The Juneau-Douglas High School track and field team has dominated Region V over the years, but the times, they are a changing.
At least the make up of Juneau's track team is.
Still, Juneau coach Tracy Rivera feels his team has to be among the favorites to win both the girls and boys team titles in the Region V track and field championships Friday and Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
This weekend the Juneau boys are looking to win their second straight region title, while the Crimson Bear girls hope to win their fourth straight championship.
``I'd say our chances are real good,'' said Rivera, who plans to have 40-45 athletes suited up for the meet. ``All our events are filled. The field events are not our strong point, like they'd been in the past. We don't have the Carlson twins anymore, and they were always good for a lot of points (referring to Tina and Michelle Carlson, who led the Crimson Bears in the throwing events until graduating last year). But we make up for that now in the sprints and hurdles.''
Friday's action starts at 2 p.m. with some field event finals, the 3,200 meter final and running event preliminaries. Saturday's action starts at 10 a.m. with the remaining field event finals and all the track event finals. The high jump competition will be held at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
There will also be a fund-raising pasta dinner from 7-9 p.m. at the high school commons, with the proceeds to help Juneau's track and cross-country running teams pay for their travel to state meets. The dinner costs $6 for adults and $3 for children age 12 and younger.
The Crimson Bears have won enough region titles over the years that it might be easy for Juneau's athletes to think the crown is a birthright. But every few years one of the region's other teams pulls off an upset to keep things honest.
When the Ketchikan boys won the title two years ago, many longtime Southeast track aficionados couldn't remember the last time Juneau's boys hadn't won the championship. And that same year, the Petersburg girls came within one point of knocking off Juneau in their half of the meet.
Both Juneau teams claimed commanding victories in the Juneau Invitational two weeks ago, the last time Juneau had a complete team. But both Juneau teams have tasted defeat in other Southeast meets this year. At the Sitka Invitational in April, both Sitka and Ketchikan posted better scores than the Juneau boys. And last weekend at the Haines Invitational the Haines girls edged out the Crimson Bears.
``You never know with Ketchikan. They always seem to bring in a few people you haven't seen during the season,'' Rivera said. ``The Sitka boys and Haines girls will also be tough.''
Each individual event champion this weekend will qualify for the state meet May 26-27 at Palmer High School, plus there will be 10 or 11 at-large bids (depending on whether Region I sends any athletes, which is rare) named from around the state to bring the brackets up to 16 competitors. In the relay events, each region champion qualifies for state with two or three at-large berths named to fill out an eight-team bracket.
Only a few Southeast times have earned spots in the state's top-five list this year, and only one Juneau athlete is ranked - high jumper Zack Gaber who is tied for fifth place with Ketchikan's Tom Byron and eight others.
``I'd say a lot of it is weather and track conditions,'' Rivera said about why fewer Southeast athletes are ranked. ``They're up there competing on those rubberized tracks, and we're all running on asphalt. We've got a lot of kids battling shin splints because of the harder track.''
The other ranked Southeast athletes this week are Petersburg's Amber Beardslee, who is the state's top female high jumper, and Ketchikan's Geoff Nordlund, who is fifth in the boys 110meter high hurdles. Haines freshman Sarah Lende was the state's top-ranked 400-meter dash runner last week, but this week better times were posted up north that knocked her totally off the list.
Rivera said he feels he has several athletes with legitimate chances to claim individual region titles.
He feels Juneau's top girls are Adriana Rodriguez in the 100- and 200-meter sprints (``she's stronger in the 200''), Brittany Troutt in the 200 and the 100-meter intermediate hurdles, Claire Martin in the 300meter low hurdles (``she's battling shin splints''), Breea DeSloover in the 3,200 and the 1,600, and Brandy Weston in the 800.
Rivera said Juneau's top boys are Gaber in the high jump, Wesley Brooks in the 3,200 and 1,600, Jesse Stringer in the 1,600 and 800, Clay Brown in the triple jump (``he won the triple jump for Sitka last year'') and the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, Alan Floresca in the 300 hurdles, and Tommy Fagnant in the 100, 200 and 400.
``(Fagnant) has the potential to win all three, and he won the 100 and the 200 last year,'' Rivera said.
Besides the ranked Southeast athletes, Rivera said others to watch include Sitka's Matt Mangini in the 100, 200, 400 and 4x400-meter relay team, and Lisa Sele of Haines in the 100 hurdles.
``Everybody's rested,'' Rivera said. ``Their legs are beat up because it's a short season and it's intense. But it's been a good season. I think we'll all peak well.''
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