Local track athletes hit their stride indoors -- but hope to be outside soon
The start of the high school track and field season is always a slippery season. With outdoor tracks still covered in snow and ice, coaches have to scramble to get in workouts and figure out where their athletes will work best as the spring wears on.
“This year it seems we’re pretty far behind the others,” said Eagle River coach Matt Turner, who said his school’s track likely won’t be usable for at least another week or more.
“We’re never going to get out there,” Turner quipped.
Teams were able to stretch their legs Friday and Saturday -- albeit indoors -- at the annual Pro/Whit Championships, an indoor meet at The Dome in Anchorage that attracted 13 teams from Anchorage, the Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsula.
With teams still figuring out where athletes will run this season, the meet was a chance for coaches to get a good early look at their squads.
By all appearances, things are looking pretty good at Chugiak High.
The Mustangs opened the meet with an impressive distance sweep Friday, getting wins in the 3,200 meters by sophomores Hyrum Nelson and Breanna Day. Day edged teammate Adrianna Proffitt by less than a second to give the Mustangs a 1-2 finish.
In addition to the 3,200, Friday also featured field events, with Chugiak senior Emma Nelson winning the girls’ high jump and triple jump. Nelson -- who is bound for Division I Oregon State University in the fall -- won the triple jump by more than a foot and claimed high jump supremacy by six inches over her next closest competitor.
Nelson’s jump of 5 feet, 7 inches was a personal best and topped her winning jump at last year’s Oregon Relays. She’ll have a chance to defend her title next weekend when the Mustangs return to Eugene for the annual relays, which attract many of the top high school athletes in the Pacific Northwest.
Nelson’s double win helped propel the Mustangs to the girls’ team title, beating Dimond by 15 points in the overall standings.
The Chugiak boys placed second to East, picking up a double win Saturday from West transfer Daniel Bausch, a junior who claimed victory in the 800 and 1,600. Bausch -- who won the 3,200 and 1,600 at the season-opening Mini meet last week, is undefeated in four varsity races this season.
“He’s been a lot of fun to have on the team,” Hall said.
With Nelson and Bausch at the front of the pack, Hall said the Chugiak boys distance contingent looks particularly strong.
“That’s been the really nice thing for me is watching the boys team come together,” she said.
Hall has about 90 athletes out between her boys and girls teams, and said she’s “cautiously optimistic” about her team’s chances against the state’s best as the season progresses.
“The strength in numbers, that helps pull the slower kids up and helps push the faster kids,” she said.
In addition to Nelson, Proffitt and Day, the Chugiak girls also return all-around athlete Brooklynn Gould, who Hall said can compete in any event from jumps to sprints to hurdles to middle distance.
“There’s probably not an event up to the 800 that she can’t do and do well,” Hall said of Gould, who won the 300 hurdles Saturday.
Although Chugiak is a clear state meet contender, Hall said she hopes to keep her team focused on having fun. She said the tries to model her coaching style after the U.S. women’s Olympic ski team, which has a bevy of athletes who compete head-to-head while still rooting each other on.
“If they can celebrate their success together, it just makes them so much stronger,” she said.
Although his team isn’t quite as deep as Chugiak, Turner’s Wolves have a number of returning athletes who should make some noise this season. At the Pro/Whit, the Eagle River boys got a win from Carter Gladwill in the 400 meters, while the Eagle River girls picked up a victory from Morgan Bolin in the 300 hurdles.
“We’re super young this year,” said Turner, who estimated he has about 85 kids in the program.
Turner said the first few weeks of the season will likely be spent trying to figure out which athletes fit where.
“It’s good to be able to finally run and get times on these young kids and see what we think we have,” he said.
Eagle River will compete Friday and Saturday at the 8X8 meet, which is tentatively set to be held at the West High track, with The Dome as a backup. Half of Chugiak’s team will travel to Oregeon this weekend, with the other half competing in the 8X8 meet.
For complete meet results, visit www.athletic.net.
Girls -- 1) Chugiak, 98; 2) Dimond, 83; 3) South, 79; 4) West, 75.5; 5) Homer, 63; 6) Grace Christian, 53; 7) Colony, 41; 8) Eagle River, 39; 9) Bartlett, 37; 10) West Valley, 36; 11) Service, 35; 12) East, 14.5; 13) Anchorage Christian, 3
Boys -- 1) East, 125; 2) Chugiak, 108; 3) Bartlett, 75; 4) Colony, 70; 5) Dimond, 60; 6) West, 44; 7) Grace Christian, 37; 8) Service, 28; 9) Anchorage Christian, 26; 10) Eagle River, 21; 11) Homer, 19; 12) West Valley, 16; 13) South, 13