Records fall as JDHS wins Region V championships

Francis breaks three regional records at meet

Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2007

Two days of warm, sunny weather led to a number of shattered records over the weekend at the Region V Track and Field Championships at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

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The Juneau-Douglas High School girls team ran away with the team title while the boys edged Sitka for the championship. Members of both teams broke personal records, along with school and regional marks.

"They went above what I expected," JDHS coach Scott May said. "It was a great day for us in so many different events. Everything from girls' distance, to field events, to sprints. Just great performances."

Leading the way individually for the Bears was freshman Leah Francis. The state cross country champ broke the school and regional records in the 800-, 1,600-, 3,200-meter runs.

Francis broke a 23-year-old school record and 16-year-old regional record in the 1,600-meter race Saturday, but not without a little help.

Haines' J.J. Lende dogged Francis throughout the four-lap race, before the freshman found an extra gear in the final 100 meters. Francis' time of 5 minutes, 10.55 seconds is her best of the year.

"With J.J. right behind me, it felt so much better," Francis said. "She makes me go way faster because I need competition to perform. I'm the kind of person who can't go out there and do it on my own without motivation. I need to rise to the level of my competition."

Lende stayed right on Francis' heals throughout the entire race. The gutsy competitor from Haines refused to give any ground, but Francis, the state cross country champ, had just enough left in the tank for a record-breaking finish.

"I could hear her breathing," Francis said. "I felt real confident when I kicked it, but she is real good. I wasn't assuming I was going to beat her. I wasn't surprised she was staying with me."

Francis also set new regional and school records in the 3,200 with a winning time of 11:09.14. In the 800, Francis broke the regional and school record set in 1983 with a time of 2:20.77.

For the state championships next week, the freshman isn't worried about winning or losing. She just wants to feel tired at the end of it all.

"The goal is to do the best I possibly can," Francis said. "Run as fast as I can and be totally ready to lie down and pass out."

Despite battling ankle injuries, sophomore Kristie Ely continued her standout season in the jumping events.

Ely broke her own school record in the long jump with a leap of 16 feet, 9 inches. She also took second in the triple jump with a leap of 33 feet, 8 inches.

"With my long jump, I'm really pleased I learned the form this year, and I'm getting a lot farther than I did," Ely said. "I'm getting closer to 17 feet."

Ely burst onto the scene as a freshman last year, jumping on athleticism and instinct. This year, Ely refined her form with assistant coach Brandon Cervantes and has enjoyed a standout year.

Her jump Saturday was the second-longest in the state this season.

She will be making her second-straight trip to the state meet in Fairbanks.

"Last year for me was extremely overwhelming because I was a freshman," Ely said. "I freaked myself out. This year I learned from the experience, so I'm a lot better seeing myself there and keeping myself straight."

Another long and triple jumper, Juneau's Aaron Kearns, is excited to head up to state to be with his teammates.

Kearns, a threat to win the state long jump title this year, competed as a member of Angoon and Gustavus' teams in the last couple years. This year, he'll be joining a large crew of Crimson Bears in Fairbanks rather than flying solo.

"We're really close, everyone is close," Kearns said. "It's a lot of fun and I'm excited to be traveling with them."

Kearns went 4-for-4 over the weekend, winning the triple jump and long jump while competing on the winning 400 and 1,600 relay teams.

He won the long jump in 20 feet, 5¾ inches after running a blistering leg in the 400 relay one event prior.

"I have a goal to get over 22 feet in the long jump," he said. "The state record is 23 feet, and I'd like to come close or break that. I feel like it can happen if I have an on day, but more than that, I'm excited to be going up with the team."

One of the busiest Bears proved to be sprinter Jake Pernula.

The sophomore ran winning legs in the 400 and 800 relays and won the 100 dash in 11.72. Teammate Erik Bickmore nipped Pernula at the wire by .02 seconds in the 200.

The 800 relay team won in 1:35.83, just .68 seconds off the regional record.

"We're working hard," Pernula said. "We working on perfecting it. We're almost ready to beat the (800 relay) record for the school. We're showing lots of sweat and blood."

During Friday's session, senior Will Egolf emerged as the meet's breakout star.

The 6-foot-9 JDHS senior shattered the 29-year-old school high jump record after clearing 6 feet, 5 inches. Egolf, who will attend Bradley University on a basketball scholarship, broke the record of JDHS assistant boys basketball coach Steve Brandner.

It was also Egolf's first track and field competition since his freshman year at Haines.

'We've been trying to get him to come out forever and it hasn't worked out," May said. "He's been busy and he finally joined us, and it's all good."

Also, JDHS took 1-2-3 in the shot put event as Matt Barry, Samson Keeney and Robert Partin finished in the top three. Barry set a new personal record of 42 feet, 2½ inches. He also placed second in the discus, throwing for 122 feet, 6 inches.

In all, Juneau-Douglas athletes set 42 new personal bests during the two-day championships.

May credits assistant coaches Guy Thibodeau, Jack and Janette Gagnon, Jim Kearns and Al Carlson with helping his athletes reach new heights.

The state track and field championships will take place May 25-26 at Fairbanks.

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at

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