After a very strong performance at the Region III/4A competition last weekend, the Soldotna girls track and field team is ready to back it up at the Class 4A state competition today and Saturday in Fairbanks.
Among others expected to give strong performances are the Kenai girls, Skyview boys and Nikiski boys.
The Soldotna girls received some surprise performances last weekend, including five gold-medal wins, and that resulted in a runner-up team standing, only lesser than Wasilla’s dominance.
Wins came from senior Mariah Ulen (100-meter hurdles, high jump), senior Lagi Wong (shot put), junior Jelly Nolden (long jump) and the girls 800-meter relay team, which consisted of Nolden, freshman Dani McCormick, Ulen and senior Bree Mucha, a team that won in a time of 1 minute, 52.50 seconds.
“That relay win was kind of unexpected,” Soldotna coach Pat Nolden said. “Mucha made up probably about 20 meters in the last leg to win by two-hundredths of a second.”
Nolden said Jelly Nolden ended up winning the long jump on her last try, after she was mired in fourth place, and Wong won the shot put on her last throw as well.
“We had a few clutch performances, so that was neat to see,” Nolden said.
Nolden also mentioned McCormick, a young distance runner who does not typically run sprint races, and said she will be an outstanding runner for the next few years.
On the boys side, junior Jay Ulen won the team’s sixth gold medal, in the boys high jump.
“I’m excited about the relay, if we can get a top-three finish, that would be outstanding,” Nolden said. “We had a few kids do much better at regions than we thought, and it gives them a lot of confidence heading into state.
“They’ll be going for personal records this weekend.”
Kenai is expected to turn in a few strong performances at state as well, and coach Tim Sandahl said a few disappointments at the conference meet will be avenged at the state competition.
Senior standout Bailey Beeson competed in the 400- and 800-meter runs last weekend, but was disqualified from the 400 for stepping on the inside boundary line on the track surface. She had originally finished third with a time of 1:00.58.
Senior Joe Sandahl was also disqualified in the boys 300-meter hurdles. His infraction was that he hit one of his own hurdles hard enough to knock it into an opponent’s lane. He had originally finished second with a time of 43 seconds flat.
“Luckily, they have other events they do and will be participating in state,” coach Sandahl said.
Sandahl said that Beeson, now only entered in the girls 800 meters, will attempt to break the Kenai school record.
The current record, according to Sandahl, is 2:18.84, set in the mid-1980s by Barb Frates. Online records show Frates set the record in 1986 with a time of 2:18.6, and Beeson’s fastest time this year is 2:19.50.
“The reason it’s hard to break that record is because the 400 is run right before the 800, so it takes a lot out of you,” Sandahl said. “Bailey and I had talked about possibly scratching for the 400 so she can try for the record.
“Of course now it’s definitely a go.”
Among other athletes’ performances at the conference meet, Sandahl points to freshmen Hannah Barcus winning the girls triple jump and Jonah Theisen finishing fifth in the boys 1600 in 4:42.85 as a delightful surprise. Both athletes are expecting big performances again at state.
“Jonah ran an awesome race, and only guys from Kodiak run times like that at a young age,” Sandahl said. “Not guys from the mainland, just Kodiak guys.”
Skyview presented the biggest accomplishment of the conference meet in the boys sprinting events.
Skyview’s Jasen Suonvieri won the 100 meters in a time of 11.59 seconds, while teammate Albert White won gold in the 200 with a time of 23.52. Skyview also won three relay events.
Suonvieri, White, Richard Reynolds and JoeBen Hawkins combined to win the 400 and 800 relays, while Reynolds, White, Micah Hilbish and Cody Williams teamed to finish first in the 1,600 relay. Those wins accounted for 50 of Skyview’s 80 points.
“Anything can happen in the relays, unfortunately, but if everything goes right, we’re pretty confident with those times,” Skyview coach Rob Sparks said.
Sydney Roumagoux and Marissa Mahan will be leading the girls side for Skyview. Roumagoux qualified for the girls 200-meter dash, holding a top time of 28.64, and Mahan qualified for the girls discus and shot put events.
The Homer Mariners will be bringing a few noteworthy athletes to the state meet as well.
Cassidy Soistman will be competing in the girls triple jump, as she holds a top jump of 30 feet, 0.50 inches, and teammate Tayla Cabana qualified for the girls long jump, holding a length of 14 feet, 4 inches.
Moving on to the Class 1-2-3A meet, Nikiski’s biggest accomplishment at the conference meet came in the form of senior Sayyid Parrish.
Parrish won three individual events — the boys 100- and 200-meter dashes and the long jump — as well as anchoring the boys winning 400-meter relay team, and is set to compete at state in all four competitions.
“We went in with a great attitude and most of the kids had their best performances of the year,” Nikiski coach Dan Adair said. “I was absolutely thrilled with how all the kids did, and they were just feeling great and so was I.
“I was really proud of them.”
Adair said the girls 400 relay was the first alternate for the state competition, but the Su Valley team scratched, which now opens the door for Nikiski to compete. Both of Nikiski’s 400 relay teams will make the trip to Fairbanks.
“As far as times, they’re the No. 1 seed for the 400 relay, and those young men have been practicing great, and they know if they prepare themselves properly, they will go home with a gold medal for that relay,” Adair said. “We’re really excited for them to go run that race, it’s been a fun week at school.”
Adair also said senior Lincoln Johnson has been stellar in practice at the discus throw, and that he has been throwing in the range of 140 feet plus.
“If he pops one good throw, like he’s done in practice, he can get gold,” Adair said.
Cook Inlet Academy is only bringing three athletes — Cara Davidson, Madison Orth and Zach Taplin — but all three bring some worthy competition to the table.
Davidson qualified for the girls discus by winning the Region II competition with a throw of 110 feet exactly last week, and will look to add a few more feet onto that number.
Orth qualified for four events — the girls 100-meter dash, 100 hurdles, triple jump and long jump. She won gold in all four of her events at the conference meet to advance to state — an outstanding result — and will likely be a strong contender.
Taplin won the boys discus at the conference meet with a throw of 41 feet, 6.25 inches, to advance to state, and his shot put throw was strong enough to advance as well.
Seward’s Tessa Adelmann will be looking to lead the Seahawks, as she qualified for two individual events, the girls discus throw and the shot put, categories in which she has been very strong in all year.
Adelmann will also join Emily Brockman, Meg Berry and Sasha Hamner in the girls 800 relay. Adelmann, Hamner and Berry will be joined by Ava Dotomain in the girls 400 relay.
Miles Knotek qualified for the boys 1,600 and 3,200 runs, with times of 4:48.10 and 10:00.90, respectively.
Knotek will join Matthew Moore and Jacob and Michael Marshall on the boys 3,200 relay team, which qualified for state with a time of 8:58.90.