Juneau to host state soccer tournament

ASAA also approves first official state tennis championships

Posted: Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Juneau is slated to host a high school state championship for the first time since the 1980s.

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After a unanimous 8-0 decision by the Alaska State Activities Association Board of Directors on Monday in Fairbanks, Juneau-Douglas High School was named host of the 2010 state soccer championships. Juneau hosted the state basketball tournament in 1988.

"It's a fair amount of work to put on a state championship," said Juneau Soccer Club treasurer Amy Skilbred. "They'll be parents and others making it happen. It's going to be a real communitywide effort with the City and Borough of Juneau making it happen. If it comes out really well, it's an opening to have more state championships in soccer and other sports."

A host of factors helped push Juneau over the top in being named the 2010 state tournament host.

ASAA Director of Special Events John Andrews said Skilbred put together a long and detailed bid document.

Skilbred pursued the tournament after asking the Juneau Soccer Club board if it would be a good idea to apply.

Also, Andrews stated the number of activities available in Juneau for visiting players as a contributing factor. Moving the tournament to the capital city for one year allows students to experience different parts of the state they might not ordinarily see, he said.

"Because not every kid has been to Juneau and they don't all have the opportunities to be there often," Andrews said. "In order to make it a total education experience, it's really nice to have those other aspects available to them, be it tours or another other activity."

The bid appeared to succeed because of a combination of Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, community support for soccer and the Crimson Bears' success on the pitch.

"I hosted the first one at Skyview (High School) and that's where the Juneau boys took first place," Andrews said. "From that point on, either the Juneau-Douglas boys or girls finished in the top three. It's obvious the soccer programs at Juneau have been successful. I think that also had some influence."

The ASAA board decided on the year 2010 for Juneau to give teams time to raise the necessary funds to fly south.

"One year is great for us," Skilbred said. "It'd be hugely expensive for Anchorage and other players to come down three years in a row. One year may be perfect to begin with."

The state tournament coming to Juneau is a welcome and unexpected surprise for JDHS boys coach Gary Lehnhart.

"I think it's fantastic," he said. "I'm surprised, I have to be honest. I was pretty skeptical. I think you have to give a lot of credit to Amy Skilbred and the Juneau Soccer Club board to go forward with it. I have to admit, I kind of rained on their parade. I didn't think the state would go for it."

The tournament should pack Juneau with at least 14 out-of-town teams, or about 350 players, including about 30 coaches and their families.

In another unanimous decision, ASAA voted to authorize the inaugural state tennis championships on Oct. 12-13 in Anchorage.

Skilbred, who also coaches the JDHS tennis team, was thrilled.

"It's fantastic," Skilbred said. "It's something I expected a month or so ago when the proposal was there, but it's great to have it passed by ASAA. I'm sure it's something the students will really look forward to."

The tournament will feature each eligible team sending eight athletes each. Championships will be decided boys and girls singles, boys and girls doubles and mixed doubles.

Currently 16 high schools field tennis teams. Juneau-Douglas started its team in 2003.

There won't be any official regional qualification tournament, so who attends will be at the coach's discretion.

"I'm sure coaches will try to pick the best players," Skilbred said.

The door opened for a state tournament last year when Kodiak High School sanctioned tennis. The move gave the sport representation in four regions, paving the way for state sanctioned tournament.

"First of all, I think it's a validation of the sport for not only the students but also the coaches and parents that it's on par with the other sports," said Gwen Ramrus, the Region Six coordinator for high school tennis and Alaska representative to the Pacific Northwest section of the United States Tennis Association. "I can only see this being a huge leap in expanding it."

In other news from the Monday meeting, ASAA decided to divide the state track and field championships into Class 4A and Class 1-2-3A divisions. The move, which will be enacted in 2008, will separate the large and small schools.

Qualifying for the state tournament will not change for Class 4A while Class 1-2-3A athletes can qualify by either winning a regional championship event or posting one of the four next best performances in an event.

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com.

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