Kenai Central's Lierin Flanagan already helped set a state relay record -- now her sights are set on an individual one.
She's ranked first in the state in both the 200- and 400-meter dashes on athletic.net. Kards head track coach Tim Sandahl expects Flanagan to win both events at the state meet, which will be held today and Saturday at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks. Lathrop will play host to both the 1-2-3A and 4A state meets. Here's a look at the local state-qualifying athletes:
Sandahl said Flanagan has a good chance to break the current 400 record of 57.14 set by Bartlett's Andrea Crook in 2006. Flanagan dipped into the 56s at the borough meet this year, however, state records can only be set at state meets.
"Mentally, she's really prepared," Sandahl said of Flanagan. She's also peaking at the right time, he said.
Kenai Central's 1,600 relay team of Flanagan, Kristi Louthan, Shaynee DeVito and Bailey Beeson set a new state record of 4:04.46 last year. With Leah Sandahl replacing Louthan, the relay has a chance to break last year's record-setting mark, Sandahl said.
That relay is ranked No. 2 in the state behind Dimond. While Kenai and Dimond are separated by less than a second, the third-ranked team is more than 10 seconds behind Kenai.
"It should be superexciting," Sandahl said.
The same foursome will compete in the 800 relay. Individually, Beeson will join Flanagan in the 400. DeVito is competing in both hurdle events, Kailey Mucha is running the 800 and Leah is running in the 100 hurdles.
DeVito should perform well in both hurdle events and has a good shot at earning a medal in the 300, Sandahl said. She's currently ranked fifth in the state in that event.
On the boys side, Tyler Spalding earned state berths in four events -- all three jumping events and the discus. He's ranked first in the triple jump and shares first in the high jump with West Valley's Brey Hassebroek. Should the weather predictions prove true -- the forecast is 75 and sunny for both days -- it will give Spalding the best opportunity to set personal records, Sandahl said.
"He loves warm weather," he said. "It just seems to be a real upper for him."
Billy Kiefer will run the 800 and 1,600 relay. Joe Sandahl, AJ Hull and Adam Agosti join Kiefer on the relay. Hull will also compete in the 300 hurdles, and wants redemption from the time he posted in the Region III meet, Sandahl said.
"He didn't have his best day," he said. "He knows it and he's ready to prove that he belongs there and belongs at the top."
Hull is currently seventh in the state in the 300 hurdles.
Sandahl said his 10 competitors are prepared for state and all are confident they'll run their fastest times this weekend.
"They're all feeling really good right now," he said. "We're hitting state at the right time."
Wasilla and Dimond will battle for overall team titles on the boys and girls sides, Sandahl said.
Sophomore Mariah Ulen will compete in three events at state. Along with Jelly Nolden, Megan Gordon and Alicia Hamilton, Ulen will compete in the 400 relay. Individually, Ulen will compete in the high jump and 300 hurdles, where she's ranked fourth in the state. Ulen sits in sixth in the high jump.
Ulen's best chance for a high finish is in the hurdles, Stars track coach Dave Emery said.
"If Mariah will run her race, I believe she will be in the top six in the 300 hurdles," he said.
The 3,200 relay team of Bree Mucha, Kaillee Skjold, Melanie Smith and Maranda Merkes earned a state bid. Mucha will also run the 400. Hannah Cristiano and Jessie Duke will compete in the discus and Smith will run the 3,200.
On the boys side, Tanner Minogue earned a spot in the discus throw. Alex Kauffman will run the 110 hurdles. Colton Schneider, Chris Nolden, Tyler McGillivary and Philip Bennett will compete in the 800 relay. If exchanges go well, Emery said the relay has a shot at a second-place finish.
"I have complete faith in their running," he said. "I'll be pleased if we end up in the top four or five."
Schneider is also running the 200 and 400.
Emery said his team's anticipation for the meet began when the state heat sheets were posted at the beginning of the week.
"There was a lot of excitement on Monday," he said. "The kids are really excited to be competing at that level."
Distance specialist Ivy O'Guinn will look to defend her 800 title as well as add a couple more crowns to her collection. She will run in three individual events -- the 3,200, 1,600 and 800 -- at state. She's ranked first in the 3,200 and 1,600, and second in the 800 behind Wasilla's Morgan Dampier.
"She's got high expectations," Panthers track coach Rob Sparks said. "She's running well and she's still healthy. She sure is feeling confident about what she's done this year."
Paris Cooper returns to state for her third consecutive year. She will run the 200. Senior Casee Penrod will compete in the long jump. It is her first trip to state.
Megan Parham will make her first trip to Fairbanks in the discus and Alicia Hollers will compete in the 300 hurdles. Hollers had a great Region III meet and surprised the coaches with a state berth, Sparks said.
"She dropped almost two seconds at regions," he said.
Every girl wants to get through the prelims, Sparks said.
"All the girls are looking to get into the finals," he said.
Cody Williams, Brayden Holt and Derrick Parham will go to state on the boys side. Williams and Holt will run the 3,200 and Parham with compete in the discus.
"We're pretty excited about all eight kids," Sparks said. He said in the past, SkyHi has only had three or four state competitors.
Sparks said he expects Dimond and Wasilla to have strong overall girls teams. Kodiak is tough on the boys side, but Sparks said he wasn't sure which, if any, team is favored.
Throwing specialists Megan Hansen and Kassi Johnson will represent Nikiski's girls at the 1-2-3A state meet. Both will compete in the shot put and discus. Hansen won the discus last year. The two are looking to take first and second in both events, Bulldogs track coach Dan Adair said.
"They are expecting golds and silvers out of themselves, and they have an excellent chance to do so," he said. "They just need to throw the way they know how to throw."
Sayyid Parrish, Stephen Hartley, Jordan Taylor and Trevor Ray make up the boys state runners. The foursome will compete in the 1,600 relay. Parrish will also run the 100 and 200.
The entire relay is made up of underclassmen. Parrish and Taylor are sophomores and Hartley and Ray are freshmen.
Adair said one of his goals was to have a boys relay team make state.
"They deserve all the credit for getting themselves there," he said. "They're the ones that put the shoes on and run. They have all of Nikiski pretty excited."
Anchorage Christian Schools and Grace Christian are likely to win team titles on both sides, Adair said.
"They have a lot of talent in a lot of areas," he said. "They're both very well-coached teams."
Allison Barnwell will compete in the 3,200, 1,600, 800 and 3,200 relay. She's ranked second in the 1,600 and 3,200 and third in the 800 out of 1-2-3A runners.
Kristina Atherton, Maggie Herbert and Kelley Sefton join Barnwell on the relay team. The girls are also sending the 400 and 800 relay teams to state.
Atherton will run the 300 hurdles, Laura Dyer will run the 3,200 and Maddy Campbell will run the 100 hurdles.
Tessa Adelmann will compete in the shot put.
The boys are sending teams in all four relays.
Austin Gillespie and Miles Knotek will run the 3,200. Evan Pullins and Beau Crosby will compete in the discus. Gillespie is also running the 1,600.
Andrew Buchanan will run the open 400. Aaron Sorenson will compete in the 300 hurdles. Brett Chase will run the 800.
Freshman Megan Bauder will participate in four events at state. Those include the 100 hurdles, 400, long jump and 400 relay. Cara Davidson, Sadie Arneson and Lauren Bauder join Megan in the 400 relay.
Arneson will also run the 100 and 200. She's ranked No. 1 in the 100 and fifth in the 200 out of 1-2-3A runners. Davidson will compete in the discus.
Josh Holly is the lone boys representative at state. He will compete in the 1,600 and 800. He's ranked ninth in the 1,600 and sixth in the 800 out of 1-2-3A runners.
Brianna Goins will compete in the high jump and triple jump.
On the boys side, Scott Goins earned a state berth in the triple jump. Jack Wheeler will compete in the high jump. Dillon Covey will run the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 100.
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