A fast-moving, Fairbanks thunderstorm broke up the Class 1-2-3A and Class 4A state track and field championships on Saturday at Lathrop High School for about 10 minutes after the 800-meter run was completed.
Immediately before and shortly after the storm clouds hurried away, Skyview junior Ivy O'Guinn and the Kenai Central girls 1,600-relay team came up with electrifying performances of their own, both winning Class 4A state titles.
And as for the Seward boys, they just reigned. Led by Class 1-2-3A boys outstanding performer Travis Price, who won four events, and Dylan Beck, who took three events, the Seahawks won the Class 1-2-3A boys title for the first time after finishing second last year.
The peninsula also received Class 1-2-3A state titles from Cook Inlet Academy junior Amie Smithwick in the 300 hurdles and Nikiski junior Megan Hansen in the discus.
The Kenai girls 1,600 relay came into the meet with the top seed time, but also with a seed time more than five seconds off Dimond's 1994 state record of 4 minutes, 4.64 seconds.
When junior anchor Lierin Flanagan received the baton at least 30 yards behind Dimond, according to Kenai coach Tim Sandahl, victory was no sure thing, not to mention thoughts of a state record.
That was until Flanagan ripped off a split of 56.5 seconds to reel in Dimond and set a new state record of 4:04.46. Also running legs for the Kardinals were Kristi Louthan, Shaynee DeVito and Bailey Beeson.
Sandahl said Flanagan's scorching final leg was partially born of frustration. Flanagan won a 200 state title last year, but Saturday had to take a back seat as Bartlett's Gabrielle Todd won the 100, 200 and 400. Flanagan was fifth in the 100 and runner-up in the 200 and 400, while Beeson was sixth in the 400. Flanagan's time in the open 400 was 58.42, making her relay split all the more impressive.
"She was disappointed in not being able to have an individual state championship, but that made up for it and then some," Sandahl said. "I don't think one person expected her to come from that far behind."
The victory helped the Kenai girls, who also received a third in the shot put from Adriana Taylor, a fourth in the 300 hurdles from DeVito, a fifth in the 100 hurdles from DeVito, a fourth in the 1,600 from Molly Watkins and a fifth from the 800 relay, finish third in the girls meet.
"There were a couple of girls up from the middle school watching it," Sandahl said. "We're excited about our girls team next year."
Like Flanagan, O'Guinn had experienced a couple close losses before breaking through for a title. O'Guinn finished second in the 3,200 Friday and took third in the 1,600 before Saturday's 800.
O'Guinn was in second with 300 meters to go when she broke to the front and left the field behind. Her winning time was 2:16.92, while Juneau's Leah Francis, who won the 1,600 and 3,200, was second at 2:19.58.
O'Guinn had strained a muscle in the 3,200 and said the injury hampered her in the 1,600. She said she felt good before the 800, though.
"Right before the 800, it was getting kind of cloudy," O'Guinn said. "It felt really nice. I was confident when I went out there."
O'Guinn said distance coach Aaron Dickson made a huge difference for her. She also thanked God for helping her stay strong, her parents, Char and Elvin O'Guinn, and grandmother Mary Jean Ivy.
The Seward boys finished second at the Region III/1-2-3A meet to Grace Christian, but won the state title over the Grizzlies going away. The Seahawks scored 108 points to Grace's 81.
Seward coach Lori Krier said Grace not finishing the 800 relay or 1,600 relay made a big difference. Meanwhile, Seward was able to nab fifth in the 400 relay, second in the 800 relay, fifth in the 1,600 relay and fourth in the 3,200 relay.
But the big difference for the Seahawks, as always, were Price and Beck.
Price dominated both the 400 and 800, running 49.82 to break 50 seconds for the first time in the 400, and cruising home in 1:59.66 to top surprise runner-up and teammate Brett Chase in the 800.
The senior was not seeded on top of the triple jump or long jump, but won the triple jump at 41 feet, 9 1-4 inches, and the long jump at 20--3-4.
"Travis is always an inspiration to the kids, kind to the young kids and a wonderful young man," Krier said. "He does all those things, but when he's right down there, he competes."
Beck won the high jump at 6--6, a leap which tied the school record and bested rival Leif Karlberg of Grace. Beck also won the 300 hurdles over Karlberg with a time of 41.33 to Karlberg's 42.02.
The real drama came in the 110 hurdles.
"He told his dad (Gary Beck) last night that he was going to win the race even if he had to throw himself across the line," Krier said.
Beck proved prophetic, diving to a 15.99 to beat Karlberg by three hundredths of a second.
"He's got a huge track rash on his right shoulder," Krier said of Beck, who also took fourth in the triple jump.
The Seward boys also picked up a fourth in the discus from Beau Crosby and a fifth in the 3,200 from Chase en route to the title.
Hansen came into the meet with the third-best discus toss of the year, according to athletic.net. She had broken 100 feet in practice, but never in a meet.
Her new personal best of 104--11 was enough to beat runner-up Anna Simmers, of ACS, and Nikiski teammate Kassandra Johnson, who got fifth.
"Megan had her best meet of the year," Nikiski coach Dan Adair said. "It's really, really exciting. She gets to bring a state title home to Nikiski."
Adair said throwing coach Dan Hansen, who is Megan's father, deserves credit for volunteering so much time and effort to the team.
Nikiski, which had just three athletes at the meet, still managed to finish seventh.
Eliza Chadwick, coming off surgery to get her appendix removed just six weeks ago, finished second in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles for the Bulldogs. Her 49.18 in the 300 hurdles was a personal best.
Smithwick won the 300 hurdles with a time of 48.51 seconds, helping the Eagles finish eighth. She also finished third in the 100 hurdles and teamed with Sadie Arneson, Lauren Bauder and Keely Powers to take third in the 400 relay. Bauder also picked up a sixth for the Eagles in the long jump.
On the boys side for CIA, Josh Holly was third in the 800 and fourth in the 3,200.
Other placers from the peninsula in the Class 1-2-3A meet were Seward's Samantha Feemster with thirds in the 400 and 800, Seward's 400 relay with a sixth, Seward's 800 relay with a fourth, and Ninilchik's Brianna Goins with a fifth in the high jump.
Freshman Mariah Ulen produced the top performance for Soldotna by finishing third in the high jump. Freshman Bree Mucha was sixth in the 1,600 for the Stars.
For the Soldotna boys, Chase Jensen was fourth in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles, the 800 relay was fourth and the 1,600 relay was sixth.
Nikita Naumoff paced the Kenai boys by finishing second in the high jump, while teammate Tyler Spalding was sixth. Also for the Kards, Spalding was third in the triple jump and Billy Kiefer was fifth in the 800 and 1,600, setting a school record of 4:28.94 in the 1,600.
Also placing in the boys 4A meet from the peninsula were Homer's Mike Pate with a third in the 400, Skyview's Michael Thornton with a sixth in the 110 hurdles and Skyview's Keny Mahan with a sixth in the discus.
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