Loreen Tupou couldn't stay away - and now she'll make another trip to the state track and field meet this weekend where she'll make a bid for her second state title.
Tupou, a Juneau-Douglas High School senior who won the 2001 girls discus title as a sophomore, didn't go out for Juneau's track team this year, even though she participated in preseason throwing drills with teammates Alyssa Mikesell and the Talamai brothers - Tevita and Toni.
Instead of competing, Tupou was working - trying to raise money for college next year - when she was asked to volunteer at the Juneau Invitational track meet on May 2-3 at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. As she helped with the shot put and discus events, Tupou decided she had unfinished business.
She started attending practices and got her required 10 workouts in the day before the Region V meet started last Friday. While not the state's best throw this year, Tupou's Region V-winning shot put is the top seed for the state track meet that runs today and Saturday at Anchorage's Bartlett High School (the state meet seeds are based on results from the five region track meets only). Her region-winning discus throw is seeded third.
"I can't stay away from it," Tupou said Monday afternoon as she and the Talamai brothers worked out in preparation for state. "I love it. I started working again, and I was trying to do some scholarships for college. But I came to help out at the Juneau Invite, and decided, 'I'm coming back.'"
The year Tupou won the state discus crown she was a late addition to the track team, quitting a job at a car dealership after a friend convinced her she could be a competitive thrower. Last year she competed the entire season, posting the state's top throws of the season until the state meet.
Tupou finished second in the shot put and third in the discus last year, but was nearly disqualified because her shorts didn't exactly match those of her teammates (the team didn't have a pair in her size, so instead of solid black shorts she wore a pair that were black with three thin white stripes down the side). Juneau assistant coach Kevin Hamrick, who coaches the throwers, said Tupou will have a pair of matching shorts this time.
During the region meet, Tupou said she was surprised at her results - especially the shot put. She's already making plans to walk on with the Brigham Young University track team next spring.
"I kept working out, but not throwing," Tupou said. "I was surprised by my shot, but I guess it means I still have it. For the discus, I felt like I could throw it further, but it just wasn't quite clicking. I'd like to win at state. But if not, I'm happy."
Tupou is Juneau's only top-seeded athlete headed into the state meet, but several other Crimson Bears could do well. Juneau had 26 athletes qualify for state either as individuals or as one of the six eligible runners on a relay team.
Ernest Monts is seeded second in the boys 100 meters, while Tristan Knutson-Lombardo is seeded fifth in the boys 3,200 and 1,600, Heather Bennett is sixth in the girls 100, Molly Krehlik is seeded seventh in the girls 3,200, Gabe Hayden is seeded seventh in the boys 3,200, Tyler Dinnan is seeded eighth in the boys 800 and Rachel Chenoweth is seeded eighth in the girls 300-meter low hurdles.
While Chenoweth isn't seeded as well as she'd like, she has one of the better chances to have a strong state performance. Chenoweth took third in last year's state meet and earlier this season was ranked as high as second in the state's list of best times. A senior, Chenoweth spent much of Monday's workout doing technique drills like bouncing on one foot while bringing her other up one side of the hurdle and down the other.
"It's been a bummer because I've been sick the last two weeks," Chenoweth said. "I'm really working on my form and hoping my endurance will hold. My times haven't really improved this season. The Skyview meet is the only meet I've really been happy with my time. I know I can do better. I'll try to do the best I can and anything can happen at the state meet.
"I look at those times and I can get those times. I know I can. It's just a matter of executing."
Monts, a senior, was surprised to see his seed in the 100, but he expects a close race. If that's the case, Monts may have an edge. Monts has already been involved in two photo-finishes this year, winning both even though he and his opponent posted the same times.
"That's a lot of pressure," Monts said when he found out his seed. "I knew my speed was picking up, but I thought I'd be slower (in seed time). I'm pretty sure my time will improve when I get on a good track. No matter what, I know it will be close. I'm hoping I can squeeze another one out. I'll be nervous, but hopefully I can turn my nervousness into speed."
Bennett also was surprised with her seed in the 100. As a freshman, she finished sixth in last year's state meet 100, and she hopes to improve this year. Bennett also will compete in the 200, where she'll be joined by freshman teammate Sophia Smith.
"I'm better than I thought," Bennett said. "My 200 time was not very good, though. I definitely know what to expect. Last year, I didn't know anything. Last year's state meet was my first big meet. My times are a lot better this year."
"I'm excited," Smith said. "I plan to train so hard (for state)."
Juneau will have pairings in a few other events, and the Crimson Bears think they may help them because the teammates can work together. One pairing features sophomore Tristan Knutson-Lombardo and senior Gabe Hayden in the boys 1,600 and 3,200, where they plan to work in tandem with Sitka's Amadeo Linke.
"When there's someone you know in the pack, you can tuck in and hide," Hayden said. "From warming up to racing, it's good to have two people from the same team in the same race."
"We're feeling really confident," said Knutson-Lombardo, who also qualified in the 800 but decided to drop from that event to concentrate on the two longer races. "With me and Gabe, there's nothing to lose. We'll be running with Amadeo."
Another pairing will occur in the girls 800 meters, where freshman Jaci Hayden and senior Phoebe Rohrbacher will work together. Jaci Hayden also will be paired with senior teammate Molly Krehlik in the 3,200, but Krehlik will be on her own in the 1,600.
"I'm totally fine with what I did," Jaci Hayden said. "It's definitely good to have someone in the same race, even though we won't be in the same heat (in the 800)."
"This is my first time (qualifying for state) for track," Rohrbacher said. "I just trained really hard. You can definitely improve if you work hard. I'm just excited for making it."
Another pairing will involve the Talamai brothers in the boys shot put. Toni Talamai, a junior, is seeded just ahead of his older brother, senior Tevita Talamai, in the middle of the field for the shot put. The Talamai brothers said they thought the big-meet atmosphere might help them this weekend, especially since their respective season-bests came in big meets (Toni's at the region meet and Tevita's in Skyview).
"I think I'll do better," Toni Talamai said. "That was my top throw (last week). I feel better every meet. I'm getting better."
"I just made it, just the shot," said Tevita Talamai, who just missed qualifying in the discus. "I'll just focus on the one event. It'll be like the meet at Skyview, I went 45-(feet)-5 (inches). I'm ready to do my best this week. I'm always ready."
Mike Loucks of Sitka also qualified for state as the Region V shot put champion, but decided to play for Sitka's baseball team this weekend in Ketchikan instead of going to the state track meet.
Among other Southeast athletes at state, Matt Blood of Haines is seeded second in the boys 110-meter high hurdles, Zac Drllevich of Petersburg is seeded third in the boys long jump and seventh in the triple jump, Sitka's Dianne Chong is seeded fourth in the girls long jump and defending champion Lilly Ward of Haines is seeded eighth in the girls triple jump.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Southeast state track qualifiers
The qualifiers from Southeast Alaska for this weekend's state track and field meet Friday and Saturday at Anchorage's Bartlett High School. Relay teams are allowed to list up to six eligible athletes, but only four will compete per heat.
Shot put - Loreen Tupou, JDHS, 33 feet, 9 3/4 inches (event's top seed).
Discus - Loreen Tupou, JDHS, 116-5 (2001 state champion).
High jump - Mary Rehfeld, JDHS, 4-8.
Long jump - Dianne Chong, Sitka, 15-10 3/4; Kathryn Brownlee, JDHS, 15-2; Lilly Ward, Haines, 15-0 1/2.
Triple jump - Lilly Ward, Haines, 32-8 1/4 (defending state champion); Kim Ferrin, Haines, 31-10; Mary Rehfeld, JDHS, 31-3.
100 meters - Heather Bennett, JDHS, 13.34 seconds; Dianne Chong, Sitka, 13.87.
200 meters - Heather Bennett, JDHS, 28.00; Sophia Smith, JDHS, 28.56.
400 meters - Meghan DeSloover, JDHS, 1:05.71.
800 meters - Jaci Hayden, JDHS, 2:32.74; Phoebe Rohrbacher, JDHS, 2:34.11.
1,600 meters - Molly Krehlik, JDHS, 5:32.62.
3,200 meters - Molly Krehlik, JDHS, 11:44.24; Jaci Hayden, JDHS, 11:57.15.
100-meter intermediate hurdles - Brenna McMahon, Petersburg, 18.37.
300-meter low hurdles - Rachel Chenoweth, JDHS, 49.96.
4x100-meter relay - Sitka (Joy Ribao, Lexi Fish, Juliet Agne, Dianne Chong, Fawn Abt), 55.89.
4x200-meter relay - Juneau-Douglas (Carly Craig, Meghan DeSloover, Sophia Smith, Heather Bennett, Rachel Chenoweth, Heather Harris), 1:53.18.
4x400-meter relay - Juneau-Douglas (Meghan DeSloover, Sophia Smith, Jaci Hayden, Rachel Chenoweth, Carly Craig, Elizabeth Stickel), 4:27.39.
4x800-meter relay - Juneau-Douglas (Molly Krehlik, Phoebe Rohrbacher, Carly Craig, Jaci Hayden, Meghan DeSloover, Elizabeth Stickel), 10:34.18.
Shot put - Toni Talamai, JDHS, 44 feet, 7 1/2 inches; Tevita Talamai, JDHS, 44-6 (Mike Loucks of Sitka won the Region V title, but elected to skip the state meet to compete with Sitka's baseball team this weekend in Ketchikan).
Discus - Tyrell Horton, Haines, 125-11.
High jump - Greg Hunter, Sitka, 5-8.
Long jump - Zac Drllevich, Petersburg, 20-9 3/4; Eric Lee, Petersburg, 20-1 1/2.
Triple jump - Zac Drllevich, Petersburg, 40-7; Layte Hudson, Metlakatla, 39-8 1/4; Eric Lee, Petersburg, 39-2.
100 meters - Ernest Monts, JDHS, 11.55 seconds.
200 meters - Brian Felix, JDHS, 24.45.
400 meters - Peter Wing, Haines, 54.15.
800 meters - Tyler Dinnan, JDHS, 2:04.95; Scott Totten, Sitka, 2:05.37; Chad Stigen, Haines, 2:06.87 (Tristan Knutson-Lombardo of JDHS won the Region V title in this event, but elected to skip the 800 at state to concentrate on other events).
1,600 meters - Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, JDHS, 4:32.10; Amadeo Linke, Sitka, 4:45.78; Gabe Hayden, JDHS, 4:46.35.
3,200 meters - Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, JDHS, 9:48.28; Gabe Hayden, JDHS, 9:54.37; Amadeo Linke, Sitka, 10:11.35.
110-meter high hurdles - Matt Blood, Haines, 16.03; Zac Drllevich, Petersburg, 17.45.
300-meter intermediate hurdles - Matt Blood, Haines, 43.88.
4x100-meter relay - Juneau-Douglas (Toni Talamai, Brian Felix, Leo Winn, Ernest Monts, T.J. Mason, Michael Kasten), 46.36.
4x200-meter relay - Juneau-Douglas (T.J. Mason, Brian Felix, Leo Winn, Ernest Monts, Toni Talamai, Michael Kasten), 1:36.74.
4x400-meter relay - Juneau-Douglas (T.J. Mason, Tyler Dinnan, Wesley Dinnan, Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, Tim Davin, Leo Winn), 3:46.08.
4x800-meter relay - Juneau-Douglas (Tim Davin, Wesley Dinnan, Gabe Hayden, Tyler Dinnan, Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, Greg Frank), 9:04.54.