The largest high school sports team in Juneau has a new leader.
Thunder Mountain High School hired Dwayne Duskin Jr., 31, as its head track and field coach. Duskin, who began preseason workouts at the beginning of the month, replaces Scott May, who built the team into a regional and state power beginning in 2009. The Falcon girls have won six consecutive Southeast Class 4A titles and were second at state in 2014. The TMHS boys have won five of the last six Southeast meets. All told, there have been 19 individual state champions to come out of the high school.
Duskin knows getting 80 youth to come out for track and field is no easy feat. But he knows the main ingredient to everything May did — an affection for teenagers — is what’s most important.
“He’s been doing a really good job of mentoring me from day one basically,” Duskin said last Friday. “The biggest thing he taught me was about time, because it takes a lot of time to coach, and you don’t get paid a lot. But the biggest lesson I learned is it’s more important to invest in people than anything else, like money or whatever else you might have, because people are going to grow and kids are going to be the future.”
Duskin ran for Missouri Valley College for three years before moving to Juneau in 2014. He sought out the Falcons program because he knew how influential track was in his life.
“When I was in high school I didn’t have any mentors, and I was actually homeless for a little while,” Duskin said. “Track was kind of my escape — training and stuff. That’s why I got into coaching. I’m just really passionate about helping kids, especially high school kids who don’t have a lot going for them at home.”
While Duskin had plenty of the technical knowledge needed for a track coach, it was his ability to relate to student athletes that prompted May to place confidence in his former assistant. May — a meticulous record-keeper who turned out six-consecutive state champion milers from 2004-2009 — singled out Duskin as a potential replacement while plotting his retirement.
“He really gets to know the kids and has the respect of the kids,” May said. “That’s important above all else…just being able to make those connections and have that rapport with the athletes. It was very clear from the beginning that he was able to motivate and connect with athletes.”
Duskin said he was actually surprised by the warmth he was shown by high schoolers.
“They all really liked talking and hanging out, so there was a really strong sense of camaraderie,” he said. “I was able to run and show them exactly what I wanted them to do.”
Duskin will be assisted this year by Brandi Adams (throwing), Tina Lee (jumping), John Nagel (distance) and Sandi Pahlke (distance). The Falcons began preseason training on Feb. 1. The season begins officially Feb. 27 and continues up until the state championships May 24-25 at Palmer High School.
Duskin said so far about 40 kids have come out for the team.
May said it’s not necessarily his many accolades he wants to be remembered for, but his holistic way of coaching.
Stepping down was difficult for May, first at JDHS after the 2009 season, and then last year at TMHS.
“I really do care about both programs and I wanted to leave both in good hands,” May said. “When I left Juneau-Douglas, (coach) Janette (Gagnon) and I joked around about how we’re getting divorced, and she’s getting these kids, and I’m going to be getting those kids. We’d still visit and do things together. I know I left the program in great hands there, and I’m trying. And I think I’m doing the same thing with Thunder Mountain.”
“They are like my children, you don’t want to just abandon them, you want to leave them in good hands,” May added.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.