Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The spirit and sportsmanship from the 2021 Region V Track and Field Championships at Thunder Mountain High School’s oval was perhaps best encapsulated by the most loved athlete on the Sitka Wolves team.
“Let’s goooooooo," cheered Sitka sophomore Jack Mickelson, who likened his own running style to that of a gorilla.
Mickelson, who is autistic, looked more at his fellow jumpers and coaches watching the long jump event than the line marking the pit he ran at.
He jumped, he laughed and he pointed his arms to the sky.
The Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears did the same as they won both the boys and girls Division I championships and the Sitka Wolves ran like Mickelson and won both the Division II team titles.
Mickelson doesn’t know why he says gorilla, but he embodies what track and field in Southeast Alaska is about, a gathering of like-minded competitors trying their best and cheering their teammates and opponents.
Multiple athletes won more than one event championship.
Sitka’s Lindsey Bartolaba won the DII girls 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes in times of 13.34, 27.81 and 1:05.35, respectively.
“It was cool,” Bartolaba said of her personal record in the 100, just .22 of a second faster than Haines senior Haley Boron. “I’m always scared to race Haley because she is so close. I have been trying to just focus more and my coach also told me not to worry about beating people and just worry about feeling good about my race.”
JDHS senior Finn Morley won the boys DI 800 meters in a personal best 2:02.70 and the 1600 in a personal best 4:42.81.
“Oh, it was hard,” Morley said between deep breaths after his 800. “It was really hard.”
Morley pointed at the second and third place finishers, JDHS senior Ethan Sellers and junior Aubrey Hekkers.
“These two guys, they pushed me so hard,” he said. “It feels pretty good. State is going to be even harder. But I am really excited.”
JDHS junior James Connally and TMHS senior Ali Beya continued their duel in the boys DI 100 and 200. Connally won each in 11.40 and 23.84 (PR) with Beya second in 11.58 and 24.01.
Ketchikan senior Rachel Knight won the DI girls 200 in 27.06 (PR) with JDHS junior Cosley Bruno second in 27.28 (PR), and Knight won the 400 in 1:00.57 (PR) with JDHS sophomore Skylar Tuckwood second in 1:04.14.
“It’s crazy,” Knight said of her new Kayhi school record in the 400. “I have been working on this race for about three years. I have been training with my brother, who is my personal trainer, and I’ve been in the gym doing workouts all throughout the summer and winter in the offseason.”
Knight pulled a real gorilla running move.
“I was told I wouldn’t get faster my sophomore year,” Knight said. “I decided that wasn’t true. So now I have a region championship, two of them so far. It feels great. Honestly, the hard work really pays off and I have had all this support from my teammates and my coaches and my family
Knight added a third minutes later, as part of Kayhi’s 4x200 relay winning team, including Rachelle Biggs, Linnea Loretan and Ada Odden. They hit 1:55.86, the only team in either division to break two minutes.
Ketchikan senior Riley Deal won the boys DI long jump with 18-feet three inches (PR) and the 110 hurdles in 18.37 (PR).
“Yeah, I did, it is going good so far,” Deal said after his second title. “I am glad to have this chance. I didn’t think it was going to happen. I mean, we had a bad coronavirus outbreak two weeks ago and I thought we weren’t going to have a regions at all. So we stopped practicing for a while, we found out four days ago we were going here.”
Deal said he learned a lot about himself during the last pandemic seasons.
“I learned to find the silver lining,” Deal said. “I mean, I lost some school events of course, but I also got to do some cool things with my friends that I probably wouldn’t be able to do, like camping and all that stuff. So you have to be thankful.”
Deal also dropped a gorilla insight.
“This is my first time winning anything,” he said. And he laughed. “I did not expect it. I did not expect to win long jump at all, I didn’t practice it all year. It just kind of happened.”
Sitka sophomore Silas Demmert won the DII boys 1600 on Saturday after winning the 3200 in Friday’s windstorm.
“Oh wow!” he exclaimed after being told he had a region championship. “That didn’t set in. It was key to keep a steady pace and trying to keep the lead and a gap between me and the guy behind as much as possible. It was about focusing really. Just telling my self to keep going. It’s wind, I’ve run through this before so it is nothing to new.
Honestly I don’t know what to expect at state. Just try to lock in a faster pace for sure. Last time I ran a 10:36.00 (3200) I think, so shoot for paces faster than that. It will be nice to have new competition to go off of that too.”
Petersburg senior Aiden Luhr won the boys DI 100 meters in 11.54, the 200 in 23.99 and the high jump with a height of 5-foot 6-inches, the best across the region as Ketchikan freshman Jared Rhoads won the DI with 5-04.00.
“Yeah it was pretty exciting,” Luhr said. “Not the best conditions but I’ll take it. Next step is to continue working on this. Continue practicing the high jump. Hopefully I can get a new personal record come state time. I definitely need more speed and I need to do more of a J turn on my approach … a J turn and more speed so I can get more height up in the air.”
The finals for the DI and DII boys 3200 were run together, as were the DI and DII girls 3200 meters.
TMHS junior Matthew Johns won the DI time with 10:50.85 (PR) with JDHS senior Isaac Schlosser second in 11:08.61 (PR), and DII Haines senior Kaleb Jones was second to Demmert in 10:50.92 (PR).
“We were definitely trying to keep up with that first pack,” Johns said. “The last couple days have been sunny so we thought we were going to have a good weekend, good PR’s and stuff but it came up yesterday morning. It was pouring down rain and sideways winds, it was tough.”
Schlosser credited Johns and Demmert for his PR.
“They were pushing me for sure,” Schlosser said. “Obviously I knew the weather had a very high chance of wind going in. You just do as much as you can to prepare for that. Sometimes it is just showing up and having fun in the rain.”
For the girls 3200 Sitka sophomore Ana Prussian won DII in 11:58.02 (PR) and JDHS junior Annika Schwartz the DI in 11:59.11 (PR).
“It was really intense,” Prussian said. “I am really glad I got to race with the bigger schools because there aren’t a lot of schools in my division here for regions and it was really great racing with girls who pushed me throughout the entire race. The last lap was really intense. There was a really hard head wind on the last 300 meters that really affected it I think but it was a really great race.”
Schwartz also liked the bigger field of runners.
“It was nice having Ana from Sitka pushing me the whole time,” Schwartz said. “It was really windy throughout the race so we kind of worked with each other to offset the wind a little. It was really hard but it was good. Region champ is really, really cool. It was kind of scary not racing with a lot of these girls this year to come into this race not knowing where everyone was. So it was cool like to see where that worked out and stuff.”
The two different division leaders drafted off each other to share the workload without compromising their pace.
“It felt like a really intense race,” Prussian said. “I kept trying to get in behind her on the last lap because I knew it was really important to hold my pace for that last 300, but I was still getting knocked around a bit by the wind.”
Sitka senior Santanna Sumauang won the DII girls long jump with a 14-08.25 (PR) and the triple jump with 32-06.50 (PR).
TMHS sophomore Mallory Welling won the DI girls long jump with 15-01.00 and high jump in 4-10.00 (PR).
“I think it went really well because my PR was 4’4” for a while and I couldn’t quite get over 4’6” in practice,” Welling said. “And today I got over 4’10.” So it’s a huge improvement and I am really excited. I am a sophomore so I have some growing room. I think just working over the summer to get a little stronger and practicing with my dad because he’s a coach too, I think that will really help. It think my next step is just to compete well in the rest of regions and just make some plans over the summer to keep working on my body.”
Welling was also part of the TMHS 4x100 relay winning team, along with seniors Iayanah Brewer, Sophia Harvey and Hannah Deer.
Brewer won the 100 hurdles in 15.82. Harvey won the triple jump with 33-05.00 (PR) and finished second in the high jump and long jump. Deer scratched from the 100 and 400 and placed fifth in the 200.
Ketchikan junior Ada Odden won the DI girls 300 hurdles in 48.30 (PR) and Haines junior Avery Williamson the DII 300 hurdles in 50.48 (PR).
Sitka junior Tawny Smith won the DII girls 800 in 2:28.46 and the 1600 in 5:23.36 (PR). JDHS senior Linnea Lentfer win the DI 800 in 2:40.14 (PR) and JDHS freshman Maisey Morley the 1600 in 5:42.27.
Haines senior Haley Boron won the girls DII shot put with 29-03.50 (PR) and the discus with 93-07 (PR).
Ketchikan junior Jenae Rhoads won the girls DI shot with 28-02.00 and discus with 89-04.
JDHS senior Daniel Isaak won the boys DI shot with 40-04.25 and the discus with 110-11, and Petersburg junior Sean Spigelmyre won the DII shot with 33-07.50 (PR).
But it was Haines sophomore Eric Gillham who woke up the Saturday morning crowd with a loud gorilla yell and a personal best discus toss of 122-09 to win the boys DII title.
“I don’t really know,” Gillham said about what his toss entailed. “Really just grinding on the form and just fundamentals. Not allowing any thumb pop and just putting it all out there, no regrets, just everything out on the field.”
Gillham’s heave was a PR by nine feet. He did not expect that, or even to compete in this year of uncertainty.
“That is pretty exciting,” he said. “And it is exciting to be able to compete. Especially with all these teams here. It’s great. I don’t have the words to explain it. It is just amazing. I have learned to appreciate how hard our teachers and staff and athletic directors work to find the money and make the arrangements, like staying in hotels… it is just impressive how much they work. They don’t get a lot of credit… it is..”
Gillham’s voice trailed off as he was overcome with emotions.
JDHS junior Cosley Bruno won the DI girls 100 in 13.42, edging classmate McKenna McNutt by .15, and placed second in the 200 with 27.28 (PR).
“It feels pretty good,” Bruno said of the region title. “Now state, going to be practicing for it this week. I need to work on my block starts and my jumping is pretty weak at the moment so I am going to be focusing on that. This is my first year doing track and field. It feels good, I am glad I get to run.”
JDHS sophomore Tobin Montalbo won the DI boys 400 in 54.27 (PR) and Sika freshman Annan Weiland the DII in 59.14.
Haines senior Carson Crager won the DII boys 110 hurdles in 17.24 (PR) and the triple jump with 38-10.50; TMHS junior Kurtis Lee won the DI boys triple jump with 37-06.00; and Petersburg senior Julian Cumps won the DII long jump in 18-01.50.
Haines senior Mark Davis won the DII boys 300 hurdles in 43.45 (PR) and TMHS senior Elijah Mead drew the entire stadium’s fan base in as he won the DI boys 300 hurdles in 44.00 (PR).
“I’ve been talking a lot about going to state,” Mead said. “Ever since I was a freshman. This was the first year that it really became a real possibility, and it got like really real really fast. Leading up to today I have been super stressed and my team has been super supportive of me. Everyone had words of encouragement and, yeah, it is pretty great. I knew I had a chance. The second I crossed the finish line I realized this was like the first time in my life there has been no one else in front of me. It was incredible. I could not take it in.”
Ketchikan coach Alex Pennino and the Kayhi track team took in the action together. Pennino employs a team warmup concept and the Kings looked like a flashmob in sweats.
“It is good to get everybody together as a team,” Pennino said. “Even though it is an individual sport, make them feel like they are part of a team. No matter if they are getting first place or they are bringing up the rear they’ve got a part here. Everybody is working together, getting each other warmed up. It just looks cool, too.”
Pennino echoed what coaches said all weekend.
“It’s awesome because I don’t think we have all been at a meet together this entire year,” he said. “We had our first meet in Ketchikan this spring and Petersburg, Haines and Sitka came. Neither of the Juneau schools came. And we weren’t able to travel for a couple weeks because we were dealing with COVID restrictions in Ketchikan. I just wish there were more teams here. We are missing Skagway and Yakutat and Gustavus and some of the teams that traditionally participated in this meet so I’m hoping next year we will have a lot more people out here.”
Like all the competitors at the Region V Championships, Jack Mickelson from Sitka looked cool.
Sitka coach Jeremy Strong said Mickelson is energetic, delightful, spirited, joyous, cheerful, jovial and “he is loved by his teammates.”
“I love it!” Mickelson said when asked what he loves about track. “Because it’s my favorite. It’s my favorite events.”
He said he likes to race and he likes Sitka and his teammates.
Mickelson smiles and cheers when he races. Opponents return his elbow bumps and congratulations. They all share his demeanor to some extent, that of Southeast athletes who congratulate winners and losers alike, who stay on the track until the last has finished.
Who run like gorillas.
Who compete like Jack Mickelson.
DI BOYS - 1. JDHS 90, 2. KTN 38, 3. TMHS 37.
DII BOYS - 1. SIT 82, 2. PSG 45, 3. HNS 42.
DI GIRLS - 1. JDHS 80, 2. KTN 49, 3. TMHS 45.
DII GIRLS - 1. SIT 113, 2. HNS 42, 3. PSG 9.
DI 4x100 - TMHS (Bunten, Beya, Bishop, Horce) 46.00.
DII 4x100 - SIT (Grant, Blackmon, Hutton, Danielson) 47.69.
DI 4x200 - JDHS (C. Johns, Dillingham, Montalbo, Connally) 1:37.87.
DII 4x200 - SIT (Adres, Carlos, Danielson, Blackmon) 1:42.47.
DI 4x400 - JDHS (Montalbo, Dillingham, Hollingsworth, Morley) 3:44.63.
DII 4x400 - SIT (Blackmon, Weiland, Crenna, Carlos) 3:57.14.
DI 4x800 - JDHS (Morley, Hekkers, Hollingsworth, Schlosser) 9:28.38.
DII 4x800 - SIT (Crenna, Maxwell, Weiland, Dement) 10:04.78.
DI 4x100 - TMHS (Brewer, Welling, Harvy, Deer) 52.72.
DII 4x100 - SIT (Sumauang, Bartolaba, Young, Chong) 54.76.
DI 4x 200 - KTN (Biggs, Knight, Loretan, Odden) 1:55.86.
DII 4x200 - SIT (Chong, Young, Skultka, Moore) 2:00.32.
DI 4x400 - JDHS (Tuckwood, Lentfer, McNutt, Jackson) 4:26.98.
DII 4x400 - SIT (Smith, Poulson, Gagner, Young) 4:37.55.
DI 4x800 - JDHS (Lentfer, Schwartz, Tuckwood, Eller) 10:51.12.
DII 4x800 - SIT (Smith, Poulson, Prussian, Gassman) 11:35.70.
(All results are available at athletic.net. The top finisher from each region qualifies for state, and then the top remaining times state wide. Sixteen qualifiers for individual events and eight for relays.)
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