How sweep it is!

Juneau boys, girls claim Region V track titles

Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Juneau-Douglas High School boys track and field team cruised to victory in the Region V Championships held Friday and Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

Meanwhile, the Crimson Bear girls had to sweat things out against the Sitka Wolves to complete the sweep.

Led by senior Toni Talamai, who was the male athlete of the meet, the Juneau boys scored 221 points to easily outpoint runner-up Sitka's 112. Petersburg took third place with 84 points, while Haines had 54 points, Ketchikan scored 28, Metlakatla had 18, while Yakutat, Gustavus and Mount Edgecumbe were scoreless.

In the girls part of the meet, Juneau survived two key disqualifications and a superb performance from Sitka's Dianne Chong - the female athlete of the meet - to pull out a 174-162 victory over the runner-up Wolves. It was Juneau's first victory over the Sitka girls this season. Petersburg took third place with 66 points, Haines was next with 50, followed by Ketchikan with 43, Gustavus with 10, Metlakatla with eight, Yakutat with seven and Mount Edgecumbe with two points.

Ketchikan won the coed team sportsmanship award.

Chong broke the region long jump record with a season state best jump of 16 feet, 11 inches, plus she helped Sitka's 400 relay team break the region record. Chong, a sophomore, also won the 100 intermediate hurdles and - in her first competition ever in the event - she won the triple jump with a season state best leap of 35-0 3/4.

"I'm four for four, I'm very happy," Chong said. "I'd never done the triple jump before. I was supposed to do the 100, but I wanted to try it. This was my first time ever. I've been practicing less than a week."

Chong's performance led Sitka, while Juneau was struggling with a pair of disqualifications to key runners. That put the girls team title in doubt until the last couple of events.

Junior Heather Bennett, the two-time defending region champion in the event and top seed, had a false start in the 100. Bennett said she was fine with her DQ; she said she lost her balance. Bennett came back to win the 200 and 400, with freshman teammate Evelyn Fisher in second place in both events.

"It seemed like he held it (the start) long," Bennett said. "I've never done that before. I'm usually the last one out of the blocks. For my next set of races, I moved my blocks back so I wasn't up as high. That last 200 made me happy."

Heather Dillon, a first-year senior, appeared to finish second behind Chong in the 100 hurdles, but was disqualified because the starter said she was still wearing her nose ring. Juneau coaches and school officials protested to no avail over Dillon's DQ, even producing photos of Dillon's face during the event to try and show the starter the ring was gone.

After the DQ, Dillon took second in the 300 low hurdles to Petersburg's Brenna McMahan and she also was a member of Juneau's second-place 400 relay team. That helped the Crimson Bears make up for some of the lost points.

"Coming in second in the 300 helped," Dillon said. "I felt stronger in the 4x100, maybe because I had the anger inside. I was frustrated because I finally beat my rival - Brenna - and I hadn't beaten her before."

Also winning individual events for Juneau were Megan Bush in the 1,600 and 3,200 and Lyssa Mikesell in the discus. Bush, who missed most of the season with a hip injury, lapped five runners in the 3,200 and came close to lapping a runner in the 1,600. Mikesell set a personal record by four feet in the discus.

"I was ignoring it. It wasn't hurting," Bush said. "I planned to ignore it if it hurt. The whole lapping thing, I wasn't aware of the other people."

"I was throwing in the 90s, and I PRed twice," Mikesell said. "I was a little upset about yesterday (a loss in the shot put to Halley Post of Gustavus). But I was glad to know the girls."

Juneau also won the 800 relay and the 1,600 relay, with the latter event being one of the more dramatic races of the day. Juneau's Lexi Garvey, Elizabeth Stickel and birthday girl Emma Sarandria had the lead when the baton was passed to Kerri Powers for the anchor leg. But Sitka anchor-leg runner J.J. Carlson quickly caught up to and passed Powers. Carlson continued to lead Powers until the last turn, when Powers finally regained the lead and kept it to the finish.

"I was scared," Powers said. "But I knew she couldn't keep up that pace. In the last 100, I tried to stick with it in case she had a finishing kick like she did in the 800."

Besides Chong's victories and the ones by Post and McMahan, the other non-Juneau wins were by Sitka's Joy Ribao in the 100, Sitka's Megan Lehmann in the 800 and Petersburg's Josie Ware in the high jump. Sitka won the 400 and 3,200 relays.

After being upset by teammate Josh Lehauli in the shot put to open the boys part of the meet, Talamai regrouped to win the 110-meter high hurdles and the discus - both with personal records - and he played a part in Juneau's winning the 400-meter relay. Talamai said losing to Lehauli was OK because "he's like my little brother."

"I feel pretty good," Talamai said after winning the hurdles. "I take the same three steps for each hurdle. In practice I don't usually do the hurdles because I'm practicing the throws."

"I was just trying to beat 43," said Lehauli, who set a PR with 46-1 1/4 in the shot. "When I came ahead, I was a lot happier. But he was mad."

Juneau's Tristan Knutson-Lombardo broke two Region V records - in the 800 and the 1,600 - while Jason Lunasin celebrated his 18th birthday with victories in the 100, 200, the 400 relay and the 800 relay. Also winning events for the Juneau boys were Wesley Dinnan in the 3,200 and Levi Benning in the 300 low hurdles. All four of Juneau's relay teams won their events to claim the Region V automatic berths to next week's state meet in Anchorage.

Knutson Lombardo, a junior, didn't give teammate Tyler Dinnan long to enjoy Dinnan's brief hold on the 800 record (2 minutes, 0.82 seconds) he set during Friday's preliminaries. Knutson-Lombardo was in the next heat and posted a 2:00.61 to break the 2:02.06 set in 1991 by Sitka's Gary Smith. Neither Juneau runner could repeat their record runs in Saturday's final, which Knutson-Lombardo won in 2:02.12.

In the 1,600, Knutson-Lombardo and Tyler Dinnan both eclipsed Smith's 1991 record of 4:30.87, with Knutson-Lombardo recording a statewide season-best time of 4:24.74, Tyler Dinnan second in 4:29.07 and Wesley Dinnan third in 4:33.76, with all three times PRs.

"I came off the second lap with a 2:11 split, and especially on that last lap," Knutson-Lombardo said about when he knew the record was his for the taking. "That's my best race so far, and to have them (the Dinnan twins) right behind me helped a lot. I feel real good. We've just started tapering, so we'll see what happens with another week of rest."

"He only let me enjoy it for three minutes," Tyler Dinnan said of the 800. "At least I can say I held the record."

Lunasin, a senior competing in track for the first season, had no problem winning the 100 and 200, easily outdistancing the field even in the short races. Lunasin also anchored Juneau's 400 relay and 800 relay teams. There wasn't much time to rest between the 100 and the 800 relays. The three Juneau runners in the 100 finals - Lunasin, Ben Olson and Pat Millard - crossed the finish line and, without breaking stride, kept running to the clerk of course's table to check in for the relay (Ben Schlechter was the other runner in the relay). Even though they were still winded, they just missed the region 800 relay record by a fraction of a second.

"I said, 'Let's go check in,' and so we kept on going," Lunasin said, adding a little rest between the events would be welcome. "How about 10 minutes?"

"It was not fun," Olson said. "It was a pretty good race, considering three of the four guys were tired."

In the 3,200 final on Friday, Wesley Dinnan had no real competition after the first lap. Dinnan lapped 11 of the race's 16 runners, including one twice, as he came within a second of his personal record. Teammate Greg Frank took second place with a personal record by 22 seconds.

"I'm very excited, real excited," Dinnan said. "it's what I like to do, find a comfortable pace and try to hold it as long as I can, so I'm not in pain too quick before the end of it."

Benning's victory in the 300 hurdles was a surprise for the freshman, who dropped to his knees and kissed the track shortly after he won.

"I love this track," said Benning, whose father ran the hurdles in high school in Wisconsin. "This is my first year doing the hurdles, and my first time winning a race, at least that I can remember. I was the first seed (after the preliminaries), but I was thinking someone's going to get me."

Non-Juneau boys to win events were Sitka's Kyle Ainslie in the 400, Sitka's Greg Hunter in the high jump, Petersburg's Jon Randrup in the long jump and Ketchikan's Derek Clark in the triple jump.

Meet results will run later this week in the Empire sports section.

• Charles Bingham can be reached at

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