The final meet of the year is here. The 2014 Alaska School Activities Association state track and field meet.
This year’s state clash will feature the best tracksters, throwers and jumpers at Dimond High School in Anchorage. In all, 62 of those athletes hail from the Kenai Peninsula.
Here is how is all breaks down between schools:
Kenai Central qualified 14 athletes (seven boys and seven girls) and two relays, Soldotna is bringing 11 athletes (two boys and nine girls) and three relays, Skyview is taking six athletes (two boys and four girls) and seven relays, Nikiski is bringing five athletes (three boys and two girls) and two relays, Homer qualified nine athletes (three boys and six girls) and seven relays, Cook Inlet Academy is taking four athletes (two boys and two girls), and Seward is bringing 11 athletes (eight boys and three girls) and six relays. Additionally, Seldovia is taking two athletes (two boys) and one relay.
The running events all hold preliminary races today with the exception of the girls and boys 3,200 meter races. The Class 1-2-3A girls begin first at noon today, followed by the Class 4A girls at 12:25 p.m. The 1-2-3A boys take off at 12:50 p.m. and the 4A boys begin at 1:15 p.m.
The field events begin with the high jump at 9 a.m., the discus (girls only) at 9:15 a.m., the shot put (boys only) at 9:30 a.m., and the triple jump at 2:15 p.m. The finals for the long jump take place Saturday at 9 a.m., the discus (boys only) at 9:15 a.m. and the shot put (girls only) at 9:30 a.m.
Saturday will see all final running races, starting with the 4A girls 3,200-meter relay at 11 a.m. and ending at 5:21 p.m. with the 4A boys 1,600-meter relay.
Each discipline holds a few stars from the Kenai Peninsula, and the following is a closer look at what can be expected from each race.
When it comes to Kenai’s Allie Ostrander, it’s hard not to overstate the obvious.
The junior distance ace is gunning for victories in three events — the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 — and will be shooting for a state record in at least the two longer ones.
“With the 3,200 on Friday, she’ll be running that on fresh legs for once,” said Kenai coach Joe Trujillo.
Ostrander has eclipsed the current state record of 10 minutes, 37.7 seconds (held by Kodiak’s Kristi Klinnert from 1986) multiple times, but records can only be set at the state meet. She has also broken Kris Smith’s 2003 state record in the 1,600 of 4:55.89 on two separate occasions, including at last week’s region meet.
Trujillo said while Ostrander looks destined to set new highs in those two races, it remains to be seen whether she can threaten the state record in the girls 800 — or even win the race.
“That will prove to be the biggest test of her,” Trujillo said. “The fastest runners in the state will be within seconds of her, but she has yet to put the hammer down.
“With state, anything can happen. When you’re surrounded by the best athletes in state, you can go after records.”
Kenai holds two distance threats on the boys side — the Theisen brothers. Both qualified for four events each; the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and 3,200-meter relay races.
Both also seemingly stand the greatest chance of upsetting Kodiak distance king Levi Thomet in one of those three individual runs. Thomet holds the current state best in 2014 for top three distance races, but the Theisens aren’t far behind.
Jonah ran a 9:46.0 to finish second to Thomet at last week’s region meet, and Jordan a 9:48.8.
“It’s within their reach,” coach Trujillo said. “They’re unpredictable. Whichever one is feeling the pulse of the race more will get it.”
The Soldotna duo of Olivia Hutchings and Dani McCormick are primed for a run in the girls 800, and both may be peaking at just the right time to claim a state crown. Hutchings chopped off over three seconds from her personal best in the event at last week’s region meet, and McCormick knocked almost five seconds off her personal best.
“That really gave them some confidence at the right time,” said SoHi coach Phil Leck.
Homer’s Molly Mitchell has shown considerable strength as well in the late weeks of the 2014 season. Mitchell won both the girls 1,600 and 3,200 races at the 3A region meet last week, with times of 5:26.6 and 11:45.0, respectively, and has been a top contender among girls on the Peninsula all season.
Michael Marshall, a junior on the Seward boys team, qualified in all three distance events (as an alternate in the 3,200), with a 2:06.84 in the 800 meters standing as his best.
Josh Jackman, a Kenai freshman, has turned heads this year, and qualified for state in the boys 200 meter dash and 110-meter hurdles.
“He had some really good practices this week, and there’s no pressure on his back,” Trujillo said. “He doesn’t have anything to prove, he’s going to get after it and get it done.”
Jackman’s teammate Kyla Whannell is also a speed demon, and has proven it by qualifying to state in the girls 100 and 200 dashes. Her time of 27.36 seconds in the 200 is 10th-quickest in the state in 2014.
Soldotna sophomore Daisy Nelson is coming off a runner-up finish in the girls 400 at the region meet, and currently holds the seventh-fastest time in the state this year in 1:01.67.
Skyview senior Micah Hilbish qualified for state in the boys 400- and 800-meter runs, and although the latter one may not be a sprint, Hilbish has shown that perfect blend of speed and endurance all his years competing on the track team.
Hilbish ranks in the top-10 in both events; seventh in the 400 with a time of 52.28 seconds, and third in the 800 with a time of 2 minutes flat. Skyview may be shutting down for good in a few weeks, but Hilbish has made sure the school finishes in a blaze of glory.
Perhaps the spotlight shines the brightest on Cook Inlet Academy’s Madison Orth, who has shed the small-school limitations to become one of the state’s premier hurdling (and jumping) athletes.
The junior qualified to state in four events; both girls hurdling events, and the long and triple jumps. In the 100-meter hurdles, Orth ranks seventh in the state with a time of 16.37 seconds.
Homer teammates Tayla Cabana and Lauren Evarts mirrored each other in their state qualification bids in the two hurdling events on the girls side. Cabana holds the edge over Evarts in the 100-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles.
Jackman, the freshman from Kenai, is currently ranked 12th in the state in the 110 hurdles with a time of 16.75 seconds.
Coach Trujillo said the 110 hurdles are Jackman’s best event, but the leading time of 14.76 seconds from West’s Leroy Elliott may be a stretch to beat. The third-best time of 15.69 from Skyview’s Tim Duke could be within reach, plus, Duke is not competing due to injury.
In an impressive feat of versatility, Skyview qualified all four of its girls relay squads and all but one of the boys. The lone group that missed the cut was the boys 400-meter relay.
The Homer Mariners pulled off the same stunt, getting all but the boys 3,200-meter relay to state.
The Kenai boys hold a good shot to grab a state title in the boys 3,200 relay. The Theisen brothers are running along with senior Mac Lee and Travis Cooper in the race, and coach Trujillo said he hopes they can surprise some people.
“I’m hoping they can surprise Kodiak,” Trujillo said. “Just a fraction of an inch in our exchanges, maybe half a second per lap will be all the difference.
“We’re very hopeful we can end up medaling or even catching Kodiak.”
The Kards’ top time of 8:15.97 is only surpassed this year by Kodiak’s 8:10.87.
The Soldotna girls did well last week at regions. The 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter relays all qualified for state.
“They did a good job those relays,” coach Leck said. “Our 3,200 relay is our best shot. They gotta run well because there’s a few other good teams, but they have a shot to win that one.”
Not only do they have a shot to win, but a possible state record is on the line. Three weeks ago at the Anchorage Invite, the team of Hutchings, McCormick, Nelson and Sadie Fox nearly took down the 2004 state mark of 9:35.21 that is held by West Valley. The foursome ran a 9:38.38 that day.
But Leck indicated that even if they miss the record, a victory would still easily be enough to satisfy.
“They’re gonna run as hard as they can,” Leck said. “We have some kids running some extravagant times in that 800, so anything’s possible. If the record falls, great, and if not, winning is fine.”
The Seward boys 1,600-meter relay has run 3:40.94.
Makayla Wong continues to lead the Peninsula in throwing heavy objects a great distance. Wong set new bests en route to the victories in last week’s region meet, throwing for 35 feet, 2 inches, in the girls shot put and 110 feet, 8 inches, in the discus.
“She is our to thrower, without a doubt,” Leck said. “There’s a girl from Lathrop (To’a Levi) that’s pretty good, but Makayla’s just going to relax and have fun.
“She just likes to get out there and have fun, she’s a competitor.”
Wong finished second in shot put and third in the discus at the state meet last year.
Joining Wong in both throwing events is Kenai freshman Abby Beck, who currently holds the sixth-farthest toss in the girls discus this year with a distance of 105 feet, 8 inches. Beck won the Kenai Peninsula Borough title in the discus two weeks ago, and followed it up with a third place at the region meet last week.
CIA senior Zach Taplin has proven being from a small school isn’t a hindrance by qualifying to state in both boys throwing events. Taplin ranks fifth in the state in both events, with throws of 46 feet, 9-1/4 inches in the shot put, and 141 feet, 1 inch, in the discus.
A pair of sophomores from Nikiski made the cut to state in both throwing events. Luke Johnson and Asa Quimby are heading up that list, and both hold top-10 throwing efforts in the state. Johnson ranks ninth in the shot put with a throw of 44 feet, 8-1/2 inches, and Quimby holds 10th with a heave of 44 feet, 8 inches.
SoHi’s Daisy Nelson will complete the other half of her individual event performance in the girls triple jump. Nelson currently ranks eighth in the state with a leap of 33 feet, 3-1/2 inches, which was good enough to win the borough meet two weeks ago. Last week at the region meet, Nelson finished second.
Nikiski senior Seth Carstens qualified in both the boys high and long jumps. Carstens is undefeated in 2014 in the high jump, and had won the long jump in all meets until last week’s region competition, when he finished third. Carstens is ranked sixth in the state in the high jump with a mark of 6—0.
SoHi teammates Lindsey Wong and Claire McElroy both got in to the girls high jump, and Wong is currently ranked seventh in the state with a leap of 4 feet, 10 inches. Wong won the high jump at the borough championships.
CIA’s Madison Orth is competing in the girls long and triple jumps, to go along with her hurdling events.
Zach Martin of Seward qualified for the triple jump with a distance of 38 feet, 5-1/4 inches, which puts him on the edge of contention. The current state high mark is 42 feet, 2-1/2 inches.