Each fall, Juneau-Douglas High School football players run up and down the Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park field.
This spring, five of them are running circles around it.
Junior Brian Felix and seniors T.J. Mason, Ernest Monts, Toni Talamai and Leo Winn - all football players last season - will be helping lead the way in sprints for the Crimson Bear track team Friday and Saturday at the Region V Track and Field Championships on the Adair-Kennedy oval. A sixth gridder, senior Tevita Talamai, will join brother Toni throwing discus and shot put for Juneau.
Teams from around Southeast, including Haines, Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg, Metlakatla, Mount Edgecumbe, Gustavus and Yakutat, are expected to compete this weekend. Event winners from the region meet will earn automatic berths at the state tournament May 23-24 at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. Additional berths - 11 for each individual event, three for each relay - will be selected from the best times at Alaska's five regionals.
Competition will begin at 2 p.m. Friday, with finals in the shot put, long jump and 3,200-meter run. High jump finals will be held at the high school starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, finals for the remaining events will get underway at 10 a.m. at the track.
Region V track meet for berths at the state meet
Who: Teams from Juneau, Haines, Sitka, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Metlakatla, Mount Edgecumbe, Gustavus and Yakutat
When: Events begin at 2 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Mason was the only one of the five football runners who ran for Juneau last spring. This season's strong boys sprinting corps is a welcome change for Juneau coach Scott May, who has faced a bit of a dilemma in trying to utilize all the talent at his disposal.
"Last year we were really short on sprinters," May said. "We've always had a solid distance program, and it's nice to see, with the boys, a good array of sprinters."
The lineup for this weekend puts Felix, Monts, Winn and Toni Talamai in the 4x100 meter relay - a race that finished in a dead heat between Juneau and Haines at the Juneau Invitational earlier this month. Felix, Mason, Monts and Winn will run the 4x200 relay, and Mason will run a leg of the 4x400 relay.
In individual events, Monts, Winn and Felix will run the 100-meter dash; Winn, Felix and teammate Geoff Meyer will be in the 200-meter dash; and Mason will run the 400 with teammate Robert Vicario. Toni Talamai will run in the 100-meter high hurdles, and Monts is entered in the long jump.
The bonds forged during football season have carried over to track for the six gridders.
"It gives us a good chemistry with each other, and it sets up a healthy competition," Monts said. "We push each other hard."
"All of us try to beat each other," Winn said. "It's very competitive."
While running is a common denominator between the two seasons, there are plenty of contrasts. Instead of a football, the relay runners hand off a baton, of course. And compared to the exhaustion of playing a long football game, sprinting can be a nice change of pace.
"It's quick, and then you're done with it," Felix said.
A good rivalry has developed this season between the sprinters from Juneau and Haines, with victories see-sawing between the two teams in a pair of meets. The Glacier Bears won the sprint relay titles at last year's region meet, and the Crimson Bears are eager to win them back.
"We want to represent (Juneau) well when (Haines) comes here for regions," Monts said. "We're trying our hardest to dethrone them."
In other events scheduled this weekend, the Talamai brothers have been strong in the throwing events at Southeast meets this season, but they will face a good challenge from Haines throwers Fred Chambers and Tyrell Horton.
In the jumping events, Petersburg's Zac Drllevich will return to defend his region titles in the long and triple jumps.
The Juneau boys look to be dominant in the distance events; at the Juneau Invitational, Crimson Bear runners were the first five across the finish line in the 1,600-meter event - led by sophomore Tristan Knutson-Lombardo. Sitka's Amadeo Linke, who won the 3,200 at the Juneau Invite, will provide good competition.
Mason, the most experienced runner among the Juneau sprinters, said he likes what he sees going into this weekend's meet.
"I think we'll do really well, guys and girls," he said. "There should be a lot of great races."
Despite being shorthanded at each meet due to illness and eligibility issues, the Juneau girls have been strong across the board all season and look even better going into this weekend with the return of senior Loreen Tupou in the throwing events.
Tupou won the state discus title as a sophomore, her first year of competition. She finished second in the shot put and third in the discus at last season's state tourney, where she was nearly disqualified for wearing shorts that differed slightly from those worn by her teammates.
Tupou initially did not come out for track this season, but has since returned to throwing and became eligible for competition this week after completing the requisite number of practices. May said she never stopped training, and looks to pick up right where she left off.
Elsewhere on the team, the Crimson Bear girls are led by the distance duo of senior Molly Krehlik and freshman Jaci Hayden; sophomore sprinter Heather Bennett; senior hurdler Rachel Chenoweth; sophomore jumper Mary Rehfeld; and a host of strong relay combinations.
"If our girls come together all healthy, all eligible, I think we will really surprise people - and ourselves," May said.
Haines' Lilly Ward, the defending state champ in the triple jump, will return to defend her region title and try for another state berth.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.