Region III track brings record breakers to state

Watch out Alaska. Here comes the Region III brigade.

If there’s one thing that anyone learned from last weekend’s Region III prep track and field meet, it’s that Region III athletes are fast. Very fast.

At the end of the day last Saturday, 11 new region records and nine new 2015 state bests were set under overcast skies on a two-year-old track that surrounds Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. It seemed to be the perfect storm.

“It was just one of those ‘wow’ days,” said Soldotna coach Phil Leck. “It seemed like every time a gun went off, a record was broken.”

Kenai coach Chris Hanson said he considered it pretty rare to see that many records go down, especially since many of them were quality marks, the kind that coaches expect to see last for decades.

“That was really fun,” Hanson said. “I think it made it a really special meet, and I hope people there appreciated the individual performances they saw.

“I mean, for crying out loud, the boys 1,600 was all three ran under region record.”

The boys 1,600 meters was one of many impressive performances throughout the day. Consider that race winner Levi Thomet not only toppled fellow former Kodiak runner Trevor Dunbar’s seven-year-old mark by over four seconds, but also came within one second of the 1985 Alaska state record of 4:13.0 that Bartlett legend Doug Herron set. If that doesn’t boggle the mind, how about fourth-place finisher Jordan Theisen? The Kenai senior finished with a personal-best of 4:18.81, which most years could win the state 1,600-meter run.

However, against some of the fiercest competition ever seen, Theisen’s fast time wasn’t enough for even a spot on the podium.

One day before that, Thomet reset the region mark in the 3,200 — again, previously held by Dunbar — with a time of 9:02.39, bettering the old standard by almost eight seconds. In comparison, Dimond senior Chandler Lokanin won the boys 3,200 at the Region IV meet in Anchorage on the same day with a (relatively) paltry time of 9:43.49.

Thomet also broke Dunbar’s previous region best in the 800, winning with a time of 1:55.96, which came mere minutes after ACS’s Michael Todd also beat it in the boys 1-2-3A race.

One would be remiss, of course, to neglect mentioning the new nation-leading time of 9:58.74 that Kenai senior Allie Ostrander blazed to the win with on Friday. Ostrander lapped the entire field of runners en route to lowering her previous best time of 9:59.33, set back in April in ideal conditions inside Anchorage’s indoor track known as the Dome.

Saturday, Ostrander blazed to another personal best of 4:48.32 in the girls 1,600 meters, which is currently ranked 17th in the nation among high school girls.

“I think we’re very lucky,” Hanson said. “Sometimes in sports, these things go in cycles, and we’re in a really high cycle right now.

“Kodiak’s built a really strong program, and we have a group of seniors that have been strong all their years, and it’s been feeding off a strong running culture.”

“It’s just unbelievable,” Leck added. “I’ve never seen so many records go down in one day.”

Leck was on hand to see his SoHi girls 3,200-meter relay team not only beat the region record, but the state one as well, set back in 2004 by West Valley. The team — made up of Daisy Nelson, Olivia Hutchings, Sadie Fox and Dani McCormick — smashed the old mark by nearly seven seconds with a blazing time of 9:28.79. Of course, new state records can only be set at the state meet, so the Stars will need to do it again this weekend at Dimond Alumni field in Anchorage.

“Last week they were excited, I said, ‘Congrats, that’s cool, but none of that means anything if we can’t do it again,’” Leck said. “It’s not going to be handed to them, they’ve gotta do it one more time.”

SoHi senior Tim Duke was another athlete of the day that rewrote part of the Region III record book. Duke claimed a win in the boys 300-meter hurdles with a state-leading best of 39.16 seconds, three-quarters of a second faster than the decade-old mark set by Colony’s Justin Schwartzbauer. The time is a full two seconds better than any other time set in the state this year, which leaves Duke with a clear opportunity to win and an outside chance at the four-year-old state record of 38.58 seconds.

“He’s gonna go as hard as he can,” coach Leck said. “We would love to see if he can break 39 seconds, and if he gets the (state) record too, great. But he wants to win, and he’s gonna go 100 miles per hour.”

So what do all the large numbers mean? It means the rest of the state better be ready when the big boys and girls come to town for this weekend’s state meet, which begins today with final field events at 9 a.m. in the high and long jump events, and partial finals in the shot put and discus throws. Finals for the 3,200 meters will commence at 12:10 p.m. with the 1-2-3A girls race, which will be followed by the 4A girls at 12:35 p.m., the 1-2-3A boys at 1 p.m. and the 4A boys at 1:25 p.m. Preliminary events for races 800 meters and shorter will start at 2 p.m.

The 4A girls 3,200 will be the final one of Allie Ostrander’s remarkable prep career, and one last opportunity for her to break the all-time high school girls national record of 9:48.59, set by Kim Mortensen of Norwalk, California, in 1996. While it would be a stretch for Ostrander to drop 10 seconds off her current PR, it is not unthinkable for the girl that has become accustomed to breaking barriers throughout her high school career.

“Honestly, when she ran 9:59 earlier in the year, I didn’t see her breaking that, and she did (last weekend),” coach Hanson said. “She runs faster meet after meet, and I know the weather forecast is supposed to be good. I think the people that show up to watch are going to remember it.”

The state meet continues Saturday at 11 a.m. with the 4A girls 3,200-meter relay, when the SoHi girls will go for the (real) state record. The final event of the day, the boys 1,600-meter relay, is scheduled for 5:10 p.m., and if history is any indication, it should provide the best spark to end the meet.

“Some of the best races I’ve seen in my life have been (1,600 meter) relays,” Hanson said. “As an athlete, I loved that (1,600-meter relay).”

Kenai qualified 18 athletes in individual events, not including alternates, while SoHi qualified 19 in individual events. Leck said after bringing just two Soldotna boys to state last year, the Stars have improved that number to 10.

Leck said he felt the Stars left a lot of points on the table in the girls team race in 2014, resulting in a fourth-place finish. This year, Leck is expecting the potential of his squad to find better results.

“We talked about it last year after the weekend, but we’re just worried about what we’ve done this year,” Leck said.

Kenai sophomore Josh Jackman qualified for state in both hurdle races, but will be dropping out of the 110-meter race in order to run the 1,600-meter relay. Jackman will also be competing in the long and triple jumps. Both Theisen twins will also be competing in four events; the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, as well as the 1,600-meter relay.

Following Saturday’s Region III meet at the 1-2-3A level, the Seward boys fought their way to a runner-up spot in the team standings, helped by seven scoring runners in the 400 meters and up.

In the girls 100-meter hurdles, CIA senior Madison Orth and Homer sophomore Lauren Evarts are ranked second and third among 1-2-3A athletes in the state, respectively, but far behind the top time of 15.64 that Izabelle Ith of Petersburg ran this year. Orth is also ranked second in the 1-2-3A long jump rankings, with a leap of 16 feet, 10 inches, just 1 3-4 inches behind Ith.

Seward senior Howie Hubbard currently holds the top 1-2-3A shot put in the state, with a distance of 49 feet, 6 inches. Nikiski junior Luke Johnson is second with a throw of 44 feet, 3 1-4 inches. Johnson is also ranked second in the 1-2-3A discus with a toss of 130 feet, 7 inches.

CIA sophomore Noah Leaf leads state 1-2-3A teams in the 110-meter hurdles with a top time of 16.67 seconds, ahead of the 16.80 that Monroe’s John Minder posted.

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