High School Track Teams Facing off in Cross-Town Meet

    Thunder Mountain senior Ali Beja takes a baton handoff from junior Kurtis Lee in practice Thursday. (Klas Stolpe)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain High School track and fields teams will host a cross-town track meet on Friday and Saturday at Falcons Field.

      Like most sports this season, the athletes didn’t have a full “last year” to look back on due to the coronavirus pandemic cancelations.

      “Our distance captains are seniors, but our sprinting and jumping group has so many young athletes that those captains are all juniors,” Juneau-Douglas coach Janette Gagnon said. “We have a lot of athletes who came out last spring for a great pre-season and then just one week of the season. I was worried they wouldn't come back, but they have.”

      TMHS coach Dwayne Duskin said he hopes the meet will get the athletes in the mode of what a track meet is.

      “Everyone is at least a year removed and some kids were freshmen when COVID started so they have no experience at all,” Dustin said. “So this will be a good way to get their feet in the water and see how it works and get out any nerves they might have.”

      First year track athletes have to be aware of race check-ins, event locations and field protocols.

      “And they have to make sure they are not late for things, so also the punctuality,” Duskin said. “This year everyone is very hard working, even though some of them have no experience and we have had limited practices because of the snow.”

      This past weekend JDHS ran a small team meet that included the 100 meters and 200 meters for sprinters and added the 1500 meters and 3000 meters to establish school records where none have been noted before.

      Gagnon noted junior James Connally as one of her inspirational athletes. 

      Connally had personal best times in the 100 (11.6 seconds) and 200 (24.2) last weekend. Those times are in the hunt with the winner of last weekend’s meet in Ketchikan, Petersburg senior Aiden Luhr, who ran a 11.4 and 23.7, respectively.

      “He was so dedicated last year and this year that he was made a captain before he ever ran one official race on our team,” Gagnon said. “Finn Morley is ready to make a name for himself and showed that off this past weekend. Linnea Lentfer is the best role model we could ask for in this group of very talented sophomores and freshmen.”

      JDHS junior Trinity Jackson won the girls team meet 100 in 13.8 and the 200 in 28.4, compared to Ketchikan meet winners from Haines, senior Haley Boron in 13.4 in the 100, and Sitka, senior Lindsey Bartolaba with a 28.1 in the 200.

      Other Juneau and Ketchikan meet comparisons include the girls 100 hurdles - JDHS sophomore Mahala Powell 19.3 to KTN junior Ada Odden 16.8; boys 110 hurdles - JDHS senior Dawson Hickok 20.74 to KTN senior Riley Deal 18.4; boys shot put - JDHS senior Gabriel Canon 24’ to KTN junior Joshua Rhoads 37’10; boys discus - Canon 76’7 to Rhoads 113’9; boys long jump - Hickok 18’1.75 to Deal 16’11.5; girls long jump - T. Jackson 14.05 to Haines junior Grace Long 13’7.75; girls shot - JDHS junior Mira Marthaler 22’3 to Haines senior Haley Boron 28’8; girls discus - Marthaler 66’ to KTN junior Jenae Rhoads 70’1; and girls long jump - T. Jackson 14’0.5 to Haines’ Long 13’7.75.

    The Juneau meet also featured senior Finn Morley winning the boys 1500 (4:23.8) and 3000 (9:38.7) and the freshman Maisey Morley the girls 1500 (5:21.6) and freshman Etta Eller the 3000 (11:27.75). The Ketchikan meet comparable races were the 1600, with Sitka sophomore Silas Demmert winning the boys in 5:00.61 and Sitka junior Tawny Smith the girls in 5:29.8, and the 3200, with Demmert winning the boys in 11:14.0 and Sitka sophomore Ana Prussian the girls in 12:51.4.

        In addition to head coaching duties, Gagnon will oversee the Crimson Bears’ high jump and hurdles athletes. Her assistant coaches include Kevin Hamrick for throwing events, Daria Horne and Louis Tagaban for sprints and horizontal jumps and Jesse Stringer and Zach Bursell will oversee the distance runners.

      Thunder Mountain head coach Duskin will also oversee the Falcons’ sprints, hurdles and jumpers. Assistant coaches Brandi Adams and John Nagel work with the throwing athletes and distance runners, respectively.

      On Thursday, various TMHS athletes practiced in the rain on their home oval.

      TMHS junior Matthew Johns was working with sophomore Justus Paden on block starts.

      “I am just looking forward to our first meet,” Johns said.

      Johns said he last did track in middle school, switched to baseball for two years and came back to the oval.

      “I am excited to see what I can do,” he said. “I like that it is individual but it is also a team sport at the same time.”

      Paden said he hopes to have fun and for a sunny day.

      Senior Ali Beja was helping instruct teammates in relay events.

      “I feel like it is one of our responsibilities,” Beja said. “Passing along knowledge, because I had to learn a lot of things. Since we didn’t have a season last year, just giving these kids the best opportunity they can have for themselves and giving them the right steps and in the right place where they need to be, to just have fun. The first meet is a lot of intense emotions and a lot of jitters, but just having fun overall. I am really happy we get the opportunity just to have it this year.”

      Meet start times are 5 p.m. for Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.

      The meet’s coronavirus mitigation protocols include if an athlete is running and is six feet away from another athlete they do not have to wear a mask but must keep it on their person so when they finish it is to be worn again. A station will feature hand sanitizer and masks and only half the lanes will be used for running events, allowing a space-lane between runners.

      Juneau-Douglas athletes include:

      Seniors - Aidan Hollingsworth (captain), Callahan Croteau, Daniel Isaak, Dawson Hickok, Electra Morley, Finn Morley, Gabriel Canon, Guo Zhong Maas, Isaac Schlosser, Linnea Lentfer (captain), Ethan Sellers, Miriam Stitz.

      Juniors - Annika Schwartz, Ashlie Stringer, Aubrey Hekkers, Celia Wheeler, Colton Johns (captain), Cosley Bruno, Jackson Marx, Jake Sleppy (captain), James Connally (Captain), Lindsay McTague, McKenna McNutt, Mira Marielle Marthaler, Trinity Jackson (captain).

      Sophomores - Cara Hollingsworth, Elizabeth Stitz, Jayme Geary, Mahala Powell, Mikayla Neal, Skylar Tuckwood, Tobin Montalbo.

      Freshmen - Brendan West, Caden Johns, Claire Durling, Edgar Vera Alvarado, Etta Eller, Genevieve Pikul, Iris White, Leif St. Clair, Maisy Morley, Paige Willis, Paul King, Rayna Tuckwood, Ruby Rivas, Wilder Dillingham.

      Thunder Mountain athletes include:

      Seniors - Gwendolynn Bannerman, Ali Beya, Adam Bishop, Iayanah Brewer, Ethan Bultez, Tanner Bunten, Nina Carrillo, Hannah Deer, Alexa Godkin, Sophia Harvey, Benjamin Macaulay, Elijah Mead, Mariana Salazar.

      Juniors - Thomas Bowman, Hailey Dompeling, Landon Guthrie, Audimyre (Sam) Horca, Matthew Johns, Samuel Kiessling, Kurtis Lee, Gwendolynn Lockwood, Grace Sikes, Jayda Skeek, Alain Soltys-Gray, Jenea Mei Trousil.

      Sophomores - Maya Chaskin, Sadie Jenkins, Samantha Mead, Aliyah Overturf, Justus Paden, Madelyne Sassi, Mallory Welling.

      Freshmen - Mackenzie Lam, Hayden Loggy-Smith, Sophia Owen, Alexander James Polasky, Ethan Reichl, Sione Tupou, Layla Webster, Amy Welling.

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