Chugiak girls track and field team wins second straight region title
UPDATE (Tuesday, May 23): State track and field meet qualifiers have been posted. Click here to see which local athletes made the meet.
With a pair of thoroughbreds leading the way, a determined Chugiak girls track and field team galloped away with the Region IV championship Saturday for the second straight year.
“I’m thrilled,” said Chugiak coach Melissa Hall, whose team will try to defend its 2016 state championship at the state meet May 25-26 in Palmer.
Junior Emma Nelson won four individual events and senior sprinter Ariana Davis again smoked the field in record-setting fashion to lead the Mustangs to victory at Dimond High. Nelson won the long jump, triple jump, high jump and 400 meters for Chugiak, which racked up 146 points to outdistance second-place Dimond by a comfortable 33-point margin.
Davis won the 100 and 200 meter dash and anchored Chugiak’s winning 4X100 and 4X200 meter relay teams. Her 100 time of 12.41 seconds in Friday’s prelims broke the school record, giving her a second CHS school record to go along with the new 200 meter mark she set earlier this year.
Chugiak also got a win in the 300 hurdles from freshman Brooklynn Gould, who rallied Saturday after getting disqualified in the 100 hurdles in Friday’s preliminary rounds — a mistake that will prevent the freshman phenom from racing in that event at state.
Hall said she Gould was initially “bummed” about the mistake, but recovered quickly to help the team Saturday, winning the high hurdles and joining Davis, Reilly Hall and Cerina Bush on the 4x200 team.
“I was really proud of her,” she said.
Perhaps Chugiak’s most dominant show of strength was turned in by its contingent of triple jumpers, who earned a rare podium sweep as Gould took second behind Nelson, with Rebekah Smith third and Kassidy Murfin fourth.
Davis credited Chugiak’s coaching staff with helping the team repeat as region champions and putting it in a position to challenge for another state title.
“It’s all of the coaches collaborating as a group,” she said.
Although each discipline has its individual coach, Davis said the close-knit, family style atmosphere means she always has several people to lean on for advice and support.
“A lot of people have my back,” she said.
Hall said she tries to foster an environment where her team is able to take things seriously but also relax and have fun. So far, the philosophy has paid off, with athletes continuing to buy into the program as the season nears the finish line.
“It’s been a really cool team this year,” she said.
Hall pointed to the effort turned in by sophomore Anya Zachary, who stepped in to run a leg of the 4x800 meters after the team’s fastest 800 runner, Mazie Edwards, got sick. Hall said Zachary filled in admirably, running fast enough to likely qualify the third-place Mustangs for a state spot.
“Those are the kinds of moments you’re proud of,” she said.
The Eagle River girls finished sixth overall, with senior distance runner Peyton Young placing second in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200. The Wolves also got a second-place run from sophomore Morgan Bolin in the 100 hurdles and a third-place finishes by freshman Avery Brown in the shot put and sophomore Helen Wilson in the 3,200.
Winners of each event Friday and Saturday automatically qualified for state. After that, state meet bids are given out based on the next fastest times at the four Class 4A region meets around the state this weekend. The official meet list will be posted on the Alaska Schools Activities Association website, although coaches said they’ll also be crunching numbers based on times posted at that track and field website athletic.net. For many, that meant a long, anxious Saturday night was in store.
“Between athletic.net at ASAA will be like 90 percent of my phone battery usage,” said Eagle River coach Matt Turner.
Turner said most coaches he talked to were planning to do the same thing, anxious to see exactly which athletes reach state.
“We’ll keep refreshing it,” he said.
The Wolves got one automatic qualifier in senior Mason Wadsworth, who won the 110 hurdles and was the top scorer for the fifth-place Eagle River boys. Wadsworth also placed second in the high jump, third in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the triple jump.
Also likely to get a state invite based on their times, Turner said, are Luke Mourcade and Mike Maddox, who finished second and third respectively in the 400 meters.
“Luke and Mike ran their heads off today,” Turner said.
Guy Rohde led the Chugiak boys to a fourth-place finish with his victory in the 300 hurdles — giving the Mustangs a sweep of that event. Rohde also anchored Chugiak’s winning 4x200 team, leaning at the tape to edge Service by three hundredths of a second.
Saturday night, teams and coaches were playing the waiting game as state places were finalized. For her part, Hall said she planned to spend a lot of time on the computer staring at times and distances from around the state.
“Refresh, refresh, refresh,” she said.
As for next week, she said she knows her powerful girls team will be among the favorites — and she likes the team’s chances after a solid showing at Dimond.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” she said.