The only thing a lot of Alaska's elite track and field athletes have to compete against all year is a stopwatch or a measuring tape.
Because Alaska's track season is so short, and Alaska so large, schools from places like Fairbanks, Anchorage, Southeast, the Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska-Susitna valleys rarely get to race against each other.
Thus, week-to-week progress comes to be measured by how times or distances stack up with other statewide times and distances posted in the newspaper.
But this can be an inexact science, since some times are electric, some are hand-timed by trained track officials and some are hand-timed by parents that are called out of the stands.
Today and Saturday, when eight peninsula schools compete at the state track and field meet at Palmer, all of that changes.
"At state, it's not about time," said Kodiak distance runner Curtis Mortenson after last week's Region III meet. "It's about winning.
"It doesn't matter if you beat the best time of the year and don't win."
Several peninsula athletes head into the meet with the best time of the year in their respective events.
Nikiski junior Josh Reilly has the state's top time in the 300-meter hurdles. He also had the fastest region time in the state in the 110 hurdles last weekend.
However, he lost to Heritage's Trevor Millar in a pair of head-to-head battles in the 110 and 300 hurdles at the Skyview Invitational this year.
"I'm really looking forward to (state)," Reilly said after last week's region meet. "It'll be my third time to state, but I got killed my first two times there."
Reilly is the only peninsula boy with a state best in a running event heading into state, so he appears to have the best shot at breaking the drought peninsula boys have experienced at the state meet in recent years.
The last peninsula boy to win a state title was Skyview's Jesse Glaves, who pulled off a shocking win in the high jump at the 1998 state meet.
Meanwhile, the last peninsula boy to win a running event was Seward's Forrest Johnson, who won the 300 hurdles in 1997.
The other peninsula boy with a state best heading into the state meet is Kenai senior Jay Hogue. Hogue's best toss of 163 feet, 11 inches, is more than 8 feet better than the next competitor. On the other hand, Hogue struggled last week at the region meet, and three other competitors across the state threw better than him over the weekend.
On the girls side, Soldotna junior Janna Schaafsma, who broke a two-year drought at the state meet by peninsula runners by taking the 100 hurdles last year, has state bests in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
Schaafsma will renew acquaintances with, among others, Chugiak's Meagen Kinnevan, who won both hurdles, the triple jump and the long jump at the Region IV meet last week. Schaafsma took the state 100 hurdles crown from Kinnevan last year.
Another Soldotna athlete with a state best is Soldotna's Sasha Cvetkovski, who threw a state-best 118-3 in the discus at the region meet last weekend.
Cvetkovski also had the top throw across all of the state 's region meets last week in the shot put. Only Lathrop's Raya Thomas has put the shot farther than Cvetkovski this year.
"That's my goal," said Cvetkovski, when asked if she planned on sweeping the throws at the state meet.
Soldotna senior Lissa Cristiano also has the listed state best in the 100. But in region meets last weekend, five runners posted better times than Cristiano, who was fourth in the 100 at state last year.
Kenai also has a number of athletes with state-best times.
Kenai junior Michelle Edwards has the state's best time in the 400, but three runners were faster than her on region weekend.
The fastest was Dimond's Mary Pearce, the defending state champion in the 400 and 200. Pearce took the 100, 200 and 400 at the Region IV meet.
Edwards also is part of the Kenai's 3,200 relay team, which also has the fastest time in the state.
"At the beginning, we just threw the (3,200 relay) together to try it out," Edwards said. "So far, it's worked out perfect."
Kenai high jumper Dallas Baldwin also is one of a handful of jumpers that have hit the state-best 5-2 mark this year.
Finally, Skyview senior Erika Edwards comes into the meet less than a second off the state-best 3,200 time put up by East senior Kikkan Randall, which is appropriate because last year Randall defeated Edwards by less than a second at the 3,200 at state.
Randall is running well, having just won four events at the Region IV meet, including the 1,600 in a smoking 5:01.77.
"It's hard to know against Kikkan," said Edwards of their impending duel in the distance events. "I haven't raced against her in track season yet this year, so I'm not sure what my strategy will be yet.
"I'll figure out something this week."
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