After just a few short weeks, the high school track and field season is winding down, and with the conference championships taking place this weekend, peninsula athletes are hoping to peak at the right time to earn a bid at the state competition.
If all goes as planned, peninsula teams should be well-represented at the state meet May 18 and 19 in Fairbanks.
Kenai, SoHi, Skyview and Homer will be at the Region III/4A meet in Palmer today and Saturday.
Kenai Central hopes to get about 10 to 12 athletes to qualify for state, the most likely of those being senior Bailey Beeson, who last weekend at the borough championship meet won all four of her individual events.
This weekend, however, her schedule will be scaled back a tad, as the only individual events she is entered in is the 400- and 800-meter runs, as well as the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays. Beeson is currently ranked third in the state in the girls 400 meters, with a time of 58.91 seconds.
“Last weekend was her big shot,” Kenai coach Tim Sandahl said. “This time her biggest focus is the 400.”
Siblings Leah and Joe Sandahl are both entered in the hurdle events, and both are hoping to qualify for state in both.
Leah will race in the girls 100- and 300-meter hurdles, and Joe will be in the 110 and 300 hurdles. Joe currently has the eighth-fastest time in the state in the boys 300 hurdles at 42.84 seconds, and Leah has the seventh-fastest time in the state in the girls 100 hurdles with a time of 17.10 seconds. Leah also is entered in the girls 1,600 meter relay.
Coach Sandahl also pointed out freshman Kiana Harding, scheduled to compete in the high jump. Harding is currently tied for the 14th spot in the state rankings, with a jump of 4 feet, 8 inches.
Hannah Barcus, also a freshman, will be entered in the long and triple jump events, and is ranked 11th in the state for the triple jump, jumping a length of 31 feet, 3.5 inches.
AJ Hull will likely be a force in the 100-meter dash, long and triple jumps. Sandahl said he would participate in the 200 meters, but is opting out because of a baseball commitment that day. Hull’s top 100-meter time this year is an 11.56 seconds, good for 13th in the state.
Kenai’s contingent of distance runners will be limited to only their best event, in order to conserve energy for a peak performance.
Jonah Theisen will try to qualify for state in the 1,600 meter run, his brother Jordan in the 3,200, and Andrew Mole will attempt the 800 meters.
Sandahl said if junior Brad Smithwick can extend his discus throw another 8 feet, he could get to state, as he hoping to throw over 120 feet.
The Soldotna Stars had a strong showing in the borough championship, winning the girls team title, which is the first team title for the Stars in the last eight to ten years, according to coach Pat Nolden.
“We put people in position last week to win boroughs,” Nolden said. “Now we’re going to be very selective, and put kids in position to make it to the next level.”
Senior Mariah Ulen will likely be strongest contender for Soldotna, as she is entered in the girls 100- and 300-meter hurdles, as well as the high jump and 800-meter relay. Ulen is currently ranked third in the state in the 100 hurdles, with a time of 16.73 seconds.
Ulen will be joining Jelly Nolden, Bree Mucha, and either Kaillee Skjold or Dani McCormick in the 800-meter relay, Nolden said, and that team should be a contender.
Jay Ulen will be entered in the boys high and triple jumps, and Nolden said if he can hit the 6-foot mark in the high jump, he should be in for state. Ulen is standing fifth in the state at exactly six feet.
Bree Mucha is looking strong if past performance is any indication. This weekend, Mucha will race in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, as well as the mentioned 800 relay. Nolden said Mucha’s performance in the 200 last week could have been better had she not previously raced in the 1,600-meter run, a race she won.
Senior Lagi Wong is ranked number one in the state for both the girls shot put and discus events, and is looking like a strong contender in both events. She holds the top spots with throws of 38 feet, 7 inches in the shot put, and 112 feet, 6 inches in the discus.
Sophomore River Calloway willing be racing in the boys 400, as well as the long jump, but coach Nolden said he has had trouble with shin splints.
Moving south, the Skyview Panthers are competing with a strong boys team, led by the sprint relay team of Richard Reynolds, Albert White, JoeBen Hawkins and Jasen Suonvieri, which won the boys 400-meter relay at boroughs.
White is currently ranked 14th in the state 100 dash with a time of 11.57 seconds, and 10th in the 200 meters with a time of 23.35. Reynolds is ranked 15th in the boys 400 meters with a time of 53.63 seconds.
In the boys 1,600 relay, Skyview coach Rob Sparks said Reynolds, Suonvieri and White will race with Cody Williams as an addition.
Williams, according to Sparks, has been battling an illness lately, but is entered in the boys 800, 1,600 and 3,200 runs. Williams’ strongest race will likely be the 3,200, as he is ranked 10th in the state with a time of 10:06.28.
Sophomore Micah Hilbish will attempt to make the state roster in the boys 800- and 1600-meter runs, as his time of 4:50 flat in the 1,600 tops Skyview boys.
Senior Alex Rodriguez will hope to return to state in the boys shot put, as his best throw this year is 42 feet, 7 inches, good for 15th in the state.
On the girls side, Sparks mentioned Sydney Roumagoux, who will be running the girls 100- and 200-meter dashes, as well as the 100 meter hurdles and the girls 800m relay team. Roumagoux currently holds the 12th spot in the state 200 meter rankings with a time of 27.61 seconds.
Marlee Cunningham will be entered in the girls long and triple jumps, as well as the 800 relay, and Marissa Mahan is competing in the girls shot put and discus events, as she is ranked 11th in the state in the shot put, with a throw of 32 feet, six inches.
Kaylee Fisher completes the girls contingent in the high jump, hoping to make it with a jump of 4 feet, 8 inches, ranked 14th in the state.
“All our relays made it to state last year, so we’re hoping that happens again,” Sparks said. “Anything can happen in the relays, unfortunately, but if everything goes right, we’ll be fine.”
The Nikiski Bulldogs, at the Region III/3A meet in Anchorage, will not have the number of athletes other schools are sending to state, but the ones that they have are true contenders.
Senior Sayyid Parrish is the leading candidate, and is entered in the 100, 200 and is supporting the 400 meter relay as the anchor. Parrish’s big event may end up being the long jump, as he is ranked 10th in the state, sporting a jump of 19 feet, 5.5 inches.
Seth Carstens is entered in the boys high jump, and is a strong candidate to make it to state as he made the trip last year as a freshman. Carstens is tied for sixth with a leap of 5 feet, 10 inches.
Nikiski coach Dan Adair said Carstens has improved by “leaps and bounds.”
“He should make it to state for the 400 as well, he’s the most natural 400 runner I’ve coached,” Adair said.
Lincoln Johnson is entered in the shot put and discus, as well as the triple jump, and should be threat in all three events, according to Adair, and Stephen Hartley looks to be a strong contender in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.
Adair said Jesse Ross walked onto the team halfway through the season, but has been a pleasant surprise in the mid-distance races, and will race in the 800, 1,600 and 1,600 relay.
On the girls side, Kerry Ross has “an excellent chance” in the 100, 200, 400 and 400 relay races. Ross will join Sienna Wallis, Jamie Ward and Heather Kaser in the 400 relay.
In the throwing events, Nikiski has juniors Ashley Every and Haley Conti throwing both the shot put and discus.
The Cook Inlet Academy Eagles, at the Region II meet in Talkeetna, also have a small team at the conference meet, but will have senior heavyweight Zach Taplin throwing in the shot put and discus. Taplin is ranked eighth in the state at discus, throwing 136 feet, 9 inches, and fifth in the shot put, with a throw of 44 feet, 8 inches.
“It’s hard to say, but the kids we got all have good chances,” CIA coach Drew Dickson said. “They’ve all been working hard and accomplishing their goals, and they’ve been progressing along pretty good.”
Freshman Madison Orth has been another standout at CIA, as she has been fast in the 100 and 200 dashes, and is entered in the 100m hurdles. She also plans on taking on the long and triple jumps. Orth is ranked sixth statewide in the long jump with a leap of 15 feet, 2 inches.
Junior Cara Davidson is entered in both throwing events, and should contend, as she is ranked third statewide in the discus with a throw of 110 feet, 3 inches.
Homer looks to have a few good entries, as Cassidy Soistman will be entered in the triple jump, an event that she is ranked ninth in the state in, with a leap of 31 feet, 6 inches. Soistman went to state last year in the event.
Homer coach Bill Steyer said the team is not overconfident, and acknowledges the fact that anything can happen.
“We’re definitely in rebuild mode, we hope to have a nice track next year, so we’re looking forward to it,” Steyer said.
Sophomore Tayla Cabana is entered in the girls long jump, and Steyer says while she is a novice at it, she is a “good, all-around athlete”.
“She is struggling a little with an injury, but she’s a pretty good jumper and hurdler.”
Cabana will also be running in the 300 hurdles and throwing in the shot put.
Junior Mark McGregor will be racing in the boys 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, throwing in the discus, and supporting the boys 400 relay.
Steyer said freshman Connor Seay will be entered in the 300 meter hurdles, but could be racing as well in the 400 meters, but is saving his energy for one event that he can excel in.
The Seward Seahawks, at the Region III/3A meet, will be featuring some fast mid-distance athletes.
Freshman Michael Marshall has been fast all year in the 400 and 800 runs, and junior Miles Knotek the same in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Junior Tessa Adelmann is currently ranked fourth in the girls shot put, with a throw of 36 feet and a half inch.
The top four conference winners automatically qualify for their event, and the next 12 fastest runners across Alaska qualify. In the relay events, the top four conference teams qualify, with the next four fastest teams entered.