The earth shook, the sky cracked and the Juneau-Douglas High School girls track and field team exceeded all ambitious expectations to take second place this weekend for the second year in a row at the 2009 4A State Track and Field Championships at Lathrop High School.
Junior distance runner Leah Francis once again led the team scoring, becoming a three-time state champion in both the 1600- and 3200-meter races. Francis also fell just short of defending her state 800 title, but placed a close second. She had posted just the state's fourth-best time this season in the 800, but fell short in a "great, great" race according to JDHS co-coach Scott May.
Saturday started in an unusual fashion for all of the meet's participants, when the area was hit by an earthquake "strong enough to really bump the beds into the wall" at roughly 5:30 a.m., according to May.
The race for second place in the girls teams between the Crimson Bears and Bartlett came down to Saturday's final relay event - the 1600. JDHS was ranked eighth in the state entering the race, while Bartlett was the fifth-seeded group. The Juneau-Douglas coaches sat down with their team in the event - consisting of Francis, Karissa Jackson, Marie Holden and Alison deLabruere - and spoke to them about the importance the race held.
"It really charged them up," May said. "We let them know the deal. We needed the races of their careers. The end result was that they took fourth and Bartlett took sixth. Everybody was screaming and yelling."
Saturday's conditions took another odd turn as the day's warm weather turned into a brief but violent rain storm, complete with thunder and lightning.
"Everybody just said 'what a day,'" May said.
Sophomore hurdler Emily Sharp did some surprising of her own, placing second in both the 300 and 100 events. Sharp had broken the JDHS 300 record time during her Friday heat, and went on to break that time yet again Saturday. She used every millisecond of her record Saturday to force a photo finish that had the entire stadium guessing if she was the state champion until the results were announced.
"She wasn't ranked that high in the 300 going in," May said. "She broke her qualifying time by something like six seconds. She really did great."
The girls' 400 relay also took sixth, the final point-earning slot to finish in. That team consisted of Emily Sharp, Samantha Sharp, Talitha Wilson and Stacie Arnold.
Junior shot putter Annette Highley also placed sixth in her individual event.
All of the boys' team points came from their relays. Four teams had qualified, and three finished in the top six. The 800 - ran by Jeff Cordle, Nick Rutecki, Josh Smith and Randall Segelhorst - had the best placement in fifth.
The 400 team of Cordle, Segelhorst, Smith and Rey Delacruz took sixth. The 3200 group of Erik Schlechter, Andre Bunton, Nolin Ainsworth and Dawson Walker also took sixth.
Sophomore distance runner Zach Bursell finished just out of the placings in seventh for the 3200. He also finished 11th in the 1600.
Full results were not available as of press time Saturday. Please look for full results in Wednesday's Empire Sports.