Juneau stars ready to shine in Fairbanks

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

A boys or girls state track and field team championship may not be in the cards this weekend in Fairbanks, but that doesn't mean it won't be a memorable two days.

Courtesy Of Herbert Law
Courtesy Of Herbert Law

The Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls will compete Friday and Saturday in the 2008 Alaska School Activities Association State Track and Field Championships at Lathrop High School.

The Juneau-Douglas girls team boasts considerable talent and coach Scott May believes a high finish is possible.

"I think Dimond is going to be really tough," May said. "They've got the hurdles cornered and the sprinters. I think they'll - if all goes as planned - walk away with it. We'll be in a dogfight for second, though."

The JDHS girls return the majority of last year's squad of state qualifiers who finished third in 2007.

Headlining that crew is sophomore Leah Francis. The distance specialist heads to Fairbanks as the defending champ in the 1,600-meter run and 3,200-meter run. She'll be the second-seed in the 800. Francis finished third in the 800 last year.

Francis will be attempting to become just the fifth girl since 1985 to win all three distance events. Soldotna High School graduate and current University of Nebraska athlete Ari Goldstein was the last girl to accomplish the triple, winning all three events in 2004.

"She's dead set on winning all three," May said of Francis. "It's a tough triple to pull and she follows that up with the (4x400 relay) at the end of the meet."

Senior teammate Katie Krehlik is quietly enjoying her finest season and ranked second in the 1,600 and 3,200. She's been on Francis' heals all season and will also compete on the 4x400 and 4x800 teams.

"It's been great to watch Katie for four years," May said. "I think that she keeps getting PRs (personal records) every time she runs. She is training smart right now.

"A lot of times with our kids, because we have such a history in distance, some kids come in and they think they need to kill themselves in order to achieve. I think they understand that they don't need to kill themselves. They need to train smart, which means sometimes holding yourself back when you want to go all out."

Another JDHS girl who might find herself on the medal stand is Kristie Ely. She's ranked first in the long jump and second in the triple jump. Her top competition for first place figures to be from a familiar foe.

Sitka's Kelsea Johnson is ranked first in the triple jump and third in the high jump.

"The jumps are really, really unpredictable," May said. "What they require is consistency."

On the boys' end, many eyes again will be focused on the distance events.

Hunter Brown will be running in two of the more competitive races of the meet - the 1,600 and 3,200

Brown is one of five athletes statewide to break the 10-minute barrier in the 3,200. While Kodiak's Trevor Dunbar and Palmer's Jake Parisien are expected to battle for first, a third-place finish would be a terrific accomplishment for Brown.

Freshman teammate Zack Bursell will be making his state championship debut in the 1,600 and 3,200 events.

Senior Billy Sarandria will also be making his first, and only, appearance at the state meet. He'll be competing in the long jump and high jump.

Juneau's Erik Bickmore will be competitive in the 100 and 200 sprinters while the Bears' Phil Moser will be looking to make an impact in the 400.

"He's up there within a second of the folks there," May said.

In addition to the Bears, this weekend also marks the first-ever state championships for Class 1-2-3A.

Haines distance runners Chandler Kemp and J.J. Lende are both ranked first in the 3,200 and 1,600 events.

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