The Juneau-Douglas High School track teams will be in for some tough competition today and Saturday at the Skyview Invitational at Skyview High School in Soldotna. Preliminaries will be run today and the finals will take place on Saturday.
Two weeks ago, the Crimson Bear girls won the Sitka Invitational, outscoring Ketchikan, Sitka, Gustavus and Mount Edgecumbe, while the boys finished a close second to Sitka.
"We're going to be up against some tough competition at Skyview," head coach Tracy Rivera said. "All of the peninsula schools will be there as well as all the Anchorage schools. It's going to be like the state meet."
Although Rivera thinks his squads are improved from last year, he doesn't think the Crimson Bears will be as competitive against the larger Anchorage-area schools.
"Our main goal is to get the teams to compete on a good track." Rivera said. "Our track is not the best but the new football field has helped us a lot, but we still have to get on the track to gain experience."
The boys team will be paced by junior co-captain Jesse Stringer. Stringer, who runs the distance events for the Crimson Bears, won all three of his races at the Sitka Invitational on April 6-7, and looks to be the team's best hope for a top finish at Skyview.
The boy's other co-captain, junior Alan Floresca, did not compete at Sitka, but will be one of the Bears' top hurdlers. Sophomore T.J. Mason probably will be the team's top sprinter, according to coach Rivera.
"Stringer is pretty tough," Rivera said. "He ran a 4:38 all by himself in practice this week and he should be around 4:30 by the end of the year and he'll be in the low 2:00 in the 800 (meter run). He's gonna be right up there in the top 10 at the state meet this year."
In the jumps, basketball players Aaron Larson and Clay Brown will put their leaping abilities to good use. Larson placed in the top five in all the jumping events at Sitka, including a second place in the high jump. He placed fourth in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump.
"Aaron is splitting his time with baseball," Rivera said. "He practices with us when he can."
The girl's team will rely heavily on its distance runners. Senior Brandy Weston and sophomore Molly Krehlik each placed in the top three in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs at Sitka. Weston won the two-mile and placed second in the mile and 800-meters while Krehlik finished one place behind Weston in all three races.
Junior Annie Fox is the girl's top high jumper and placed surprising second in the long jump in Sitka.
"I never long jumped before," Fox said. "I found out the day before that they wanted me for it. It was fun doing something I haven't done before."
The Crimson Bears girls' standout will be senior sprinter Adriana Rodriguez who won the 100 and 200 meters, as well as anchoring the winning 4x100 relay team at Sitka.
"Adriana is tough in the sprints," Rivera said. "This weekend will be her big test."
"She's (Rodriguez) amazing." Annie Fox said, "I know her legs are hurting her but she gets things done. She's the leader of the team and she takes charge."
With just one month until the state meet at Palmer on May 25-26, the Bears have few chances to see how they will match up against other schools. After next week's Juneau Invitational, the Bears will have just one more meet until the Region V meet on May 18-19 in Juneau.
Rivera says one of the best things about this year's squad is the unity.
"They are really a close-knit group, even more so than years in the past," Rivera said. "The kids all get along well."
"We do a lot of stuff together as a team," Krehlik said. "We are a lot deeper this year than last year. We have a bunch of sophomores that have stuck with it. As long as they are here, we will probably get stronger."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at email@example.com.