Four Kenai Peninsula athletes won individual titles at the state track and field meet last year, and all four return to defend their titles this year in the Friday and Saturday event at Bartlett High School.
Soldotna senior Janna Schaafsma will be the only athlete to defend two titles. After winning the 110-meter hurdles as a sophomore, Schaafsma won the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles as a junior, setting a new state record in the 110 hurdles in the process.
Schaafsma comes into state with the top two times in both hurdles events. She also is qualified for state in the 100 and 200.
"She's just now rounding into form," Soldotna coach Mark Devenney said. "Janna made two adjustments to her hurdling technique.
"Normally, it takes a lot of time to put that in, but she recognized it was probably the better way to go and made the changes. Last week was the first time I've seen her really comfortable with the changes."
Teammate and fellow senior Sasha Cvetkovski returns to defend her title in the shot put. Cvetkovski had the farthest toss in all the region meets contested across the state last weekend.
In the discus, however, two girls threw farther than Cvetkovski.
"She's fired up," Devenney said. "It's the first time all year -- it's really the first time in two years -- she's come into a meet and won't be the top-seeded thrower."
Even with top-drawer athletes like Schaafsma and Cvetkovski, Devenney isn't shuffling kids into strategic events with an eye on claiming the state team title.
"We're gonna go with our best events and see what happens," the coach said. "We're not avoiding anybody. We'll line the kids up in their best events and see what happens."
The final girl from the peninsula to defend an individual title will be Ninilchik senior Molly Bosick in what should be a blistering 400 if the weather is right.
Four girls ran the 400 in under a minute last week at regions -- the same four who finished in the top four last year at state.
The four are Bosick, Kenai's Michelle Edwards, Service's Juliane Smith and Dimond's Mary Pearce. Pearce clocked in at 57.30, which is faster than the state meet record which has stood since 1989.
"We've talked about it," Ninilchik coach Bernie Clark said. "Without any arrogance, I can say the state record is going to have to go if you're going to win the 400 -- if it's a nice day."
Nikiski senior Josh Reilly also returns to defend his state title in the 300 hurdles. Reilly clocked the fastest time in any region meet last weekend in the 300 hurdles and 110 hurdles. He was second in the 110 hurdles at state last year.
"Instead of doing the same events meet after meet, he did some other events earlier in the year," Nikiski coach Jim Arness said. "He's back to focusing on his specialty now."
While those four athletes are the only to defend titles, there are a number of peninsula athletes who will be factors at the meet.
In the high jump, Kenai's Dallas Baldwin has the best mark heading into state.
"She's been leading the high jump all season, and she's kept pushing it up a bit," Burck said. "She's working hard and she's ready to go."
Nikiski's 1,600 relay team of Reilly, Anthony Sykes, Ryan Wicker and Kyle Alexander dropped 10 seconds off their previous best time this season at regions. The group is about three seconds off the best time run at regions last week.
The Bulldogs also have a state title shot in Sally Glaze. Glaze runs into two of the best the state has seen in Schaafsma in the 300 hurdles and Eielson's Janay Deloach in the long jump, but she was within an inch of the best triple jump in the region meets across the state last weekend.
For Soldotna, senior Kyle McBride will look for his first state track title. McBride, this year's state cross country champion, will run in the 800 and 3,200 -- two events in which nobody has stepped forward with a time that typically wins the state meet. McBride had a medical problem at regions last week, and his chances will hinge on his health.
McBride also will be on a 3,200-relay team that will have to improve drastically to catch the Palmer squad.
Soldotna freshman Ari Goldstein also should be a factor in distance races that will feature deep fields of talented runners.
At Skyview, freshman Marci Mohler is riding a wave of confidence after winning the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Region III meet. Mohler ran the 3,200 at regions faster than anyone in the state, but will probably have to continue to drop seconds if she wants to beat West's Kris Smith, who is this year's state cross country champion.
Also, the boys 800 relay will be looking to break a school record and make some noise in the state.
"We were talking today, and somebody said, 'We should get third in that relay,'" Skyview coach Rob Sparks said. "I said, 'No, we should get first.'
"It kind of made them remember anything can happen."
Finally, the girls 3,200 relay team at Seward comes into the meet having run the second-best time last weekend at regions.
Kenai Peninsula State Qualifiers
HOMER: Travis Kauffman (3,200); Nahanni Wills (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles); Cody Smith (400);
KENAI: Michelle Edwards (400, 800); Dallas Baldwin (high jump); Dakota Craig (long jump); Dane Myers (shot put, discus); girls 1,600 relay (Mary Krusen, Elena Bird, Dallas Baldwin, Michelle Edwards, Larissa Cochran)
NIKISKI: Josh Reilly (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles); Sally Glaze (300 hurdles, long jump, triple jump); boys 1,600 relay (Kyle Alexander, Anthony Sykes, Ryan Wicker, Joshua Reilly, Flyte Jorgenson);
NINILCHIK: Molly Bosick (100, 200, 400); Katie Moerlein (1,600, 800); Whitney Leman (high jump); girls 800 relay (Amanda Matson, Katie Moerlein, Whitney Leman, Melissa Deiman, Hannah George); boys 800 relay (Vincent Kruzick, Alex Scalzo, John Matson, Jason Schollenberg, Levi Russel); boys 400 relay (Vincent Kruzick, John Matson, Alex Scalzo, Jason Schollenberg, Levi Russel); girls 1,600 relay (Molly Bosick, Melissa Deiman, Whitney Leman, Katie Moerlein, Amanda Matson);
SELDOVIA: Kevin Jones (100, long jump);
SEWARD: Tara DeRuwe (3,200); Johanna Glasser (1,600); Sarah Hermann (800); Monika Banic (long jump); Michelle Dieckgraeff (shot put, discus); Lisa Steinbrecher (discus); 3,200 relay (Sarah Hermann, Marion Glaser, Lara Loomis, Tara DeRuwe, Julianna Clock, Krista Boulden)
SKYVIEW: Marci Mohler (3,200, 1,600); Ella Fehrer (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles); Trevor Tompkins (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles); Ty Pepper (400); Josh Tonione (400); Kevin McGrady (high jump); Adam Kosydar (discus); 800 relay (Mike Waer, Josh Tonione, Ty Pepper, Jack Reed, Kevin McGrady, Trevor Tompkins);
SOLDOTNA: Ari Goldstein (3,200, 1,600, 800); Rachel Goldstein (3,200); Tracy Pitts (100 hurdles, long jump); Janna Schaafsma (100, 200, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles); Kyle McBride (3,200, 800); Brent Knight (1,600); Brandi Denna (400); Nick Allen (high jump); Karina Peterson (long jump, triple jump); Brittany Gardner (triple jump); Sasha Cvetkovski (shot put, discus); Chris Bower (shot put); 3,200 relay (Evan Haupt, Brent Knight, Daniel Harro, Kyle McBride, Bill Keller, Ryan Walton); 1,600 relay (Karina Peterson, Rachel McCartan, Ari Goldstein, Brandi Denna, Rachel Goldstein).
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