The Juneau-Douglas High School track and field team will get to show off the partially resurfaced Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park track this weekend when the Crimson Bears host the Juneau Invitational this afternoon and Saturday morning.
The meet will feature most of the top teams from Southeast Alaska - Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Haines, Petersburg, Mount Edgecumbe, Metlakatla and possibly a couple of the smaller-school teams. In addition, another guest will be what Juneau head track coach Scott May thinks is the first non-Southeast team in meet history - Nikiski.
But the track, which local athletes hoped would be completed before this spring's high school season, isn't done. A late start last summer and overly inclement weather - even by Juneau standards - meant there weren't enough days with a 60 degree temperature to finish the job last fall. The current plan is to hold off on finishing the track until after the school year is over.
That means this weekend's meet will take place on a surface that changes textures. The first of three eventual layers of a spongy rubberized surface has been laid down around three-quarters of the track, but the original hard asphalt-like surface remains in front of the grandstand. When the work is complete, the rubberized surface will extend all the way around the track and it will have a red color instead of the current black.
"When it's done it will be one of the top tracks in the state," May said before the season. But when asked about the construction delays, "Don't get me started."
One person who is happy to be back on Juneau's track, even if it's not finished, is sophomore Heather Bennett. Three weeks ago, while competing the girls 100 meters in the Sitka Invitational, Bennett had just taken the lead when she stumbled on the uneven dirt surface and fell back to third place. Last weekend Bennett took second place in both the 100 and 200 at the Skyview Invitational.
"Everyone said I hit a hill, but I felt like I was sinking," Bennett said of her stumble. "I was pretty happy with my times (in Skyview). On the day where I had four events (Saturday) I kept up my times. I usually have a fall-off in the 200, which is my last event of the day. Being at home will be much more relaxing. I'm looking forward to running against Joy (Ribao) and Dianne (Chong, both of Sitka) again. It was sad because I had just passed them when I stumbled."
The Crimson Bears have been getting big points this year from their mainstay runners, but there also have been some new athletes making contributions.
Sophomore Mary Rehfeld hadn't competed in the high jump before this year, but she jumped 4 feet, 8 inches to win the Sitka meet and again last weekend to finish third in the Skyview meet (with the same height, but more misses than the second-place finisher). She also took fifth place last weekend in the triple jump with a 30-6 leap.
"I didn't really know what to expect because I haven't high jumped since I took a class in middle school," Rehfeld said, adding that she's looking forward to competing this week against Petersburg high jumper Britni Birchell and Haines triple jumper Lilly Ward, the defending state champion in the event. "I'm really happy with my jumps. I don't get to practice much, but I'm hoping to go 4-10."
Two others new to the track team are brothers Tevita and Toni Talamai, who are competing in the boys throwing events. Tevita, a senior, finished sixth in both the shot put and discus at Skyview, while Toni, a junior, was fifth in the discus and eighth in the shot put.
Both made significant improvements over their performances in the Sitka Invitational, with Tevita bettering his throws in the shot by six feet and the discus by 19 feet while Toni improved by more than three feet in the shot and 17 feet in the discus. Toni is becoming Juneau's Mr. Versatility, having competed in the long jump and now training for a run in the hurdles this week.
"It's my first time, I kind of like it," Tevita Talamai said, adding that he and his brother push each other in their throws. "I'm doing OK right now. Some of those guys (at the Skyview meet), they were so huge, some of them. I wish I could do it next year."
"This is my first year, but it's nothing hard," said Toni Talamai, who threw the discus 128-0 and the shot 43-6 last weekend (Tevita threw 123-9 in the discus and 45-5 in the shot). "They have a lot more practice than me. I'm looking forward to (throwing the discus) 130 to 150 feet. I'm ready to win this."
Another new runner making an impact is freshman distance runner Tyler Dinnan, who helped Juneau's 4x800-meter relay team finish second at Skyview. Dinnan, whose twin brother Wesley is also a distance runner on the team, passed five other teams during the second leg of the relay.
"It went really well, that's the best I've felt," he said. "I ran a 2:08 in the relay, and I was a 2:09 in the open 800. I just like being on a team where people are relying on you."
The Juneau boys 4x800-meter relay team's time was fast enough last weekend to rank fourth in this week's list of the state's top times (compiled by the Anchorage Daily News). The only Juneau boy on the list is sophomore distance runner Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, who ranks fourth in the 1,600 meters and sixth in the 3,200. Sitka's Greg Hunter is tied for fifth in the high jump and is the only other Southeast boy in the rankings.
Juneau senior Rachel Chenoweth is the top Juneau girl in the state rankings - second in the girls 300-meter low hurdles - while Juneau senior Molly Krehlik is third in the 3,200 meters. Juneau's girls 4x100-meter relay team ranks sixth, Juneau's 4x400-meter relay team ranks sixth and Juneau's 4x800-meter relay team ranks fifth to round out the Southeast athletes in the state rankings.
The meet starts at 2 p.m. today with most of the field event finals, the 3,200 and 800 finals and preliminaries on most of the other running events at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. The high jump will start at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym. The meet continues at 9 a.m. on Saturday with the finals in the remaining field events and running events.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.