ANCHORAGE - Ernest Monts didn't have the greatest of starts in the boys 100 meters at the state track meet Saturday at Bartlett High School.
But Monts made up for it with a great finish as he won the state championship in the event.
Monts had an OK start, but he trailed East Anchorage's Peter Madrid as they came out of the blocks. Monts still trailed at the 50-meter mark, with Chugiak's Luke Steele and Dimond's Josh Cutting also with the leaders.
But as the runners headed into the final stretch, Monts pulled even with Madrid and Monts outleaned his rival at the finish line. Monts had a winning time of 11.31 seconds, while Madrid finished in 11.34.
"That's the first time, I can remember not being in the front at the start," said Monts, who was tied with Cutting for the top-seeded time of 11.36 after Friday's preliminaries. "For awhile I thought I wouldn't do it. There was a whole lot of stuff going through my mind, but I cleared my head and focused on my running."
"He had to run fast after that start," Juneau assistant coach Kevin Hamrick said.
While Saturday's final didn't go to a photo finish, it wouldn't have been surprising if Monts' race went to one. Twice earlier this season - in the 100 meters at the Skyview invitational and against Haines in the 4x100-meter relay of the Juneau Invitational - Monts won races that went to a photo-finish with each runner recording the exact same times.
"One of the contributing factors was all the competition Ernie had with the Haines guys and Tim Kaloostian (an Arizona-bound Haines senior who injured his hamstring during the Juneau Invitational and wasn't able to compete at the state meet)," Juneau head coach Scott May said. "He's been having to lean people out all season. It's been really good we've had that competition with the Haines guys and Kaloostian."
It was Juneau's first state championship in a state meet event since Loreen Tupou won the girls discus as a sophomore in 2001, and it was the first title by a Juneau boy since Robert Ridgeway won the 100 in 1998 when he was a junior.
"When we got here to Juneau, Robert was graduating and he told Ernest he had to maintain the tradition," Michelle Monts, Ernest's mother, said after her son had taken a victory lap in front of the grandstand carrying the Alaska flag.
"All I know is one of my great friends Robert Ridgeway won a state title when he was a junior and I thought that must be a great feeling," said Ernest Monts, who ran track as a sophomore but didn't go out for the team last year for personal reasons. "It's a nice feeling to bring a title to Juneau. It's great."
In the team standings, the Dimond boys scored an easy victory over Palmer, 84-64, with Juneau finishing in 12th place with 17 points. Haines took 19th place with two points, while Sitka, Petersburg and Metlakatla didn't score.
The girls half of the meet was even closer than the boys, as East Anchorage edged out Lathrop for the team title, 72-71, with Chugiak and Dimond tying for third place with 65 points. Juneau finished in 10th place with 22 points, while Haines took 16th place with four points. Sitka and Petersburg sent athletes, but neither scored team points.
Juneau almost picked up a second state title during Friday's field events as Tupou, now a senior, took second place to Lathrop's Alana Clooten in the girls shot put. Tupou took third place in the discus, which Clooten won over Dimond's Jessica Houston.
Tupou, who almost didn't come out for track this year, matched her placings of last year. Tupou only had one meet before state, winning the Region V titles in both events. She bettered her region-winning performances at the state meet, but Tupou was mildly disappointed in her results and felt she could have thrown farther.
Tupou also had an early lead in the second flight of the discus, throwing 117-3, but Houston threw a 135-1 on her last throw of the preliminaries to take the lead as the throwers headed to the finals. Clooten, the defending state champion, scratched on her first two preliminary throws (including one that landed very near the tape marking the state meet record of 143-2 by Palmer's Jenney Luer in 1997), and barely made the finals with a third throw of 104-6.
In the finals, Clooten, who was throwing with a heavy knee brace because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, took the lead with the winning mark of 135-11. Tupou improved her distance by an inch to 117-4 during the finals, but didn't get the 125-foot toss she'd hoped for.
In the shot put, Tupou had a throw of 34 feet, 6 inches, which led after the first flight. Clooten, who was in the second flight, passed Tupou with her second throw, 34-8 3/4, the eventual winning toss. Both throwers had at least one more throw in the finals that went beyond 34 feet, but their first-round marks held.
"I wanted to throw 36-11; my PR (personal record) is 36-10," Tupou said. "I thought I had it. But I'm happy to be here and I'm happy for Alana. It was good. I'm satisfied."
"We thought we had it in the shot," said Hamrick, who coaches the throwers for the track team and coached Monts on the football team. "We're glad she came back. She's just fun to be around and she keeps a smile on her face. I'm glad she came back, because I would have wondered what she would have done her senior year. She would've been fine with it (not coming out for track), but I would have wondered. She doesn't make any bad choices."
In other Juneau highlights that earned team points:
Senior Rachel Chenoweth took third place in the girls 300-meter low hurdles for the second straight year, this time with a PR of 47.02 seconds. Chenoweth struggled to make the finals in Friday's preliminaries, posting a time of 49.43 to draw the dreaded eighth lane (the hardest for a hurdler because of the wider curve and not being able to see the other runners because of the stagger).
Chenoweth's time was a school record.
"That was phenomenal - that's a really difficult thing to do," May said. "For her to go after it and keep that place (from the outside lane) was an outstanding performance on her part."
The boys 4x200-meter relay team of T.J. Mason, Brian Felix, Leo Winn and Monts finished in fourth place with a school-record time of 1:33.89. All four members of the relay team were members of the football team.
The girls 4x200-meter relay team of Sophia Smith, Meghan DeSloover, Chenoweth and Heather Bennett took sixth place in a time of 1:51.14.
Bennett took sixth place in the 200 meters with a time of 27.03.
The boys 4x400-meter relay team of Mason, Tyler Dinnan, Wesley Dinnan and Tristan Knutson-Lombardo took sixth place with a time of 3:48.40.
The boys 4x100-meter relay team of Mason, Felix, Winn and Monts took sixth place in a school-record time of 45.11.
And Knutson-Lombardo passed two runners in the last half-lap to finish sixth in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4:30.28.
"I ran with a different philosophy," Knutson-Lombardo said of his 1,600. "I wanted to run for a time, I wanted to break 4:30. It was fun."
The only other Southeast athletes to score points were from Haines.
Junior Lilly Ward, who won last year's girls state triple jump championship, finished fourth this year with a jump of 33-11 3/4. That mark was just off her winning jump last year of 34-4, and her Region V-winning jump last week of 34-2. Laura Clemson of Service won the event with a 35-1 1/4 jump, while Brittany Gardner of Soldotna was second at 34-4 1/4 and Sarah Eby of Chugiak took third at 34-2 1/4.
"At the beginning of the season, I thought I'd do good," said Ward, who was already planning her training for next year. "My goal was to beat 35. Usually, I'll get it on my first jump and go downhill from there. This time it was the opposite."
The other scorer for Haines was senior Matt Blood in the 110-meter high hurdles, who took fifth place in 15.92 seconds. Trevor Tompkins of Skyview won the race in 15.63 seconds, but was listed as disqualified for a time before his winning result was reinstated late in the meet.
Complete results of the finals, plus the results of all Southeast athletes from the preliminaries, will run later this week.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.