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Ice, snow clear area tracks early

Fast start

Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2003

It's not uncommon at this time of year for high school track and field athletes to be shoveling instead of running, jumping and throwing.

But that's not the case in the wake of the famous winter that wasn't.

Just how rare is this early, or even non-, breakup? Cliff Draper has been coaching Seward's track team for a quarter of a century and has never seen anything like this.

"We're a week and a half ahead of where we usually are," Draper said.

The only peninsula school that has yet to get on track is Nikiski. The Bulldogs have an oval that doesn't get much sun, and thus still has about 2 inches of ice on it.

"The kids are sick of being inside," said first-year coach Ned Clooten. "We've had to be creative."

But for once, Clooten is a lone voice, instead of a chorus, singing that tune.

In the end, teams shouldn't gain much of a competitive advantage because nearly everybody has been able to get outside early. But in certain events, the burgeoning breakup should improve the quality.

"It'll definitely make a difference in things like hurdles and relays," Kenai Central coach Liz Burck said. "It's hard to do hand-off zones in the hallways."

Despite the early start, it's still tough to determine which teams will be the region favorites this early in the season.

Last year, the Soldotna girls won their seventh Region III title in 10 years, edging Colony. Most coaches think those two teams will be in the thick of the region race again this year.

Soldotna lost state champions Janna Schaafsma and Sasha Cvetkovski to graduation, but Stars coach Mark Devenney said the team will still be good this year.

"You're not going to replace (Schaafsma)," Devenney said. "She's the best hurdler that's ever been in this state. But I think we can make the points up other places."

On the boys side, Kodiak defeated Palmer by two points for the region title last year. This year, coaches mention Colony and Kodiak as having solid teams.

Skyview, which won the borough title last year, has a lot of returning senior state qualifiers and also has its eye on the region title.

The following is a closer look at the Kenai Peninsula's track teams:

COOK INLET ACADEMY EAGLES

Competing in Region II, which is for the state's smaller schools, coach Noah Shields said he has some athletes with a strong chance of making it to state.

There are 12 people out for track at CIA, six on the girls side and six on the boys side.

Leading the girls team is senior Shannon Powers, who finished fourth in the state as a freshman. Shields also thinks senior Jessica Hall has a shot at the state meet in the 100-meter hurdles.

On the boys side, sophomore Brian Beeson will look to translate the success he's had in cross country to track. Beeson will do the 1,600 and 3,200.

Shields sees a lot of potential in the other athletes, as well.

"We have a lot of young athletes coming up," Shields said. "They're all athletes and I have high expectations for them."

HOMER MARINERS

Of the 18 boys and 11 girls out in Tari Hoeft's third year as coach, senior Cody Smith is the lone returning state qualifier. Smith has qualified for state in all three of his years at Homer.

There is plenty of other speed to go around at Homer in senior Nate Raymond, sophomore Nate Brown and freshmen Alex Inglima and Justin Smith.

Sophomore Dylan Anderson will hold down the distance events, while junior Bryan Smith and sophomore Jacob Baker will handle the throws.

"We have quite a few throwers with potential," Hoeft said.

Potential also is the key word on the girls team, as Hoeft has five freshmen, four sophomores and three seniors.

Senior Deanna Baugh will do distance events, and also help freshman distance runner Paulina Ledger.

Senior Priscilla Smith will compete in the throws, sprints and hurdles, while sophomore Kirsten Baltz will compete in the high jump.

KENAI KARDINALS

In her third year as head coach, Liz Burck is looking to build up her girls team after some stiff losses to graduation. At the same time, Burck thinks the time could be now for her boys team.

The Kenai boys return just one state qualifier in sophomore long jumper Dakota Craig. But the boys team, with 24 members, could be ready to increase the number of state qualifiers this year.

"I've got really high hopes for the boys team," Burck said. "We've picked up some good athletes from the middle school, and we have other boys coming off a successful cross country season."

The Kardinals can enter somebody in every event. In the throws, the main cogs will be senior TJ Cox, junior Danny Autrey, sophomore Kevin King and freshman Papapa Nicholas.

The sprinters will be Craig, seniors Shaun King and Chris Mercado, junior Nathan Schmidt and sophomores John McGlasson and Michael Scheffert.

The distance crew is made up of senior Morgan Saltenberger, junior Mick Boyle and sophomore Trevor Baldwin.

Senior Clifford Cochran gives Kenai a hurdler, while freshman Kyle Coleman has potential in the high jump.

On the girls side, the Kardinals boast the peninsula's lone returning state champion in senior high jumper Dallas Baldwin.

Burck also has a group of returning sprinters in senior Chelsea Kaas and sophomores Charity Christensen and Audrey Coon. Linnea Hassbring, a foreign exchange student from Sweden, will do the long jump and add depth in the sprints.

Sophomore Elena Bird, who went to state on the 1,600 relay last year, will be the key Kenai runner in the distance events.

In the throws, Kenai is looking for solid performances from senior Kylee Vienna and sophomore Lanken Langfitt.

Finally, Burck has the versatile freshman Amber McGlasson to do sprints, jumps and hurdles.

The newcomers Burck sees potential in are junior Melody Miller and freshmen Kelvin Blanning, Mackenzie Boyle, Luke Oliver, Clint Keener, Eli Askin, Sara Wood, Alee Rowley and Holley Reed.

NIKISKI BULLDOGS

Coach Ned Clooten takes over the program at Nikiski. Clooten was the head coach at Juneau-Douglas last year, and also was an assistant in Minnesota for three years before that.

About 10 girls and 10 boys welcome Clooten to Nikiski.

The coach is looking for senior Katie Floyd to lead the girls team. Floyd will do the hurdles and long jump. Svenja Lau, a foreign exchange student from Germany, also will do hurdles.

Clooten also has high expectations for Karen Rabung, a senior thrower who has not competed since eighth grade. Nikiski also gets senior leadership from senior distance runner Melissa Leichlieter.

The Bulldogs also have a lot of youth and potential in freshman sprinter Angie Doty, freshman sprinter Georgie Heaverly, sophomore thrower Debbie Duggin and sophomore sprinter Eirleen Lee.

"We have a pretty small squad, so we don't have a lot of team aspirations," Clooten said. "We have high hopes of getting individuals through to state."

On the boys side, Nikiski gets experience from senior Flyte Jorgenson in the sprints. Junior Adam Murrell also will do longer sprints for the Bulldogs.

Senior foreign exchange student Jani Lemmityinen has shown promise in the hurdles. Junior Billy Anderson also will hurdle for Nikiski.

Freshman Zech Hemphill will do middle distance events for Nikiski, while junior Skyler Gallien and freshman Lance McCaughey will handle the throws.

"There's a lot up in the air with the boys," Clooten said. "I'm curious to see what we'll do at the first meet."

NINILCHIK WOLVERINES

In his 13th year at Ninilchik, Bernie Clark has a mix of seasoned state qualifiers and inexperienced athletes. A total of 12 people are out for track at Ninilchik.

On the boys team, juniors Vincent Kruzick and Jason Schollenberg both went to state last year as a part of sprint relays. Schollenberg also does the 300 hurdles.

The Wolverines also get experience from senior thrower A.J. Berger.

Those new to track are junior middle distance runner Cody Hatfield, sophomore high jumper and sprinter Connor Cooper and sophomore thrower Tony Nakjua.

"This is one of those interesting years where anything that happens where a kid makes it to state is a bonus," Clark said. "Some kids definitely have that possibility."

The girls will be led by returners Kelsey Deiman, a senior, and Amanda Matson, a junior.

Deiman was one of the best throwers in the region last year, but missed making the state meet.

Matson made it to state on a relay team last year and will do hurdles, long jump and triple jump this year.

The four newcomers to track are junior thrower Amanda Peterson, sophomore sprinter Emily Wood, freshman sprinter Angela Singh and freshman Jennifer Bartolowits.

SEWARD SEAHAWKS

With three of the four members of a top-notch 3,200 relay team back, plus a couple of state-qualifying throwers returning, the Seward girls will be a force in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

"We have a few kids that are going to be able to compete with the bigger (Class) 4A schools," said coach Cliff Draper, who has 13 boys and 15 girls out for his squad. "We're looking for a good showing in the borough. Second or third in the borough is our goal."

Senior Tara DeRuwe, junior Sarah Hermann and sophomore Lara Loomis return from a 3,200-relay team that took second in the state last year. DeRuwe also made state in the 3,200, while Hermann qualified in the 800.

Draper said junior Whitney Anderson, a transfer from Colorado, should ably fill the fourth relay spot. Junior Anna Clock also will run middle and long distance for the Seahawks.

Sophomore Monika Banic also went to state last year for Seward in the long jump, setting a new school record in the process.

Senior Michelle Dieckgraeff returns in discus, where she placed sixth in the state last year. Dieckgraeff also made state in the shot put. Junior Lisa Steinbrecher also made state in the discus last year.

On the boys side, the Seahawks will be hurt by a lack of balance.

"We've got a bunch of middle distance and distance runners," Draper said.

The distance crew will be seniors Seth Price and Isaah Norton, juniors Tommy Blair and Leif Bardarson and sophomore Matt Adams.

Draper also said sophomore Ray Ledet will be competitive in the shot and discus.

SKYVIEW PANTHERS

While the girls program is a bit down in numbers, Sparks has 30 boys out for his 48-person team.

Mixed in that group of girls is some quality. Ella Fehrer qualified for state last year in the 100 and 300 hurdles as a freshman, while Marci Mohler finished third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 3,200 in state as a freshman.

The Panthers also have experience at the distance events in senior Kaleena Schouweiler.

Sparks also said sophomore Christina Shadura should be a factor in the throws, but by and large the Panthers are a young group that has yet to prove itself.

"We've got a lot of newcomers, so I'm excited about what could happen in a couple of years," Sparks said. "We'll definitely field every event this year, and in the borough that's always going to get you some points."

On the boys side, Sparks has a group rich in experience and state qualifiers.

Senior Trevor Tompkins qualified for state in the 110 and 300 hurdles, senior Mike Waer qualified on a sprint relay, senior Kevin McGrady qualified in the high jump, senior Jack Reed qualified in a sprint relay, senior Ty Pepper qualified in the 400 and senior Adam Kosydar qualified in the discus.

The Panthers also get back senior Kaleb Shields, a high jumper and hurdler who was injured last season.

To those mentioned above, Sparks adds the best group of distance runners he's had since he started coaching track at Skyview in 1997. That group is headed up by junior Brandon Cleveland.

SOLDOTNA STARS

In his 12th year coaching track at Soldotna and 37th year coaching track overall, Mark Devenney will have about 24 boys and 24 girls on the team.

Devenney likes the balance on his boys squad.

"We're going to be really improved," Devenney said. "We're not real deep, but we have some quality at almost every spot."

Senior Josh Tonione, a state qualifier last year at Skyview, heads up Soldotna's group of sprinters.

In the jumps, Devenney is expecting nice things from seniors Alex Jackson and Ricky Simpson.

Simpson also will do hurdles, as will sophomore Brian Chase.

Junior Ryan Walton will be Soldotna's main distance runner, although Devenney has seen good things from freshman Caleb Chase.

Finally, junior John VerHelst and sophomore Matt Hicks will lead Soldotna's group of throwers.

On the girls side, Devenney said his team should score as many points as it did last year, despite the loss of two state champions.

Junior Brandi Denna and sophomore Rachel McCarten were both on the 1,600 relay that finished sixth at state last year.

Sophomore Ari Goldstein also was on that team. Goldstein also finished fourth in the 1,600 at state.

Along with senior Rachel Goldstein, a state qualifier last year in the 3,200, and sophomore Katie Franzmann, Soldotna should have a formidable distance group.

Soldotna should also be solid in the jumps. Junior Tracy Pitts qualified for state last year in the 100 hurdles and finished sixth at state in the long jump. Junior Brittany Gardner qualified for state in the triple jump.

Finally, Liz Denna will help the Soldotna girls out in the throws. Devenney is excited that Denna and other throwers will get to work with assistant coach Galen Brantley, the first state champion Devenney coached at Soldotna. Brantley won the state shot put in 1992 and 1993.



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