As the winter oh-so-gradually recedes, track season begins.
Both Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and Thunder Mountain High School are deep in their workups for the 2022 season, with their first official meet soon.
“Our biggest goal this season is that everyone is included,” said JDHS coach Jesse Stringer. “We want to continue that. We want to make sure everyone on the the team has a spot to compete somewhere.”
Both teams include over 50 athletes his year. That’s a significant step up from last year for TMHS, which only fielded 35 or so athletes last year, said coach Dwayne Duskin.
“We have a lot of young talent. They have a lot of talent and work ethic,” Duskin said in an interview. “A lot of our top sprinters graduated. More than 50% (of the team) are people I’ve met this year. We’re trying to show them what the season looks like. I think they’ll be good once they see how it goes.”
The teams took advantage of the earliness of the season to hold an evening scrimmage against each other at TMHS Friday, Stringer said.
“It’s one of the only chances to race under the lights,” Stringer said. “The summer is coming soon.”
After that, both teams will head to Sitka on April 29 for the Sitka Invitational.
“Beating Sitka is often a goal but it’s hard to do,” Stringer said. “They’re a small school, but their track team is incomparable.”
TMHS is hungry for qualifiers for states this year, Duskin said, with a large group of talented underclassmen onboard.
“(The team) is pretty well-rounded,” Duskin said. “We’re looking to qualify a lot of athletes for states. Sprint relays are looking really strong. Our distance relays are too.”
As Southeast Alaska shakes off the vestiges of the pandemic, that shared experience has brought the team closer together, Stringer said.
“It was a total struggle. It was difficult physically. It was difficult socially. It was difficult emotionally,” Stringer said. “These guys have been through real hardship; through unity, they’re holding each other up, lifting each up no matter what.”
On JDHS, returning seniors Jake Sleppy, McKenna Mcnutt, James Connally and Mira Marthaler are all names to watch out for, Stringer said. For TMHS, distance runner Matthew Johns is sure to impress watchers, Duskin said.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.