Juneau Runner On Time, Record Recognition Late

    Juneau-Douglas High School junior James Connally stands with family during his record unveiling on Tuesday. (L-R) sister Bella, mother Melissa, father Chris, grandpa John Foster, James, and sister Ariana. (Klas Stolpe)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau-Douglas High School junior sprinter James Connally is so fast he ran past the school’s timers and into the record books before they could calculate the achievement.

      In the team’s Juneau-Douglas Precipitational Levitational Invitational meet on April 24 at the Adair Kennedy oval, Connally ran a 10.84 noted on a handheld device that was accidentally converted twice instead of once when placed on a high school record site that stores meet information. Handheld times are converted to their fully automatic time (FAT) equivalents by rounding up and adding .24.

      On Tuesday, Connally was surprised with a special unveiling of the school’s record board, and his new Crimson Bears mark of 11.14 in the JDHS auxiliary gym in front of teammates, coaches and his parents.

      “It is special,” Connally said. “To see my name up there that means something, not just to me but to my family. It makes me proud. It is just amazing to see myself up there. I never really thought I would break it that fast, I am proud I did it for my family and my Juneau-Douglas track family.”

      Connally’s time is also the fastest in the state this season. He becomes the second Southeast athlete in the past few weeks, along with Thunder Mountain senior hurdler Iayanah Brewer, to hold a top track and field mark across the state

      “It’s exciting when you’re running,” he said. “You’re just pushing yourself as much as you can. You’re giving it all you can for 10 seconds, 11 seconds.”

      Connally credited Thunder Mountain senior Ali Beya, his friend and teammate from football, as inspiration. The two hug and high-five each other after every race and at a recent meet both wore their Juneau Huskies football sweatshirts.

      “Ali Beya is really fast,” Connally said. “He was one person that I wanted to be better than. We are really good friends. We push each other as much as we can and that translates over to the track trying to be the fastest.”

      Connally and Beya have been edging each other throughout the season. Connally went 11.44 in the 100 to Beya’s 11.74 in the Sitka Virtual Invitational and 23.94 to 24.24 in the 200. Connally hit a 11.63 in the Capital City Invitational, Petersburg’s Aiden Luhr went 11.81 and Beya 11.96 (Beya had won the preliminary in 11.49 to Connally’s 11.53), and Beya won the 200 in 24.20 to Luhr’s 24.67, with Connally abstaining.

      Just after the April 24 JDPLI meet, Connally’s 10.84 race sprint time was converted to its FAT equivalent, which gave him a time of 11.14, and coaches saw it was slower than 1981 JDHS graduate Tony Moore’s time of 11.01. 

      Then when the meet results were uploaded to Athletic.net, a track and field website, the site automatically added the same .24 which listed his time even slower still.

      The coaches thought the record had not been broken.

      After Connally and his parents inquired about the mark the coaching staff looked into it further. 

      Discussions with Sitka head coach Jeremy Strong at last week's Capital City Invitational and JDHS assistant coach Jesse Stringer about regional records led to contacting former JDHS track and field head coaches Tracy Rivera and Scott May, who coached in Moore’s era.

      Neither Rivera or May remember converting Moore’s school record of 11.01 to a FAT equivalent, which would be 11.35. 

      JDHS coach Janette Gagnon said Connally is humble.

      “He also is still learning how to be a runner, which makes this accomplishment all the more meaningful,” Gagnon said. “James is a total team player. He doesn't run track to be an individual. He's running it because he likes the team and wants to see what he can do. Throughout practices and at meets, I see him talking with just about everyone on the team. He's a total team player and encouraging of everyone.”

      Connally’s mother, Melissa, a former track star in Texas, said: “He was a very hyper child as most boys are, but he has been in sports since he could walk.”

      Sister Ariana, 19, remembers running with James and a cousin. “He was always the fastest and then it got to the point that it was no fun to run with him because he was too fast for me, so I didn’t want to run with him anymore.”

      Sister Bella, 11, said her brother is a good football player.

      Connally’s father, Chris, an All-State wide receiver, defensive back and punt returner for JDHS under coach Riley Ritchie in 1999-2000, said he lost his first race to his son last May on the shores of Sandy Beach.

      “I’ve coached him in football ever since he was in third grade,” Chris Connally said. “Just to see his work ethic and drive to constantly try and improve but not throw it in people’s faces, as a father, makes me very proud. He always had a little extra pressure to push himself a little harder but he always rose to the occasion and did the best he possibly could. People always asked him if he was going to be as fast as his dad. Now he gets to go out and make his own legacy by breaking a forty year old record.”

      There is another record looming: East Anchorage’s Colton Herman ran a 10.86 FAT 100 meters in the 2019 state championships, the only venue where state records are established. James Connally has a new goal.

    cleardot.gif  “Get the state record,” he said. “It is all about your mindset, you always want to give it your all out there.”

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