For the Thunder Mountain track program, hosting the Juneau Invitational on Friday and Saturday will be an opportunity for the hometown crowd to watch its teams in action.
Not only are the teams excited, but Falcons coach Scott May said he's looking forward to showing off the school's track facilities as the school will play host to eight other teams this weekend.
"It's great to be able to utilize this new facility, and this facility is without a doubt the best track and field facility in the state of Alaska, and possibly even the Northwest," he said. "It's phenomenal and we're very happy to be hosting, and we're excited to have all these athletes from Southeast (Alaska) come get to experience it.
"And being the first home meet, we've got a lot of athletes whose parents and relatives have never seen them compete before, so that's always fun."
As far as competition goes, May said there will be plenty.
"Of course, Juneau-Douglas girls were state runner-up the last two years, and they have a really strong boys' team this year," he said. "Ketchikan has a huge team this year, which is phenomenal, and Haines is bringing 40 kids.
"So it's interesting and exciting how track and field is really catching on region-wide," May continued. "Now, Sitka has a very strong program as well."
May said there will be nearly 200 athletes expected at the meet, with Haines bringing the most of all non-local teams, followed by Sitka with 33, and 26 kids will be representing Ketchikan.
Other schools that will be competing include Skagway, Yakutat, Gustavus and Petersburg.
"We've had a few kids with some injuries, but they've been paying attention to them and trying to work through them so they can be ready to show their stuff for their home meet," said Juneau-Douglas head coach Janette Gagnon. "I expect to see a lot of personal records - if not PRs, close to it - and, as a team, I expect us to do very well."
Gagnon said with 25 girls and 23 boys competing, the Crimson Bears will have a much different look than they have all year.
"Our team is going to look a lot stronger and deeper than we have for any other meet we've had this season," she said.
Many of the top athletes in the state, especially from the 3A level, will be competing in the events this weekend, including Chris Clement, Josh Carroll, Keefer Dunn, Kari Paustian, Emily Pratt, Michelle Richenbach and Kathryn Medinger from Sitka, and Yakutat's Ellen and Tina Esbenshade.
Locally, new Juneau-Douglas 100-meter hurdles school record holder Emily Sharp and her sister Samantha are just two of the 48 Crimson Bears that will be representing their school come Friday.
For the homestanding Thunder Mountain Falcons, May said he expects big things from Kimmy Laboca in the discus and shot put, as well as from Sydney Thorne in sprinting events.
As for Thunder Mountain hosting it's first-ever track meet, May said it's great to have two schools in Juneau so that more kids are able to showcase their talents.
"If you combine JDHS and Thunder Mountain, we have more kids participating than we would have at Juneau-Douglas alone," he said. "That's one of the positives of having Thunder Mountain. Some of these kids came out for our team that may not have gone out for Juneau-Douglas because it's such a competitive program."
The competition begins at 1:30 p.m. Friday and again at 10 a.m. Saturday at Thunder Mountain High School.
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