Juneau-Douglas High School track and field coach Scott May had to scramble earlier this week.
The Crimson Bears qualified more athletes for this weekend's state meet than expected - 25 - so May was in a panic to find another hotel. It took some calling around, but he finally found enough rooms for the team.
"They didn't have enough hotel rooms," May said Tuesday after switching his team's accomodations from the Best Western-Barratt Inn to the Sheraton Hotel.
In some years past, the Crimson Bears were happy to send 15-20 athletes to state. But this year, Juneau had a bumper crop of qualifiers. The 25 Crimson Bears will compete in 26 individual events and six relays.
Juneau will have one of the largest contingents at the state meet. Only East Anchorage (35), Dimond (28), Service (28), Bartlett (27) and West Valley (26) will have more.
The state meet opens today at Bartlett High School with finals in the 3,200 meters and several field events, plus the preliminaries in the other running events. Saturday features the finals in the other field events and in most of the running events.
Juneau's only top seed in an event is junior Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, who is one of three Crimson Bears - with sophomore twins Tyler and Wesley Dinnan - competing in the 1,600 meters. Longtime Juneau assistant coach Guy Thibodeau said it's the first time he can remember the Crimson Bears qualifying three athletes in the same event.
Knutson-Lombardo, who finished sixth in the 1,600 last year, qualified first this time with a Region V record time of 4 minutes, 24.74 seconds. Tyler Dinnan is seeded sixth at 4:29.07 and Wesley Dinnan is seeded 10th at 4:33.76.
Knutson-Lombardo said he's hoping to bring home Juneau's first state title in a distance event since Maria Eley won the girls 3,200 in 1999. Ernest Monts, who has since graduated, won the 100-meter title last year, and most Crimson Bears can't remember a male distance champion from Juneau. Loreen Tupou, another 2003 graduate, was the last female athlete to win a state championship with the 2001 discus crown.
"It'd be great to bring back a distance title," Knutson-Lombardo said during Tuesday's practice at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. "It's not that there's so much pressure (as the top seed). But I know I'm up there with the top guys and I have the ability timewise. I'll have a target on me."
While he faces some pressure as the event's top seed, Knutson-Lombardo said having his teammates in the race will help if things get tactical. Also, Knutson-Lombardo's beaten the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds - Kodiak's Stig Yngve and Colony's Peter Doner, both with seed times 3 seconds slower - in the Skyview Invitational and Yngve again in Kodiak.
"All three of us have run with everybody, so we know how we race and how they race," Knutson-Lombardo said. "We know our weaknesses, so we can help each other through them."
Knutson-Lombardo and Tyler Dinnan also will be among the top seeds in the 800 meters, while Wesley Dinnan is a top contender in the 3,200. They also will be part of Juneau's 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams.
The only other top seed from Southeast is Sitka sophomore Dianne Chong, who is the No. 1 contender in both the long jump (16 feet, 11 inches) and triple jump (35-0 3/4).
The girls triple jump is a loaded event for Southeast, with Chong, Juneau junior Mary Rehfeld and the Haines duo of 2002 state champion Lilly Ward, a senior, and junior Kim Ferrin in the field. Chong and Rehfeld have both been ranked No. 1 in the state at various times this season, while Ward and Ferrin have been among the state's top four. Even though they're on different teams, Rehfeld said the Southeast jumpers will give each other a lot of help.
"It'll be good to see so many people represent Southeast," said Rehfeld, who also qualified in the long jump and 800 relay. "There's going to be a lot of the same people. There will be so much support because they'll be there jumping with us."
Another top contender for Juneau is senior Jason Lunasin in the 200 meters. Lunasin, a first-year track athlete, also qualified in the 100 and the 400 relay and 800 relay. But the 200 might be his best race.
"I thought it was a possiblility, but I wasn't sure until now," Lunasin said about qualifying for state. "That wasn't too hard. I'd like to get a sub-23 (seconds) in the 200, and there'll be a couple of guys pushing me."
Another good event for the Crimson Bears is the girls 400, where junior Heather Bennett and freshman Evelyn Fisher have both been ranked among the state's top three at times this season. Bennett also is a top contender in the 200, and both runners will be in Juneau's reloaded 1,600 relay after serving as alternates in the region meet.
While some of Juneau's athletes are going to state in search of the medals awarded the top four finishers in each event, some of them are going for the experience. Michael Bickmore, a junior in the long jump and triple jump, is hoping the state track meet will prepare him for next year.
"This is my first time doing track," said Bickmore, a former basketball player who joined his friends on the track team. "I've improved tremendously. Even if I don't place, I'm looking forward to seeing the guy (Service triple jumper Steve Timmons) jump 46 feet."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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