Southeast Alaska track and field athletes competed Friday and Saturday at the Brian Young Invitational in Kodiak, establishing new personal best times and qualifying for the 2023 Junior Olympics, which will be held July 24-30, at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
The BYI meet is sanctioned by the United States Track & Field Association and run in conjunction with the USATF Alaska Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships, which came to Kodiak for the first time last week.
“The kids don’t qualify from the Brian Young Invitational,” said Marcus Dunbar, the meet’s director. “They qualify from the JO meet which we ran together. Those results will be posted later in the week. But anyone who won an event in the BYI will win their age group in the JO.”
Dunbar, a former Kodiak High School coach, said: “For each event there would be six different age groups. Even though we ran them all together they will be put into separate age groups. For the most part the results are the same. You might have some winners that didn’t win the Brian Young meet, but they won their age group for the JO. Complete results will be posted on Thursday.”
The Alaska JO championships are age determinant and held only in Alaska.
Due to the USATF Alaska Association lacking a true road system for competition it is one of the few associations granted automatic JO bids to top finishers.
Other states traditionally go to their state JO championships and, if finishing in whatever that association set as their top times or placements, then they could move on to the Northwest Regional Championships. Top finishes would have to be obtained in regionals to move on to nationals in Eugene, Oregon.
“For Alaska they give us a hardship wavier,” USATF Alaska Association president Melissa DeVaughn Hall said. “We are part of the Northwest Region, but they understand that having our kids travel down to Washington for the regional championships and then again two weeks later for the national championships would be a financial hardship. So what they allow us to do is when we do our association in-state championships the first- and second-place finishers in their age group get to move on automatically to nationals.”
Hawaii is the only other USATF association to receive a hardship wavier.
Since the BYI and the USATF JO was scored in the same events, the races were held together.
For instance, in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter BYI races, an additional timer was set to qualify participants for the JOs at the 1,500 and 3,000 marks of the race.
During the meet it affected only the 1,600 as Chugiak senior Campbell Peterson, running for Cook Inlet Conference, won the 1,500 portion of the race, but Sitka sophomore Clare Mullin, running for North/Southeast, passed Peterson in the final 100 yards to win the BYI portion.
“It was a fast pace at the start and I kind of had to hang back in third for most of the race,” Mullin said. “And just had to give it everything I had in the last 300 meters.”
Mullin won the BYI in a season-best time for her of 5:08.54 and Peterson hit a personal record of 5:08.75.
Peterson had won both the 1,600 and 3,200 at the ASAA Division I Track & Field State Championships two weeks ago in 5:10.95 and 11:16.54, respectively. Mullin won the 1,600 in the ASAA Division II state championships with 5:21.87.
“Either way they are both the top finishers in their age groups,” DeVaughn Hall said. “But that cannot be officially announced until the JO times are released.”
This was the 10th running of the BYI and local high school athletes paired with peers from the Fairbanks area to form team North/Southeast. They competed against athletes from the Anchorage area who formed the Cook Inlet Conference, and athletes from the Kenai Peninsula who formed the South Central All-Stars.
Coaches Brandi Adams from Thunder Mountain and Jesse Stringer from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé brought athletes from Sitka, Haines, Ketchikan, TMHS and JDHS to Kodiak.
“This year’s team was the largest SE contingency in the 10-year history of the meet,” Stringer said in an email. “All athletes competed well with the majority creating a personal best in one or two events.”
Haines senior Luke Davis set a school record in the 800 meters at the ASAA state championships and broke it again at the BYI with a personal best time of 2:04.21. Homer senior Lance Seneff, running for South Central All-Stars won the race in a PR 2:00.41. Davis placed sixth. Between Seneff and Davis were four other finishers, so until JO times are released the age group qualifiers will not be known.
North/Southeast athlete Bella Connally, a Floyd Dryden Middle School seventh grader and James Connally’s sister, impressed all in attendance by placing second in the 100 meters in a PR 13.32. ASAA 100 meter state champion Olyvia Mamae, a senior from East Anchorage running for Cook Inlet Conference, won the race in her season best time of 12.72.
Connally also placed fifth in the 200 meters in a PR 27.77. Mamae won in a SR 26.54
Both performances would qualify Connally for the JO competition in Eugene for her age group.
According to North/Southeast coach Stringer, Sitka sophomore Connor Hitchcock hit a PR 3,200 time of 9:52.29 for fourth place, finishing one second behind Sitka senior Silas Demmert in third with 9:51.59.
The race was won by Grace Christian senior David Sliwinski, running for Cook Inlet Conference, in 9:31.31. JHDS junior Edgar Vera Alverado hung tough to pull out a 10:12.41 for seventh place on windy Kodiak day. In that race seventh grader Henry Pysher placed 10th in 12:37.49 and would qualify for nationals in his age group.
Hitchcock also placed 10th in the 1,600 with a PR of 4:37.36. Race winner Robbie Annett, a Grace Christian sophomore, hit a PR 4:20.95 for his high school’s record. Both could qualify for nationals in their age group as could Homer senior Seamus McDonough in second place and Sliwinski in third, while Sitka senior Silas Demmert in fourth may not.
Ketchikan sophomore Jason Lorig won the 100 in a PR 11.12 with Bartlett sophomore Marquez Nevitte second in a PR 11.40. Lorig placed fifth in the 200 in a PR 24.27, but the faster finishers were all seniors so he may qualify in that event as well.
JDHS junior Wilder Dillingham should qualify for nationals as he set a PR 51.33 for second in the 400 meters, behind Chugiak senior Anders Larsen in a PR 50.37.
Coach Springer noted that Dillingham also ran the 300 hurdles, tripped to the ground but finished the race in a time that is one of the top 25 times of the season in Alaska.
JDHS junior Etta Eller place third in the 800 in a PR 2:24.96, third in the 1,600 in a PR 5:15.78 and third in the 3,200 with a PR 11:44.23.
TMHS senior Mallory Welling placed second in the 100 hurdles in SR 16.39 and second in the 300 hurdles in PR 48.00. East’s Mamae won the 100 hurdles in 15.66 and Homer sophomore Gracie Miotke, of South Central All-Stars, the 300 in 47.52.
He older sister Naomi Welling, a state champion, also had participated at the BYI in the past and Mallory noted the importance of wearing the North/Southeast team singlet.
“We do a lot of the same events, she’s crazy good at them and I don’t think I will ever get to her level, but being able to have her with me, in a way, in those races is really important,” she said. “Because sometimes she is the one who pumps me up. She’s the one who helps me get focused on the race. So getting to wear that singlet, and kind of have her with me, is really special.”
Dunbar is planning the 2024 BYI meet for Fairbanks, and hopes to move it around the state for greater athlete access and affordability. The BYI fundraises to host the event. Athletes have to provide their own transportation, food and housing. They are given team sweats and singlets and, of course, good memories.
“The kids work hard and have a good time,” Dunbar said. “It is more about taking the pressure off and letting the kids relax while they are in shape and running against good competition on a good track and trying to get their personal best performances. They had a good time. They ran a fun relay at the end, they called it ‘anything but a baton relay 4×4.’ Right after we finished the competitive races. And they were, like, carrying people, and cans of whipped cream, a cowbell, a selfie stick, a traffic cone… passing off different things that weren’t batons. It was crazy but everyone had a good time.”
• Contact Klas Stolpe at Klas.Stolpe@juneauempire.com.