All eyes on Bartlett's air Jordan

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

Soldotna High School has two pretty good throwers in seniors Ryan Shelton and Paige Blackburn.

It's safe to say, though, that all throwers will get overshadowed by Bartlett senior Jordan Clarke on Friday and Saturday at the state track and field championships at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks. On Friday, field events begin at 9 a.m. and running events begin at 2 p.m. On Saturday, field events begin at 9 a.m. and the running finals start at 10 a.m.

"Every time that kid throws something special can happen," SoHi track coach Jason Buckbee said of Clarke. "There's a lot more people watching the men's shot put and discus."

Clarke is the two-time defending champion in both the shot put and discus. He set a state record of 60 feet, 1 inch, in winning the shot put last year and set a state record of 192--7 in winning the discus.

He has already thrown farther than both records this year, although state records can only be set in state competition. His shot put of 70--6 is the top high school toss in the country posted on athletic.net and his top discus throw of 194--8 is third in the country.

"You hate to say you're going into a meet battling for second, but he's probably one of the best high school throwers in the country," Buckbee said.

In the seeding throws for the discus, Shelton is second heading into state but is 45 feet behind Clarke. He is third in the shot put.

Blackburn won the shot put and discus at state last year and has the top seed in both events this year. She will throw next season at Air Force Academy and is looking to become the first to repeat a throwing double since Lathrop's Alana Clooten won both in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Buckbee said Blackburn threw far enough to break the region record last weekend, but scratched on both throws.

"She's peaking at the right time," he said.

Buckbee also said shot putter Nathan Strieby and hurdler Chase Jensen have a shot at placing.

Blackburn is the only peninsula athlete with a top seed in the Class 4A meet, but several others have high seeds. Skyview's Ivy O'Guinn is third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 3,200 and 800.

Kenai's Lierin Flanagan is third in the 100, second in the 200 and second in the 400. The runner ahead of Flanagan in the 200 and 400 is Andrea Crook of Bartlett.

"She hasn't raced against Andrea Crook of Bartlett," Kenai Central coach Tim Sandahl said. "There's nobody in the region and nobody around here that was able to stay with her.

"It's hard to put down your fastest time when you're so far out in front. It'll be a good test for her."

Sandahl likes the chances of Billy Kiefer in the 800. Kiefer has the second seed and is .40 seconds off the top seed. Sandahl said Kiefer was boxed in and had to fall out of the pack twice at regions.

"If I were to look into a crystal ball and had to guess, in my mind he's going to be a state champ," Sandahl said.

Bill Chimphalee is qualified in three events. His best shot comes in the 110 hurdles, where he has the second seed.

"His motivation goes up when he is racing against the fastest people," Sandahl said.

The coach also has high hopes for a late-forming girls 800 relay team, Nikita Naumoff in his three events and Nate Byrd and Jamie Duke in the throws.

In the inaugural Class 1-2-3A meet, many peninsula athletes have a great chance of being able to say the y earned the first gold medal of the new era.

"For the programs, it's really going to help teams because they can have so many more compete," Cook Inlet assistant Trish Kopp said.

Kopp said the negative of the new format is it keeps athletes like Brooke Forsi from getting a shot at Flanagan and Crook. Forsi has the top seed time in the 200 and 400.

She also joins Holly Kopp, Amie Smithwick and Sadie Arneson on the 1,600 relay that is seeded third and Arneson, Smithwick and Lauren Bauder on the 400 relay that is seeded first.

"Our goal for her is to come away with four first places," Kopp said of Forsi.

In addition to Forsi, Smithwick and Kopp won all four of their events at regions. Trish Kopp said Smithwick and Kopp should run better times at state due to increased competition. Smithwick has the second seed time in the 300 hurdles.

On the boys side, Kopp is looking for good things from Josh Holly in the 800 and 3,200 and Scott Litchfield in the shot put.

Seward also has a chance to come away with a lot of first-place awards. Dylan Beck has the top seed in the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. He also is tied for the top seed in the high jump. Travis Price has the top seed in the triple jump and 800 and is second in the 400.

The Seward boys also have the second seed in the 3,200 relay.

The Seward girls have the top seed in the 3,200 relay and in the 300 hurdles from Denali Foldager. The Seahawks also have the second seed in the 800 relay.

For Nikiski, Eliza Chadwick is second in the 100 hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles. Nikiski coach Ken DiMarzio said Chadwick should be fresh this weekend. She had been doing soccer and track this season, but soccer is over.

"It'll help," DiMarzio said. "She won't be nearly as tired."

Ninilchik also has a couple of athletes with second seeds -- Ashley Bartolowits in the long jump and Cody Presley in the long jump.

Peninsula state qualifiers

Class 1-2-3A meet

Cook Inlet Academy: Sadie Arneson (100 meters), Brooke Forsi (200, 400), Josh Holly (800, 3,200), Holly Kopp (800, 1,600, 3,200), Scott Litchfield (shot put), Haley Michel (shot put), Amie Smithwick (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles), girls 400 relay, girls 1,600 relay.

Nikiski: Eliza Chadwick (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles).

Ninilchik: Ashley Bartolowits (high jump, long jump), Dillon Covey (110 hurdles), Brianna Goins (high jump, triple jump), Cody Presley (long jump), Tyler Sutherland (high jump), girls 400 relay, boys 400 relay.

Seward: Allison Barnwell (800, 1,600, 3,200), Dylan Beck (high jump, triple jump, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Michelle Buchanan (100 hurdles), Mark Chase (long jump, 100, 400), Denali Foldager (3,200, 1,600, 300 hurdles), Rubye Foldager (400, 800, 3,200), Travis Price (high jump, triple jump, 400, 800), Kelly Sefton (400), Nick Spurr (800), girls 3,200 relay, boys 3,200 relay, girls 800 relay, boys 400 relay, girls 1,600 relay, boys 1,600 relay.

Class 4A meet

Homer: Marina Critchett (100, 200), Mike Pate (400), Reba Temple (shot put), Kayla Williamson (400), Brittney Wyatt (300 hurdles).

Kenai Central: Nate Byrd (discus), Bill Chimphalee (long jump, 110 hurdles, 100), Shaynee DeVito (100 hurdles), Jamie Duke (discus, shot put), Lierin Flanagan (100, 200, 400), Kyle Gregg (shot put), Billy Kiefer (800, 1,600), Nikita Naumoff (high jump, triple jump, 110 hurdles), Tyler Spalding (triple jump), girls 800 relay.

Skyview: Paris Cooper (400), Megan Janorschke (200), Kenny Mahan (discus), Ivy O'Guinn (800, 1,600, 3,200), Michael Thornton (110 hurdles).

Soldotna: Paige Blackburn (discus, shot put), Megan Gordon (long jump), April Heffner (100, 200), Chase Jensen (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Kraig Morri (110 hurdles), Kailey Mucha (800), Ryan Shelton (discus, shot put), Nathan Strieby (shot put).



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