Every time the sun goes down, the stars and nights battle for supremacy. It's pretty much the same story every year in the race for the Region III track and field girls team crown, only in this case nights is spelled with a "K".
When the Region III meet begins today at Skyview, the Colony and Soldotna girls are the favorites to take the girls team crown, with an outside chance going to Kenai.
Meanwhile, Kodiak should be the class of the boys field.
On the girls side, the Stars took five straight region team titles until Colony snapped the streak in 1998. Soldotna won region honors back the next year by shocking the Knights at Skyview, but Colony came back to claim the crown in 2000.
"The girls race will be tight," Nikiski coach Jim Arness said. "I really don't know who's going to win it. Soldotna and Colony always seem to come up with something.
"Kenai will be back at full strength this week, so they should be competitive."
The only time most of the region has been in one place this year was the Skyview Invitational on April 28. The Soldotna girls picked up 75 points at the meet, while Kenai had 68 and Colony had 60.
Soldotna coach Mark Devenney doesn't read much into what happened at the Skyview Invitational.
"When you go out in region meets, it's kind of like in basketball," Devenney said. "It doesn't matter what you did in the regular season if you're eliminated in the first round of the playoffs."
Colony didn't have Jessica Nichols at the Skyview Invitational and had limited services from Dominique Colberg. Nichols is a state champion high jumper and adds valuable depth in the sprints, while Colberg is one of the state's best at 800 meters.
"I think our girls have a shot," Colony coach Pat Cunningham said. "It should be interesting to see how it plays out."
On the boys side, there shouldn't be similar suspense. Colony has won the last three region titles on the boys side, but Cunningham knows where he's placing his bets this year.
"The Kodiak boys just scare us to death," Cunningham said. "I've got a feeling they're going to walk on everybody."
In addition to fighting for team titles, the meet also is a chance for schools to vie for berths to the state meet. The top finisher in each event earns an automatic berth to state. In the individual events, the next 10 fastest athletes statewide after the region winners earn state berths. In the relays, the next two fastest times after the region winners qualify.
The following is a closer look at the central peninsula's schools:
The Kenai girls have plenty of talent at the middle distances. Now, they just have to figure out how they are going to use it.
"It's been killing us," Kenai coach Liz Burck said. "We've spent a lot of time talking about that."
A big part of Kenai's plans will be junior Michelle Edwards, who has the state's best time in the 400. Edwards could then team with Erica Smith, Lindsey Church, Mary Krusen or Katherine Amen in the 800, 1,600 or 3,200 relays and field one of the region's top units.
Also for Kenai, Dallas Baldwin and Smith are two of the region's best high jumpers, Krista Miller is one of the region's best in the shot put and Amen should pick up further points in the distance events.
On the boys side, the Kardinals have a couple of tough throwers in Jay Hogue and Dane Myers. Hogue has the state's top toss in the discus, while Myers is second in the region to Colony's John Fillman.
Burck also has been extremely encouraged by the improvement of freshman Nick Boyle in the 1,600. Boyle, Tim Kirby, Jacob La Shot and Brian Fannon also make up a competitive 3,200 relay team.
The Bulldogs typically place pretty well in the region meet behind performances from a handful of top-drawer athletes. For instance, the boys were able to pick up a third-place finish at the Skyview Invitational this year.
"You always run into problems at the region meet because the kids who have scored at smaller meets tend to drop down in places," Arness said. "At regions, you tend to rely more on kids that have scored higher at meets."
On the boys side, one of those athletes is Josh Reilly. Reilly is coming off winning three individual events and a relay at the Kenai Peninsula Borough meet Saturday.
David Holloway has improved his high jump to the point where he's now one of the state's best, while Anthony Sykes and Ryan Wicker will be two factors in what should be a tremendous field of 800 runners.
Reilly, Holloway, Sykes and Wicker then make up one of the region's better 1,600 relay teams.
The boys also will look for points from throwers Angelo Luna and Michael Cox.
On the girls side, Sally Glaze is one of the state's best high jumpers, and Arness said she hasn't jumped her best yet. Glaze also should score points in the hurdles, while Inger Hulien should score points in the discus.
Katie Floyd also should give Nikiski a strong showing in the triple jump and hurdles if her injured ankles hold up, while Glaze, Johanna Johns, Katrina Johns and Torrey McClure make up a competitive 400 relay team.
Beyond senior Erika Edwards, who is the defending region champion in the 3,200 and 1,600, Sparks said the rest of his athletes will probably have to qualify using time and not a first place in the region.
Sparks mentioned freshman Kaleb Shields has been looking good in the high jump, the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles.
Sparks said the Panthers also have some quality relays, but said those relays will have a tough time getting to state because they are in Region III.
One of those relays is the girls 1,600 relay consisting of Edwards, Kaleena Schouweiler, Sam Carlon and Megan Jameson.
The Stars had 22 individual season bests and season bests in six out of eight relays at the borough meet. Devenney hopes that is a harbinger for today and Saturday.
On the girls side, Soldotna's hope for a region title starts with Janna Schaafsma, who has the state's best time in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
Sasha Cvetkovski also could pile up points for the Stars. She has the region's best toss in both the discus and shot put.
"Colony has the edge in distance and sprints, and we probably have the edge in hurdles and throws," Devenney said. "Maybe what it will come down to is jumps and relays."
Senior Lissa Cristiano certainly has the potential to cut into Colony's edge in the sprints. Cristiano won the 100 at regions last year and is running fast again this year. She just broke the borough record in the 100 last weekend.
In the jumps, the Stars have Hillary Zobeck, Brittney Gardner and Tracy Pitts. Gardner and Pitts both play key roles in the sprint relays as well.
Soldotna also can pick up points from Kyla Watts in both of the hurdles. Brandi Denna and Erin Carver also will be important in the 400 and the 1,600 relay.
On the boys side, the distance crew has been made even stronger by the addition of a healthy Kyle McBride and the consistency of Bill Keller.
Andy Liebner has the second-best time in the region in both the 1,600 and 3,200, and Blake Mann-Schweigert, Matt Medina and Brent Knight make up a rocksolid group in the middle distances.
"That 800 race is going to be a good one on the boys side," Devenney said. "I'd pay money to watch that one."
Others with scoring potential for Soldotna are Billy Moiles in the throws and Justin Payment in the hurdles. First-year long jumpers Ricky Simpson and Alex Jackson have also made significant strides for SoHi this year. Both placed at the borough meet last week.
REGION III RECORDS
(Must be set at region meet)
100-METER DASH -- Farah Griggs, Palmer, 12.6 seconds, 1994.
200 -- Heather Sorrell, Skyview, 26.2, 1994.
400 -- Cortney Ward, Grace, 58.26, 1999.
800 -- Cortney Ward, Grace, 2:18.5, 1999.
1,600 -- Kristy Klinnert, Kodiak, 5:03.0, 1986.
3,200 -- Kristy Klinnert, Kodiak, 10:40.0, 1986.
100 HURDLES -- Lindsy Glaze, Nikiski, 15.34, 1997.
300 HURDLES -- Mary Glaze, Nikiski, 46.8, 1994.
400 RELAY -- Colony (Turnbough, Krupa, Nichols, Cline), 51.07, 1999.
800 RELAY -- Colony (Turnbough, Nichols, Larson, Krupa), 1:46.86, 2000.
1,600 RELAY -- Wasilla (Dimmick, Farris, Smith, Cassidy), 4:10.71, 2000.
3,200 RELAY -- Soldotna (Histand, Kimbrell, Newbould, Rhoades), 9:49.05, 2000.
HIGH JUMP -- Lisa Carr, Palmer, 5 feet, 5 inches, 1979.
LONG JUMP -- Rachel Jones, Soldotna, 17-2 1/4, 1996.
TRIPLE JUMP -- Rachel Jones, Soldotna, 36-6 1/4, 1996.
SHOT PUT -- Wanda Strutko, Wasilla, 41-8, 1983.
DISCUS -- Jenny Luer, Palmer, 151-10, 1997.
100 -- Corey Moore, Wasilla, 1988, Joel Price, Soldotna, 1993, 10.7.
200 -- Corey Moore, Wasilla, 21.7, 1988.
400 -- Corey Moore, Wasilla, 1988, John Becker, Homer, 1994, 50.0.
800 -- Chip Fudala, Kodiak, 1:58.3, 1986.
1,600 -- Mario Bird, Nikiski, 4:27.39, 2000.
3,200 -- Joel Kelly, Colony, 9:40.6, 1993.
110 HURDLES -- Doug Pike, Skyview, 14.5, 1994.
300 HURDLES -- Doug Pike, Skyview, 39.7, 1994.
400 RELAY -- Colony (Anderson, Collins, Schwartz, Slaymaker), 43.91, 2000.
800 RELAY -- Colony (Anderson, Collins, Schwartz, Foster), 1:30.47, 2000.
1,600 RELAY -- Grace (Shugak, Smith, Libby, Meier), 3:29.20, 2000.
3,200 RELAY -- Palmer (Egelus, Dickson, Cunningham, McKay), Palmer, 8:09.17, 2000.
HIGH JUMP -- Mack, Soldotna, 6-7 1/4, 1987.
LONG JUMP -- Bruck Jackman, Kenai, 23-11 1/2, 1987.
TRIPLE JUMP -- Joel Mahaffey, Soldotna, 45-7 3/4, 1993.
SHOT PUT -- Josh Coleman, Soldotna, 55-3, 1996.
DISCUS -- Judd Viersen, Glennallen, 181-6, 2000.
POLE VAULT -- Jim Drath, Wasilla, 13-11 3/4, 1987.
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