The only halfway effort at this year's Region V Track and Field Championships was the track itself.
Competing for the second - and likely last - time on the partially-resurfaced Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park oval Friday and Saturday, the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears rode a wave of personal records to easily take the boys and girls team titles.
"Everybody put out a great effort, ran great races and had really, really good times," said Juneau senior distance runner Molly Krehlik, who accumulated 28.5 points to win the outstanding female athlete award.
The Juneau girls scored 224 points, with Sitka in second with 106. Juneau's boys squad scored 190 points, with Haines in second with 114. There were eight schools at the meet.
Individuals and relay teams who won events at the region meet earn automatic berths to the state track and field championships at Bartlett High School in Anchorage this Friday and Saturday. When results from all five region meets across the state are compiled, the top 11 individual and top three relay times for non-winners will get at-large berths.
Sophomore Tristan Knutson-Lombardo and senior Gabe Hayden set a good tone for the meet on Friday with an impressive symbiotic performance in the boys 3,200-meter race.
Knutson-Lombardo, Hayden and Sitka's Amadeo Linke traded leads for the first three of the race's eight laps. After that, the two Juneau runners broke away and Hayden took the lead for a couple of laps. In the last two laps, Knutson-Lombardo moved in front and led to the finish. His winning time of 9 minutes, 48.28 seconds was a PR, less than two seconds off the Region V record and one of the best times posted in the state this season. Hayden was second in 9:54.37.
"It was far beyond what I expected," Knutson-Lombardo said after the race. "All we wanted to do was break 10 (minutes), and I guess we surpassed that. ...
"Gabe and I depend on each other the whole way; we push each other. It wouldn't have been the same race if he hadn't been there."
Knutson-Lombardo went on to victories in the 800 and 1,600 on Saturday, and closed the meet on a thrilling note when he just managed to hold off Ketchikan's Nate Norton on the final leg for a win in the final event, the 4x400 relay.
Relays were among the strongest of many strengths for the Crimson Bears at the meet, as Juneau won seven of the eight races and would have easily won the eighth but for a disqualification due to a uniform.
Senior Leo Winn ran two relays for Juneau, the 4x100 and 4x200. He ran the third leg in both events, which is where the effects of the staggered start began to disappear and, in both cases, Winn built an advantage for his team.
"I had been running the second, and running the third leg was a big change," he said. "It felt good getting the lead."
Freshman Sophia Smith ran the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays for the Juneau girls. Smith - who, like Winn, increased Juneau's lead with each relay leg she ran - said she focuses on a single goal while on the track.
"I just see the finish line, or who I'm going to hand off to, in my mind," she said.
The girls 4x100 team was disqualified after posting what would have likely been a region-record time of under 53 seconds. Senior Rachel Chenoweth, running the third leg, said she didn't hear the "sweats off" call prior to the start of the race, and once the relay began she forgot to take off the T-shirt she was wearing over her track uniform.
But everyone on the team qualified for state in other events; while there was certainly some disappointment over the DQ, Juneau coach Scott May said there is a touch of a silver lining.
"You've got to look at the positive," he said. "It means we'll be more fresh" for other events at the state meet.
And after the meet, Chenoweth - who earned a win in the 300-meter low hurdles and anchored the winning 4x400 relay team - said she was pleased with how her last high school season has gone so far.
"We did awesome this weekend," she said. "Everyone is really unified; we all cheer each other on. ... It's been a fun last year of doing track."
In other girls events for Juneau, Krehlik posted strong wins in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs, while freshman Jaci Hayden held off a strong challenge from senior teammate Phoebe Rohrbacher to win the 800. Senior Meghan DeSloover won the 400, and sophomore Heather Bennett continued her region sprint dominance with victories in the 100 and 200. Sophomore Mary Rehfeld won the high jump. Senior Kathryn Brownlee made a significant improvement in the long jump, and finished second.
Loreen Tupou made her first meet appearance of the year in the throwing events, and the Juneau senior picked right up where she left off with impressive wins in the shot put and discus. While she had not competed before this weekend, Tupou said that she, cousins Tevita and Toni Talamai (who each threw for the Juneau boys) and teammate Alyssa Mikesell all spent a lot of time practicing together in the off-season.
For the Juneau boys, senior Ernest Monts led a strong Juneau field in the 100 dash. Monts claimed the title, while Juneau junior Brian Felix finished second and Winn wound up third. Felix won the 200 dash by a close margin.
"It all came together the last two days," May said of Juneau's team effort. "Now, we work on fine tuning over the next week."
Among other teams at the meet:
Petersburg senior Zac Drllevich won the outstanding male athlete award after scoring 36 of a possible 40 points. He repeated as region champion in the long and triple jumps, and finished second in the two hurdles events. Drllevich set a PR in the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 9 3/4 inches. Drllevich came back to hurdling this year after not running in them his junior year; he said he took a nasty fall on a hurdle in his sophomore year and was just now getting comfortable running them again. Petersburg freshman Brenna McMahon won the 100-meter low hurdles.
Haines' Lilly Ward, the defending state triple jump champion, repeated as region champion in that event with a jump of 32-8 1/4. Haines also got event victories from Matt Blood in the 110 high and 300 intermediate hurdle; Peter Wing in the 400 dash; and Tyrell Horton in the discus.
Sitka notched a win in the girls 4x100 relay after the Juneau team was disqualified. The Wolves' Mike Loucks won the boys shot put, Greg Hunter won the boys high jump and Dianne Chong won the girls long jump.
Metlakatla's Layte Hudson scored all the team points for the Chiefs' small boys squad by finishing second in the triple jump and third in the long jump.
David Kunat was the sole Gustavus boys entrant, and he scored the Foxes' lone point of the meet with a sixth-place finish in the high jump.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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