The Region III Track and Field Championships this year will be like a presidential election without any pre-election polls.
Normally, by the time the region meet rolls around, teams have been on the track together once, if not twice.
That hasn't been the case this year, and a drawn-out breakup has meant that most Kenai Peninsula schools have yet to compete with Kodiak or any schools from Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna valleys.
That should make for an interesting Friday and Saturday at Palmer High School.
"This is the worst season I can remember in 22 years," said Colony coach Pat Cunningham Tuesday. "It's been just horrible.
"Yesterday was the first nice, take-off-your coat day we've had this year."
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Kenai senior Michelle Edwards enters this weekend's event with the state's top time in the 400 meters.
Added Colony girls coach Cathe Rhodes: "It hardly seems like it's time for regions. It hardly seems like we've had any meets at all this year."
Coaches hoping for a region title can normally place their athletes strategically based on where those athletes will get the most points, or where those athletes will have the best chance to qualify for state. This year, that will be a little more difficult.
"We're just going by meet results in the papers," Nikiski coach Jim Arness said. "It's a little bit different, but it's the only information we have."
The lack of information also could make for some interesting races for the team titles, which last year were won by the Kodiak boys and the Colony girls.
On the boys side, many are leaning toward a Kodiak repeat.
"I'll be surprised if they don't win state," Cunningham said of the Bears. "They're deep with high-quality athletes."
Soldotna coach Mark Devenney also says the Bears are the favorite, although he doesn't think they are an overwhelming favorite.
"This is the first time since I've been here that any one of four or five schools could win the region," Devenney said, listing Kodiak, Colony, Anchorage Christian Schools, Soldotna and Skyview as threats.
On the girls side, Soldotna and Colony should stage another in their series of intriguing battles for the region team crown. Kodiak, which won the Matanuska-Susitna Borough meet last weekend, also is a threat.
A lot of the girls meet will hinge on Colony's health, particularly that of star sprinter Stevie McDowell.
"We've had a real nasty flu bug going through the team," Rhodes said earlier in the week. "At present time we're not 100 percent, but by taking it easy this week, we hope to be close to 100 percent by Friday."
The following is a closer look at the peninsula's teams and athletes they hope will qualify for state. Athletes and relay teams can qualify automatically by placing first in an event. After that, qualification depends on how times and distances stack up with marks elsewhere in the state.
On the boys side, Andrew Peters (800, 1,600), Travis Kauffman (800, 1,600, 3,200) and Cody Smith (100, 400) are qualified and will fight for state berths.
As for the girls, coach Teri Hoeft is counting on nice times from Nahanni Wills in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles.
Hoeft also said Emily Wood and Kirsten Baltz will have to leap to new heights to make state in the high jump.
On both the boys and girls side, the Kardinals do not have the depth to compete for the team title. But Kenai does have some athletes who are amongst the region's best.
Senior Michelle Edwards enters the meet with the state's top time in the 400 meters. Edwards will most likely run the 400, 800 and one relay.
Junior Dallas Baldwin has the state's top high jump and should get a good run for her money from Colony's Shelby Beairsto.
On the boys side, senior Dane Myers has some of the state's best tosses in the shot put and discus.
Kenai coach Liz Burck also mentioned Dakota Craig in the triple jump and long jump, John McGlasson in the 100 and a relay, and Trevor Baldwin in the distance events.
On the boys side, Nikiski will be keyed by Josh Reilly, the defending state champion in the 300 hurdles. Reilly also will run the 110 hurdles and two relays.
On the 1,600 relay, Reilly will team up with Anthony Sykes, Ryan Wicker and Kyle Alexander to make up a team that has the potential to be one of the state's best.
Coach Jim Arness also sees potential in his 800 and 3,200 relays. Reilly, Sykes, Alexander and Flyte Jorgenson will run the 800 relay, while Sykes, Wicker, John Rooper and Zach Hall will compete in the 3,200 relay.
Arness also said Alexander and Billy Anderson should be solid in the 300 hurdles.
On the girls side, senior Sally Glaze should lead the way. Glaze has some of the state's best marks in both the long jump and triple jump. She also is competitive in the 300 hurdles.
Arness also has two solid relay teams on the girls side. The 400 relay is made up of Torrey McClure, Katrina Johns, Johanna Johns and Eirleen Lee, while the 800 relay consists of McClure, the Johns girls and Glaze.
The girls team turned in a third-place finish at the Kenai Peninsula Borough meet and is looking to keep building on that at regions.
The Seward girls placed a number of athletes in the top six at boroughs. Their one win came in the 3,200 relay, where the Seahawks have the state's fifth-best time.
The boys team is on a roll after winning the Kenai Peninsula Borough meet last weekend. However, the Panthers will have to kick it up a notch if they hope to top teams like Kodiak.
"We've seen some of the times in the paper, and we know they're reachable," Skyview coach Rob Sparks said. "We just haven't seen too many of these people on the track."
Region III has some tough relay teams, and Sparks is looking forward to seeing how his 400 and 800 relays fit into that mix. Both the 400 and 800 relays are made up of Ty Pepper, Mike Waer, Josh Tonione and Jack Reed.
Individually, Sparks thinks potential state qualifiers are Adam Kosydar in the shot put and discus, Trevor Tompkins in the hurdles and triple jump, Kevin McGrady in the high jump and hurdles, Tonione in the 400 and Ty Pepper in the 400.
Sparks also mentioned that Reed and Waer have a chance in the sprints if they can come up with outstanding performances.
The Skyview girls will be powered by Marci Mohler, who will run the 1,600, 3,200 and 1,600 relay. Mohler has the state's third-best time in the 3,200.
The SoHi girls won the borough meet last weekend on the strength of performances by Janna Schaafsma, Sasha Cvetkovski and Ari Goldstein. The three will have to play a major role if the Stars are to win a region title.
Schaafsma has the state's best time in the 100 and 300 hurdles, and also is listed in the state bests in the 100 and 200. Devenney said she will do both hurdles at the region meet, but after that he wouldn't say how she will divide her time between sprints and relays.
Cvetkovski has the state's best toss in the discus, and is second behind Region III competitor Betsie Erickson of Wasilla in the shot put.
Goldstein has made herself into one of the state's better distance runners, and should have good battles with Mohler and Colony's Dominique Colberg in the distance events.
But Goldstein, Schaafsma and Cvetkovski can't win the meet alone. The Stars also will need points from athletes like Tracy Pitts (hurdles, long jump and relays) and Brittney Gardner (triple jump, relays).
The Soldotna boys will be led by senior distance runners Kyle McBride and Brent Knight. McBride won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the borough meet.
Devenney also said Evan Haupt has been a nice contributor in the 400 and 800, while Ricky Simpson and Alex Jackson will play a big role in the long jump, triple jump and relays.
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