Thunder Mountain High School senior track and field captain Naomi Welling — a nine-time state track title winner — needed to beat Petersburg High School junior Izabelle Ith by three seconds in the final event to claim her third-straight pentathlon win at the Big C relays April 2 in Anchorage.
Neck and neck with Ith in the last 300 meters of the women’s 800-meter, Welling started her kick and broke away from her competitors to win by six seconds.
Welling’s finish at the Big C parallels the momentum TMHS track enjoys heading into their third-straight year with over 80 participants.
“On a school level our name as a track program is building,” Welling said. “People are coming to us, whereas when I was a freshman we were having to reach out to people. We’ve kind of made a name for ourselves during the time that I’ve been here.”
According to coach Scott May, the Falcons have exceeded a glut of personal bests already this year.
“We just met before practice today and we went over two pages of personal records they got since last Saturday,” May said. “We’re off to a great start. … Competitively we’re looking like we’re coming in where we left off last year.”
May, Welling and the Falcons feel they’re already stuffing the “piggy bank” full to the brim.
“The analogy is at the beginning of the season you start with a piggy bank,” Welling explained. “Your hard workouts and your good sleep and food choices, they fill up your piggy bank. Every once in a while it’s ok to take something out with an unhealthy snack or you stay out late or something, but you don’t want to drain that. On the big day you can cash in your piggy bank and do really good.”
Senior sprinting captain Sam Johnson, whose men’s 4×100 meter relay team placed second at the Big C, described the championship-level talent the boys have in short distance competition.
“We have some really good starts, like Adam Ramsey. Aiden (Hildebrand), of course, is one of the tops in state,” Johnson explained. “He just showed up last year and beat us all in practice. We were all really confused and he ended up going to state and got the second-fastest time last year. John (Somerlot), he’s pretty fast too. We’re all in the relays together. And then Luke (Paden), he did distance before and moved over to sprints because he figured out he was pretty fast. He’s our top 200 and 400 runner right now.”
TMHS is one of several unified teams across the state. The designation means the team has special olympics participants competing in several events alongside the rest of the team.
Senior Andrew Degroat and sophomore Will Weinlaeder compete in the unified 4×100 meter relay and the 100-meter dash.
“In my first year ever of doing track, in the 4×100 relay my team got first place,” Weinlaeder said, speaking of last year’s ASAA state championships. The sophomore is known around the team — and the school — for an inspirational speech he gave before the state meet last year.
“Your team kind of becomes your second school,” Weinlaeder said.
Degroat couldn’t agree more.
“When I first moved here, which was my freshman year, I didn’t like it,” he said. “But then when I came here, doing track, I started liking it, the team became family.”
TMHS holds an informal meet this weekend with Juneau-Douglas High School at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. TMHS’ next official meet is at Ketchikan High School April 22 -23.