The Juneau-Douglas High School track teams are off and running with great season starts on the heels of two recent promising performances at the Sitka and Skyview invitational meets.
Five Southeast teams will join the Crimson Bears in this weekend's Juneau Invitational, with throwing and jumping events beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday with running event preliminaries beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday's action begins at 8 a.m. with the girls' high jump and running events beginning at 10 a.m., starting with the girls' 100-meter hurdles.
Gustavus, Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg and Sitka will all make the trip in a meet that will most likely be a prelude to the Region V meet two weeks from now in Juneau.
"This is going to be a total train-through meet," head track coach Tracy Rivera said. "We're not taking any days off and we're not taking it easy in practices. It'll be the same thing next week in Haines."
The Crimson Bears will try to mix things up a bit in the relays, getting people out on the track that normally wouldn't run.
"Our roster is huge. We're going to get some people in the relays that normally wouldn't run," Rivera said. "People like Henry (Wyatt) have never run a race before, so he's excited and Chad Walter. It's our meet, so we can get away with stuff like that."
Only one relay team can score points for the team, however, multiple teams can be entered for the experience factor.
The Crimson Bears have recently been plagued by sickness that could possibly affect some performances.
"Everybody's got a cold -- the whole team," Rivera said. "This always happens when it gets cold in April and May, but I don't think it'll affect us much."
"It's going to be the first time for a bunch of them to run the hurdles," Rivera said. "Alan Floresca's main event is the hurdles and he hasn't run them all year."
Hurdles were not included at the Sitka Invitational in early April and Floresca did not make the trip to the Skyview Invitational last weekend.
The boys are expecting solid performances from junior distance runner Jesse Stringer, who is closing in on the Southeast record in the mile, and senior Clay Brown, who set the state's best triple jump last week and will compete in four events this week.
"I've been sick all week. It'll be interesting to see what happens this weekend," Stringer said. "We've been basically training through the week. It makes us stronger. We are a real close team and everybody is pushing each other."
"I've been training hard all week," Brown said. "I'm looking forward to the 300 hurdles. I got first in my heat at Skyview and when I was done, my lungs were killing me."
The girls team will also have a full lineup with most athletes competing in multiple events. The Bear girls will look to hold off a strong Ketchikan that tested Juneau at the Sitka Invitational. In that meet, junior sprinter Adrianna Rodriguez took led the Bears, taking first place in both the 100 and 200-meters.
"Adrianna (Rodriguez) has a real bad sinus infection. She'll run but she only has a few days to prepare -- that'll affect her," Rivera said.
Rivera expressed concern over the 16-year-old track that the Bears practice and compete on.
"Our main goal is to keep everybody healthy. This kind of weather is the absolute hardest on our runners," Rivera said. "If the city would pong up and get us a new track, we'd be in better shape. It's like running on the K-Mart parking lot. The main thing is injury prevention. The Anchorage kids all have the nice tracks and even refuse to run on tracks like ours."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.