Soldotna junior Ari Goldstein made the rare look exceptionally easy at the state track and field meet Friday and Saturday at Bartlett High School.
Goldstein became the fourth runner, male or female, since 1990 to win the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter races at the same state meet. For good measure, she anchored Soldotna's 1,600 relay team to a victory and earned athlete of the meet honors on the girls side.
The triple crown was never in question for Goldstein. She topped Service's Juliane Smith by 13 seconds in the 3,200, eight seconds in the 1,600 and three seconds in the 800.
"That girl from Service showed great courage challenging Ari in all those races. She did a great job," Soldotna coach Mark Devenney said. "Ari's just playing with a different deck of cards than the rest of us."
In other meet highlights, both the East boys and girls swept the team titles. The girls took their second straight title. Records dating back to 1977 show no previous title for the East boys.
The Soldotna girls were third and were the only peninsula team in the top 10. Kenai Central senior Mick Boyle won the 800 to provide the peninsula with its only other state title.
When asked about her accomplishment, Goldstein shedded praise as quickly as she does would-be contenders.
"Coach Devenney. That's why I can do this," Goldstein said. "Day or night, he'll work with anybody who comes out and wants to be good."
Devenney scoffed when he heard Goldstein was crediting him with the state titles. "I haven't run a race since 1974," he said.
Teammates Tracy Pitts, Brandi Denna and Rachel McCartan helped Goldstein finish off her day undefeated. On the anchor leg, Goldstein was running on fumes and held off West Valley while living up to the motto on SoHi's track T-shirts.
"All it takes is all you've got," Goldstein said. "That's what we have on our T-shirts.
"It sounds simple, but the more you compete, the more you know what it means."
For Denna and Pitts, the race was a perfect way to end track careers.
"That was the best feeling ever to win state in the last race of my senior year," Pitts said.
Pitts also finished third in the 100 and 300 hurdles. In the 100 hurdles, she shook off a sketchy performance in the preliminaries that had her seeded seventh. In the 300 hurdles, she just missed out-kicking Lathrop's Kari Reabold for second place.
"I really wanted to beat that Lathrop girl because they were ahead of us in team points," Pitts said. "We were even coming around the third corner, but she's got quite a stride on her.
"It's 1 1-2 times as long as mine."
The SoHi girls also received a third-place finish from their 3,200-meter relay team of McCartan, Katie Franzmann, Katy Pankoski and Brittany Osland.
"That was big because it was without Ari," Devenney said.
The other top-three performance by the SoHi track team came from junior Matt Hicks, who finished third in the shot put.
Boyle's day got off to an unexpected start when the suspension of a teammate forced him to run on Kenai's 400 relay team. He had the foot speed to help the squad finish fifth, and he would call on that speed again to win the 800.
The first lap of the two-lap race was slow, with the pack coming through at 63 seconds. By comparison, the first lap had taken Boyle 60 seconds in Friday's preliminaries.
Boyle found himself boxed in twice on the first lap.
"Last year, I got boxed in," said Boyle, who took third in the 800 last year. "I knew if I got boxed in, I had to get out right away.
"You can't wait for things to pan out, because they don't always work out."
Boyle carried the lead into the second lap and held off several challengers to win in 2:02.79. He had run 1:58.78 in Friday's preliminaries.
"I knew I had plenty left to kick with whoever challenged me," Boyle said.
The other top-three finish from Kenai's track program came from sophomore Papapa Nicholas, who finished second in the discus. Nicholas' toss of 150 feet, 1 inch, left him about 10 feet behind champion Bobby Dunbar of Bartlett.
Kenai throws coach Clayton Holland said the performance was key after Nicholas had a disappointing performance in the discus at regions and then failed to place in the shot put at state.
"I think performing well today in a pressure situation was a big thing," Holland said. "It's nice because he has worked so hard this year."
Although Dunbar is just a junior, Holland said Nicholas still has room to improve before he challenges the Bartlett thrower next year.
"He has huge potential," Holland said. "His form came around in the discus in the last three weeks. Now he can start working on the small things."
The final top-three performance for the peninsula came from senior Kaleb Shields in the 300 hurdles. Shields finished second in the event to Colony's Justin Schwartzbauer, a friend of Shields'.
After a rough go in the 110 hurdles where he hit nearly every hurdle and placed seventh, Shields was looking for redemption in the 300 hurdles.
He ran a smooth race and held the lead heading into the final hurdle, when a burst from Schwartzbauer relegated Shields to runner-up status.
"I thought I was going to win with one hurdle to go," Shields said.
In the 300 hurdles, the last hurdle is often one of the ugliest moments in a track meet, with sapped athletes trying to hold their form and get to the finish line.
Somehow, Schwartzbauer dredged up a freshness that made the last hurdle appear like the first.
"I don't know how he had that energy over the last hurdle," Shields said. "Usually, everybody is just trying to make it over that last hurdle without falling over."
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