The Kenai Peninsula will be looking to snap a string of two years without a running title at the Alaska School Activities Association Track and Field Championships today and Saturday at Palmer High School.
The peninsula had jumping and throwing titles in 1998 and a throwing title last year, but nobody from the area has been able to make it to the top of the podium in a running event.
That figures to change this year because four peninsula runners will go to state with the top times in their respective events.
Kenai's Michelle Edwards has the top time in the 400-meter dash with a clocking of 59.7 seconds.
The sophomore finished second in the 400 last year behind the graduated Cortney Ward, but will get stiff competition from, among others, Dimond's Mary Pearce. Edwards edged Pearce out for second last year.
Edwards also qualified for state in the 800, but Kenai is pulling her out of that event so she can focus on the 400.
"There are two other girls at 59 and there a few not far behind that," Kenai co-coach Rebecca Hunter said. "She wants to break the 58.7 she had at state last year.
Peninsula athletes with top-five state marks
High jump -- 5. Paul John Zobeck, Soldotna, 6 feet, 1 inch.
Long jump -- 2. Jeremy Kouf, Nikiski, 21-1 1/2.
110-meter hurdles -- 1. Olin Raidmae, Homer, 15.2 seconds.
100 -- 4. Jeremy Kouf, Nikiski, 11.2
400 -- 5. Paul Begins, Skyview, 51.34.
800 -- 4. Mario Bird, Nikiski, 2:00.43.
1,600 -- 2. Mario Bird, Nikiski, 4:27.39.
3,200 -- 5. Mario Bird, Nikiski, 9:51.8.*
3,200 relay -- 3. Soldotna, 8:19.10.
Shot put -- 4. Karen Parkinson, Homer, 33-11 1/4; 5. Sasha Cvetkovski, Soldotna, 33-9.
Discus -- 1. Karen Parkinson, Homer, 123-7; 2. Sasha Cvetkovski, Soldotna, 113-9; 4. Christina Rice, Skyview, 113-7; 5. Inger Hulien, Nikiski, 111-4.
High jump -- 4. Erin Orth, Soldotna, 5-1.*
100 hurdles -- 3. Janna Schaafsma, Soldotna, 15.79.
300 hurdles -- 5. Katie Floyd, Nikiski, 50.3.*
200 -- 1. Molly Bosick, Ninilchik, 26.6; 2. Tamanika Haynes, Kenai, 26.79.
400 -- 1. Michelle Edwards, Kenai, 59.7.
1,600 -- 4. Erika Edwards, Skyview, 5:15.70.
3,200 -- 1. Erika Edwards, Skyview, 11:05.91.
400 relay -- 2. Soldotna, 51.15.
800 relay -- 4. Kenai, 1:49.78.
3,200 relay -- 2. Soldotna, 9:49.05; 4. Kenai, 9:59.57.
* -- Will not compete in this event at state
"She's been at 59 five times, so hopefully taking her out of the 800 will be the difference."
Skyview's Erika Edwards had the state's best time with a 11:05.91 in the 3,200. The junior has been solid all year after missing the cross country season with a knee injury.
At last week's region meet, Edwards' splits were set up before the race for her to run an 11:12, but she felt so good she pushed to the 11:05.
Her principle competition in the 3,200 will be East's Kikkan Randall. Randall has only gotten down as low as 11:23.72 this year, but there is little doubt the two-time state cross country champion will mount a big challenge for Edwards.
"Kikkan's capable of running 11:05," Skyview coach Rob Sparks said. "Erika's strength is running times while Kikkan's good at running races.
"That should make it interesting."
Ninilchik's Molly Bosick has the state's best time in the 200 with a 26.6. Kenai's Tamanika Haynes is second on the honor roll at 26.79.
"I think Molly has a good chance of winning, but maybe Tamanika can slip in there," Hunter said. "Molly is just so strong.
"When she gets out of those blocks, she's gone."
The final runner with a state-best mark is Homer's Olin Raidmae with a 15.2 in the 110 hurdles. Raidmae hit the time early in the season and hasn't been able to duplicate it since.
Homer coach Alan Olson said he even reviewed the tape of Raidmae's fast race to make sure the hurdles were at the right height.
"I think my coaching made his time higher," Olson joked earlier this year. "It's tough to figure out."
The only other peninsula athlete with a state best is Homer's Karen Parkinson in the discus. Parkinson, who has thrown 123 feet, 7 inches, was the peninsula's only state champion last year.
Earlier in the year, she said a big goal for her this year was to break 130 feet.
Several other peninsula athletes have marks that rank in the top three at state, although some of those have a better shot at a state title than others.
The boys and girls 3,200-meter relay teams at Soldotna are both in the top three, but the Palmer and Bartlett boys and Bartlett girls are both almost untouchable in that event.
The Stars girls also have a 400 relay team that is ranked second in the state. That team was separated by no more than a hair from top-ranked Colony at last weekend's region meet.
Finally, SoHi's Sasha Cvetkovski is second in the discus and Janna Schaafsma is third in the hurdles.
"She really hasn't had anybody close to her all year," said Soldotna coach Mark Devenney of Schaafsma. "She's finished every race all alone.
"I think when she gets some competition, she'll be faster."
The final athletes with top-three marks are from Nikiski.
Mario Bird is second in the state in the 1,600 with a 4:27.39. With three other runners in the state already under 4:30 this year, a fabulous race is expected in the mile.
"With three or four runners competing within a few seconds of each other for first place, you've got to go in there knowing your strategy," Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad said. "It's just a matter of having a strategy going in, and going out and executing it."
Finally, Nikiski's Jeremy Kouf is second in the high jump with a mark of 21-1 1/2. The first-place competitor is out in front by more than a foot.
"He's been jumping really well this year," Kornstad said. "He's locked on to some of the techniques of jumping.
"If he puts everything together on one jump, he could go 22 feet. I don't know about 22-6."
Peninsula state qualifiers
Cook Inlet Academy -- Shannon Powers, discus.
Homer -- boys 800-meter relay (Matt Turkington, Josh Chambers, Cody Smith, Michael Abbott, Zefren Christianson); Josh Chambers, 100; Jessica James, 100 hurdles; Edith Lane, discus; Karen Parkinson, shot put, discus; Erin Pate, triple jump; Olin Raidmae, 110 hurdles; Aaron Ulmer, 800; Nahanni Wills, 300 hurdles.
Kenai -- girls 3,200 relay (Mary Krusen, Dallas Baldwin, Lindsey Church, Michelle Edwards, Roxanne Wilcox); girls 800 relay (Nicole Spence, Catie Baldwin, Erica Smith, Tamanika Haynes, Michelle Edwards); 1,600 relay (Mary Krusen, Erica Smith, Lindsey Church, Michelle Edwards, Erin Smith); Dallas Baldwin, high jump; Lindsey Church, 400; Michelle Edwards, 400, 800; Rocky Fanning, 300 hurdles; Tamanika Haynes, 100, 200; Mary Krusen, 1,600; Krista Miller, shot put, discus; Dane Myers, shot put; Erica Smith, 200, high jump; Nicole Spence, 200.
Nikiski -- Mario Bird, 800, 1,600; Mindy Cason, high jump; Katie Floyd, 100 hurdles, high jump; Inger Hulien, discus; Jeremy Kouf, 100, 200, long jump; Josh Reilly, 300 hurdles.
Ninilchik -- Molly Bosick, 100, 200.
Seldovia -- Jeremiah Dillon, triple jump.
Skyview -- Paul Begins, 400; Erika Edwards, 800, 1,600, 3,200; Christina Rice, shot put, discus.
Soldotna -- girls 3,200 relay (Sarah Histand, Marissa Kimbrell, Megan Newbould, Annette Rhoades, Rachel Goldstein); boys 3,200 relay (Matt Medina, Mark Musgrove, Andy Liebner, Brandon Newbould, Brent Knight, Bill Keller); girls 400 relay (Lissa Cristiano, Sarah Histand, Annette Rhoades, Janna Schaafsma, Desiree Holland, Lakeesha Freeman); girls 1,600 relay (Sarah Histand, Marissa Kimbrell, Megan Newbould, Annette Rhoades, Christa Martin); Brandon Avery, 110 hurdles; Lissa Cristiano, 100; Sasha Cvetkovski, shot put, discus; Kelly Gee, discus; Brent Knight, 800; Andy Liebner, 3,200; Kyle McBride, 3,200; Billy Moiles, shot put; Brandon Newbould, 1,600, 3,200; William Peale, shot put; Annette Rhoades, 400; Janna Schaafsma, 100 hurdles, 100; Derek Tarr, long jump, triple jump; Paul John Zobeck, high jump.
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