PALMER -- Juneau-Douglas High School sophomore Loreen Tupou had never really picked up a discus until early in April, when she decided to give the sport of track and field a try.
It was shortly after Spring Break ended, about the first week of April, when Tupou called up Juneau track coach Tracy Rivera and asked if she could fit a practice schedule around her work schedule for a local auto dealer. Rivera told her it could be done, but a couple of weeks later Tupou decided she liked track so much she quit her job so she could practice throwing the discus.
On Friday at Palmer High School, Tupou reached a pinnacle in her brief track career as she won the state championship in the girls discus event, throwing the discus 110 feet, 10 inches on her fifth throw to break the Juneau-Douglas High School record of 103 feet by Tina Carlson in 1997. Not only did her throw win the event by a little more than three feet over Nikiski's Inger Hulien, but her fourth throw of 109-5 actually broke Carlson's record. Tupou's victory gave Juneau its first state track title since 1999 (when Maria Eley won the 3,200 meters) and first field event state title since 1993 (when Heidi Freeman tied the state record in the triple jump).
"I wasn't sure if I was making the right decision," Tupou said about quitting her job last month so she could have more time to practice throwin the discus. "I guess I did."
"She's just learning," Rivera said. "But she's already got really good technique. She's naturally athletic, and she's been able to learn the spin move."
Tupou's championship in the discus was one of several brights spots for the Crimson Bear girls, who tied for 11th place in the team standings with 20 points. The Lathrop girls claimed the team title with 69 points, followed by Colony with 59 and Chugiak with 47. The Ketchikan girls tied for 14th place with 10 points, while the Petersburg girls tied for 21st place with four points and the Haines girls took 24th place with one point.
In the boys meet, the Crimson Bears were part of a three-way tie for 14th place with Sitka and North Pole as each team scored 12 points. The Ketchikan boys tied for 12th place with 14 points to lead Southeast teams, with the Haines boys in 20th place with four points. Bartlett won the state title with 80 points, followed by Kodiak with 66 and Dimond with 50.
Tupou was one of two athletes from Southeast Alaska to win a state title. The other was Elisa Bolling of Ketchikan in the girls 800 meters.
Juneau's Clay Brown led a 2-3-4 finish for Southeast in the boys triple jump as his leap of 41-4 was one quarter-inch ahead of the 41-3 3/4 of Ketchikan's Geoff Nordlund and nearly a foot better than the 40-4 3/4 turned in by John Plucker of Haines. Juneau's Cody Bloom took seventh place, just missing the team points, while teammate Aaron Larson took 14th place in the event, which Bartlett's Joey Weber won with a 42-11 1/2 mark.
"I was behind the board by four or five inches on almost all of my jumps," said Brown, who was in third place until his final jump of the finals. "Somebody told me to move up a bit, and I beat Nordlund on that last jump. I felt fine about second place, but if I'd put everything together I thought I could have had 42 on a couple of my jumps. Last year I barely made finals, so I felt I did better this year than last year."
There was one other second-place finish from Southeast as Sitka's Matt Mangini was edged out in the 400 meters by Dimond's Brandon Joseph. Mangini broke the school record with his run, plus he earned some extra scholarship money to the University of Sioux Falls, S.D., by dropping two seconds from his time.
Among other Southeast highlights (complete results will run in Tuesday's editions of the Juneau Empire):
Juneau's Jesse Stringer took fourth place in the 1,600 meters with a school-record time of 4:27.61. Stringer said he was happy, but sore after the event. "I didn't get a good enough warm-up on that," Stringer said. "I's pretty sore right now."
Juneau's Rachel Chenoweth took fifth place in the 300-meter low hurdles with a time of 48.12 seconds. "I felt I did my hardest," Chenoweth said. "I'm really happy. I think we scored one point last year and as a team we improved so much. We all worked really hard this year."
Juneau's Molly Krehlik took fifth place in the 3,200 meters with a time of 11:23.39.
The Juneau girls 4x800-meter relay team of Breanne Rohm, Brandy Weston, Hilary Young and Molly Krehlik took nearly 30 seconds off the school record with a fourth-place time of 9:57.84. Juneau's 4x200-meter team of Adriana Rodriguez, Sarah Ballard, Emily Krehlik and Chenoweth took fifth place in 1:51.16.
Ketchikan's Geoff Nordlund, who took third place in the triple jump, also took fourth place in the 110-meter high hurdles with a time of 16.13 seconds (Nordlund won the event last year in 15.19) and was fourth in the long jump at 20-4.
Petersburg's Amber Beardslee took fourth place in the high jump at 5-1.
Sitka's Derek Hirai took sixth place in the boys long jump with a leap of 19-7 1/2.
And Sitka's 4x400-meter boys relay team of Mangini, Elgin Hollins, Jeffrey Loiselle and Brian Friske took sixth place with a time of 3:36.66.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.