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Rachel Chenoweth made her hurdles debut this season a successful one, winning the 300-meter low hurdles to lead the Juneau-Douglas High School girls track team to a third-place finish in the Skyview Invitational held Friday and Saturday at Soldotna's Skyview High School.
Chenoweth, a senior who finished third in the state in the event last year, posted a time of 49.16 seconds to beat Nikiski's Svenja Lau by more than a second. While the time was off Chenoweth's personal record of 47.26 from last year's state meet, she said she was happy with the performance.
"I was really excited, personally," Chenoweth said. "I hadn't done hurdles yet this year, and the time was better than I expected. It's faster than I've ever been at this time of the season."
Chenoweth also led Juneau's 4x400-meter girls relay team to a victory. Chenoweth ran the opening leg of the relay, followed by senior Meghan DeSloover, freshman Sophia Smith and freshman Carly Craig. Even though the Juneau relay team was seeded in the slow heat, the Crimson Bears posted a winning time of 4:27.67 that was almost eight full seconds faster than the runner-up time of 4:35.66 posted by Palmer in the fast heat.
"We weren't expecting to run in the 4-by-4 (1,600-meter relay), but they switched our flight," Chenoweth said. "Our girls scored really well. It was a big, huge meet."
"There was a mix-up in the faxes, so we were put in the non-fast heats for all our relays except the 3,200," Juneau coach Scott May said. "We were basically running against ourselves, then watching the times in the fast heat."
The Juneau girls scored 76 points to finish third behind meet winner Palmer with 91 points and runner-up Colony with 80. The winning 4x400-meter relay points were enough to slide the Crimson Bears ahead of Soldotna, which took fourth place with 71 points, while Seward was fifth with 69.
Besides the hurdles victory from Chenoweth and the 4x400-meter relay, Juneau also picked up a pair of second-place finishes by sophomore Heather Bennett in the 100 and 200 meters; a second in the 3,200 meters from senior Molly Krehlik; a third in the high jump and a fifth in the triple jump from sophomore Mary Rehfeld; a fourth in the 400 meters from DeSloover (on her 18th birthday); and a fifth in the 3,200 and a sixth in the 1,600 from freshman Jaci Hayden.
The Crimson Bears also picked up second-place finishes in the girls 4x100-meter relay (Chenoweth, Rehfeld, Smith and Bennett) and in the 4x800-meter relay (Krehlik, Craig, DeSloover and Hayden). The 4x200-meter relay team of Craig, DeSloover, Smith and Bennett took fourth place.
In the boys half of the meet, Juneau senior Ernest Monts won the 100 meters in a photo finish with Palmer's Dustin Eley, as both runners posted identical times of 11.94 seconds in the closest race of the meet.
"It was incredibly close," Monts said. "Neither one of us knew who won. I thought I got him, but our times were unofficial on the track and he thought he had a faster time than I did. We didn't know who won until they called us up afterward."
Monts said he enjoyed running on Skyview's state-of-the-art track, especially after running in the Sitka Invitational two weekends ago on an undulating dirt track.
"You could easily feel the difference in the speed," Monts said. "I was content with how we did. We didn't bring a full squad and T.J. (Mason) hurt his hamstring again."
Monts was the only Juneau boy to win an event, leading the Crimson Bears to 44 points and fifth place in the team standings. Skyview won the meet with 127 points, followed by Palmer with 95, Kenai Central with 61 and Kodiak with 55.
Another standout for Juneau was sophomore Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, who finished third in both the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters and was fourth in the 800. Knutson-Lombardo also ran the lead leg for Juneau's 4x800-meter relay team (Knutson-Lombardo, senior Tim Davin, senior Gabe Hayden and freshman Tyler Dinnan), which took second place. May said Dinnan's anchor leg saw him pass five runners.
Among the other boys highlights for Juneau were a fourth place in the 3,200 meters by Hayden, a sixth place in the 800 meters by Dinnan, a fifth in the discus and eighth in the shot put by junior Toni Talamai, a sixth in the discus and a sixth in the shot put for senior Tevita Talamai, and a sixth-place finish by the 4x100-meter relay team of Monts, senior Leo Winn, Toni Talamai and sophomore Michael Kasten.
"It was great, everybody got to see old friends and we had nice weather," Knutson-Lombardo said. "It was great, I left everything on the track."
"Tristan ran a 4:36 in the 1,600 and that's exciting, and Tyler had a wonderful 800," May said. "Wesley (Dinnan) ran sick, but had a PR (personal record) in his races. We had a lot of PRs. The team really jelled on this trip. Nikiski hosted a potluck for us, and they will be the first non-Southeast team at our Juneau Invitational in a long time, if ever. We went swimming, wading, in Cook Inlet, we played on the beach and the kids skipped rocks. We had a great trip."
The Crimson Bears will host their annual Juneau Invitational meet this weekend. Events tentatively start at 2 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday. Besides Juneau and Nikiski, the other teams at the meet will include Ketchikan, Sitka, Mount Edgecumbe, Petersburg and Haines.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.