With more than 60 athletes on its roster, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls track and field teams are ready for their home debut.
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The Crimson Bears will host the Southeast Conference and the Kodiak High School boys and girls teams today and Saturday in the Juneau Invitational at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Races start at 2 p.m. today and 9 a.m. Saturday.
"In this meet, we've got 12 kids in the 100," JDHS coach Scott May said. "That's the beauty of this meet. ... Kids that have been working hard all year and may not be our top athletes will get a chance to run in front of their folks and friends."
Indeed, JDHS will be sending out everyone to compete this weekend.
The Crimson Bears will have four 400-meter relay teams alone.
"We've never gone more than two deep," May said of the 400 relay. "That's amazing."
This particular meet will be especially important for the younger members of the team.
Some runners, throwers or jumpers haven't had a chance to compete in a meet yet, while others are looking to improve their performances.
JDHS track and field
What: Juneau-Douglas High School hosts the annual Juneau Invitational track meet.
When: 2 p.m. today, 9 a.m. Friday.
Where: Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
What else: In addition to the high school meet, there will be two open races for whoever wants to compete. There willbe an open 800-meter run after today's races and an open1,600-meter run following Saturday's races.
"We need to solidify some relays," May said. "That's why in the 100 and open 200 we have so many kids doing that. We'll get some true times on those. After this meet we hope to solidify our relays because right now we have so many kids who haven't run a meet yet."
The multitude of sprinters may make for a some long heats, but Juneau team members pride themselves on helping each other succeed.
With a large coaching staff and supportive teammates, expect the Crimson Bears to be among the loudest cheerleaders this weekend.
"It's actually a pretty wonderful thing because you get to try different people," sophomore sprinter Bragan Jana said. "Especially being a sophomore or upper class, you can help out the freshmen and build their strength up and hopefully they'll become the next track star of Juneau."
May also credited his coaching staff with helping the team improve. Jim Kearns and Al Carlson have been working with the shot put and discus competitors. Mike Bickmore and Brandon Cervantes help out with the jumpers while JDHS cross country coach Guy Thibodeau lends his knowledge and expertise.
"Our coaching staff this year is just phenomenal," May said. "We've got wonderful community support, which has helped make a difference."
For some of the Crimson Bears' more established stars, this weekend is another opportunity to fine-tune their technique in preparation for the regional meet in two weeks.
Juneau-Douglas senior Levi Benning currently holds Alaska's second-fastest time in both the 110 and 300 hurdles. Despite a strong start to the season, Benning believes there's room for improvement.
"I still have room to grow," Benning said. "I think we all have room to grow. We'll be there by the end of the year. It's a matter of building up and peaking at the right time."
Another JDHS athlete to watch for is Aaron Kearns. The senior currently ranks second statewide in the long jump and posted a solid performance in the triple jump last weekend in Palmer.
On the girls side, Kristie Ely is fourth in Alaska in the triple jump while freshman Leah Francis ranks third in the 800 and 3,200 events. Juneau's 1,600 relay team is also third statewide.
Also, hurdler Katy Nickerson has finished in the top six of every 100 and 300 hurdles event she's competed in this season.
One of this weekend's most highly anticipated races doesn't even involve a Juneau racer as the boys' 1,600 features a stacked field. The state's top three athletes in the event - Kodiak's Trevor Dunbar and Cory Pena, and Sitka's Alex Weissberg - will compete. Haines' Chandler Kemp, who finished 11th in the 1,600 at last year's state championships, should also factor in the 1,600.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.