished in fourth place wearing one shoe and one sock.
Knutson-Lombardo won in 4:32.16, followed by Yngve in 4:35.87 and Doner in 4:36.73. Tyler Dinnan finished in 4:41.62, followed by Wesley Dinnan in 4:42.97.
"That was a very nice field," May said.
In the 800 on Saturday, Knutson-Lombardo won in 2:02.31. Mick Boyle of Kenai took second place in 2:04.13, followed by Tyler Dinnan in 2:04.90 and Doner in 2:05.63. Wesley Dinnan finished in seventh place in 2:09.82, just missing out on scoring points (only the top six finishers scored team points).
"Last year we had 44 points, and Ernie (Monts) won the 100," May said. "This year we had 50 points with just three kids."
Sitka sent eight athletes to the meet, but only two of them scored team points. Dianne Chong took third place in the girls long jump with a leap of 14 feet, 11 1/2 inches, while Joy Ribao took sixth place in the 100 with a time of 14.15 seconds.
The Crimson Bears will host most of the top Southeast track and field athletes in the Juneau Invitational this weekend. Events tentatively will start at 2 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday. The meet is the largest regular-season meet in Southeast Alaska.
The Juneau Empire sports desk can be reached at email@example.com.
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