ANCHORAGE -- This is a shorts story about the state track and field meet.
A pair of baggy Adidas shorts, actually, black with three narrow white stripes down each side. A pair of shorts that nearly resulted in the disqualification of defending state champion and top-seeded Juneau-Douglas High School junior Loreen Tupou in the girls discus on Friday afternoon at Bartlett High School.
This pair of shorts didn't look much different than the pair of solid black pair Tupou was wearing underneath, but they were different enough from the shorts worn by the other Crimson Bears that meet officials were going to disqualify Tupou for wearing an illegal uniform. The DQ nearly set the meet's tone for the entire Juneau team, since the girls discus was the first event featuring any of the Crimson Bears.
After much debate, and three different appeals, the disqualification was rescinded and Tupou went on to lead the Juneau girls with a second-place finish in the shot put and a third-place finish in the discus. The Juneau girls finished ninth in the team standings with 27 points, one point out of a tie for seventh by Eielson and West Valley.
The girls team title went to the West Anchorage Eagles with 73 points after all the finals were over on Saturday night. East Anchorage took second place with 64 points and Soldotna was third with 44. The Haines girls had 10 points to finish in a three-way tie for 14th place, while the Ketchikan girls had eight points to finish in a tie for 18th.
In the boys meet, the Crimson Bears took 13th place with 13 points. The Dimond Lynx claimed the team title with 80 points, followed by Palmer with 57 for second place and Lathrop in third place with 50 points. Other Southeast teams to score points included Haines with five points and a tie for 18th place, and Petersburg with two points in 20th.
But for Juneau, a meet full of personal records was nearly overshadowed by the disqualification that wasn't.
Tupou was told she was being disqualified after scratching on her third discus throw, the last before the field of 16 was supposed to be cut to eight finalists. Juneau co-coaches Ned Clooten and Scott May filed appeals, and Tupou was allowed to be a ninth thrower in the finals with the knowledge that her potential DQ could become official at any time.
On her first throw of the finals, her fourth of six throws overall, Tupou uncorked her longest throw of the event, 114 feet, 3 inches. The throw was longer than her winning effort last year (110-10), but shorter than those posted by Soldotna's Sasha Cvetkovski and Lathrop's Alana Clooten (Ned Clooten's first cousin).
While Ned Clooten and May argued with meet officials over Tupou's right to continue throwing, Alana Clooten threw 125-0 to win the discus with Cvetkovski's 120-7 holding up for second place. Tupou's status was still in doubt when she was announced as the third-place finisher in the discus and prepared to throw the shotput, her next event.
During the break between events, Tupou was struggling with her composure as she talked to fellow Juneau thrower Beatriz Muse (who took 11th place in both discus and shot). She returned to the ring and started the shot put when the Juneau coaches were told Tupou's disqualification wasn't going to happen. Her third place in the discus would stand.
"She's in," a relieved Ned Clooten said while Tupou moved into second place in the shot put. "I do think it affected her throws. I'm happy with what she was able to do, with the pressure of the situation. Before the meet we thought if she had anything between 110-120 feet we'd be happy. I thought she regained her composure."
Clooten said one of the biggest components of their appeal was they'd been told Tupou was disqualified for wearing shorts that weren't "school-issued." He said the coaches told meet officials the school didn't have any shorts Tupou's size to issue, so Tupou bought her own shorts.
"We told them, 'Don't penalize the athlete because we didn't have a uniform to issue her,'" Clooten said. "Our uniform situation is very poor, and we weren't able to do anything about it this year because we were jumping into the coaching situation in March. Her shorts matched our uniforms perfectly."
"She was pushing the envelope to some degree with the shorts," meet referee Michael Janecek said. "But eventually we decided the colors matched the school colors and they were within the style limits (as listed by the national rule book). There has to be a conscious effort, and the school didn't buy the uniform. Personally, if the shorts had been green she was gone, no question. We do plan to send a letter to Juneau-Douglas High School about the uniform situation."
In the meantime, Tupou kept throwing the shot put. Tupou had a series with several throws in the low 35-foot range, with a best throw of 35-2 1/2. Cvetkovski, the defending champion, threw a 37-0 3/4 to win the event, but Tupou held on for second place. She didn't find out she was still in the discus until her last throw.
"I was so mad," Tupou said about being told she was disqualified after scratching on a throw she thought went about 120-125 feet. "It affected me, but I had to get focussed. It helped me for shot. I thought I'd throw around the 32s, but I kept a consistent 35. I'm totally satisfied. Before I came here I was being totally stressed out, not just in track, and I was about ready to just pack in everything. I have to be a lot stronger mentally."
Tupou had the best finishes of any Juneau athlete, although her third-place finishes were matched by Rachel Chenoweth in the 300-meter low hurdles and by the boys 4x800-meter relay team of Federico Milanetti, Brian Nowlin, Tristan Knutson-Lombardo and Bryce Iverson.
"There was a lot better competition than in Southeast," Nowlin said. "I think that helped us.
"It's nice to have a great athlete to finish for us," Milanetti said of Iverson, who made a late charge to keep Juneau in the medals.
The only other medals won by Juneau athletes were for fourth-place medals that went to boys 1,600-meter runner Jesse Stringer and the girls 4x400-meter relay team of Emily Krehlik, Chenoweth, Meghan DeSloover and Claire Martin.
"I'm pretty happy," Stringer said. "It's what I got last year. I was trying to stick with them, but it's really hot. It was a good race, though."
Other Crimson Bears to score points (top-six finishes) included Alan Floresca with a fifth-place finish in the boys 110-meter high hurdles; the fifth-place Juneau girls 4x800-meter relay team of Heidi Denton, Brittany Rohm, Annie Fox and Molly Krehlik; Heather Bennett with a sixth-place finish in the girls 100 meters; and a sixth-place finish in the boys 3,200 meters by Iverson.
"I feel excited," Floresca said. "It's a new track and I think that helped my time. I feel excited by it. I hope I can go to college so I can practice on a rubberized track."
The best finish by a Southeast athlete was by Haines sophomore Lilly Ward, who won the girls triple jump to become the first track state champion from Haines. Ward jumped 34-4, then had to sweat it out as West Valley's Erica Starr went 34-0 1/2 and Colony's Shelby Beairsto went 34-0. Ward's previous best was 33-2, which earned her sixth place at state last year as a freshman. Ward said she didn't think she was going to have a good day Friday, as she only finished 12th in the long jump.
"Ah, do I have to? It's so embarrassing," Ward said when asked about her long jump. "I was just so happy to get it over with. I was thinking after the long jump I was not going to do good."
Ward said coach Rich Kaloostian told her before her third jump she wasn't getting enough height, so Ward tried to expend more energy in the first part of the jump than the last part. That gave her the championship.
Ketchikan senior Elisa Bolling finished second in the 800 meters to Kris Smith of West Anchorage, missing out on a chance to repeat as state champion. The only other medal won by a Southeast athlete was a fourth-place medal in the boys discus by Haines senior Coleman Stanford. Petersburg's Zac Drillevich took fifth place in the boys long jump, while the Haines boys 4x100-meter relay team of Tyler Ferrin, Kenta Takano, Matt Blood and Tim Kaloostian took sixth place to score a point.
Smith won the girls 3,200, 1,600 and 800 races to earn the female outstanding athlete award. Colony's Ryan Collins won the male outstanding athlete award after winning the 100 and 200 events and leading Colony's winning 4x100-meter relay team. The only record broken at the meet was by Eielson's Janay DeLoach in the long jump (DeLoach's jump of 19-2 broke the state record by nearly 1 1/2 feet).
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
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