The Juneau-Douglas High School track and field team hosts Ketchikan, their lone regional competitors after Sitka's drop to 3A, today and Saturday during the Region V Championships at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The Crimson Bears expect to qualify an unusually high number of athletes from both the girls' and boys' sides for state after dominant early-season performances against the Kings.
The winners of each event will automatically qualify for a place at the State Championships May 22-23 at Fairbanks' Lathrop High School. In addition, the top 10 non-winning qualifiers from the state's six regional meets will join the weekend winners at Lathrop.
Field events begin today at 1 p.m., with running events kicking off at roughly 3 p.m. Saturday's events will begin again at 10 a.m. and are expected to wrap up by roughly 3:30 p.m.
The JDHS girls will yet again be led by junior runner Leah Francis, who is expected to defend her state titles in the 800-, 1600- and 3200-meter runs. Francis sat out last weekend's meet in Haines to rest up for the stretch run to state, but still currently holds the state's top times in the 1600 and 3200 of 5:17.37 and 11:19.96, respectively. She also holds the state's fourth-best time of 2:23.45 in the 800, just 1.3 seconds behind the top mark of West Valley's Kayla Teslow.
"We had a few different people who chose not to participate last weekend who had different aches and pains," JDHS co-coach Scott May said. "I know Leah and a lot of other people who didn't go last week are all much better."
Francis helped lead the JDHS girls to a second-place finish at state a year ago, and the team is hoping that their likely bulk of qualifiers will help them compete for the title again this season.
"Overall, the number of kids we're hoping to qualify (for state) is in the mid-20s," May said. "We want a good, solid team to represent us up there."
Due to the somewhat watered-down results from the scant competition this season, the Crimson Bears may not bring ever qualifying athlete to Lathrop.
"We're really going to be watching this weekend to see where they would place in the state," May said.
Sophomore Emily Sharp is also looking to position herself for a title run at state, currently holding the third-best time of 16.34 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles. Sharp also holds the state's 10th-best time of 49.69 in the 300 hurdles.
Junior Annette Highley secured the state's seventh-best mark in the shot put this season, topping out at 33 feet, two inches amidst a streak of personal best throws in recent weeks.
The Juneau-Douglas girls foursome of Samantha Sharp, Alison deLabruere, Karissa Jackson and Francis also own the state's 10th-best time in the 3200-meter relay this year in 4:26.29. May expects most of the club's relay teams to take the field in groups previously unseen in competition, though, after mixing and matching to test various runners throughout the season.
"We've got some relays really set now," May said. "We've come up with our different combinations and we're really anxious to see where they stack up in the state."
Sophomore distance runner Zach Bursell currently holds both of the JDHS boys' top-10 state marks this year. Bursell has the fifth-best time in the 3200-meters with 9:45.50, and the eighth-best time in the 1600 with 4:32.84.
Ketchikan's top athletes are expected to come in the girls' throwing and boys' hurdling events. Crystal Blair currently has Region V 4A's top discus throw of 89-feet, two inches, which tops Highley's best effort by more than 12 feet. Jessica Green and Blair also hold the region's second- and third-best shot puts, respectively, behind Highley.
Kings Carlo Credito and Dylan Daniels have easily posted the top 110-meter hurdles times in Region V 4A this season, and both have narrowly topped JDHS's Nick Waldo in the 300-meter event, as well.