It’s been a couple years since the Ketchikan High School track and field team has been able to host a home meet at Esther Shea Field.
Lucky for the First City squad, competitors had a couple weeks of sunny weather to prepare.
“It was helpful to have a couple good weeks of weather, so they could get out and practice, and get their feet underneath them on the track,” Kayhi head coach Alex Pennino said on Sunday.
Kayhi hosted its invitational on Friday and Saturday, as participants from Haines, Sitka and Petersburg high schools made the trek to the track behind Fawn Mountain Elementary School for the two-day event.
The sight of high-schoolers competing was something that hadn’t been seen since spring 2019. The novel coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 season. But Kayhi’s track and field team took everything in stride — even when opposing high schools from Juneau canceled their trips down for this past weekend’s meet.
“I was really thankful that all those (schools) came down,” Pennino said. “It was looking really bleak for a little bit, but then you start getting the confirmations from the other (activities directors). It was heart-breaking news for the kids, like, ‘So-and-so isn’t showing up.’”
That said, Kayhi ran its heart out over this past weekend, setting 60 personal records, many other season records — and a new school record.
Kayhi’s Carlee Zartman, Ada Odden Rachelle Biggs and Rachel Knight set a new school record in the 4x200 relay, completing it in less than two minutes. Kayhi won the event, crossing the finish line at 1:57.0 — seven seconds faster than the foursome from Haines, who finished second, and eight seconds faster than the group from Sitka.
“I was thinking about it,” Pennino said of realizing the new record after the fact. “I knew that that team — I didn’t think they’d get it in this meet — but I thought they had a shot at it. They were moving pretty good out there, and had pretty good handoffs.”
A relatively new event, the 4x200 relay has only been around for about 30 years. It was an event in the 1990s, but not before that.
“You’re not going to find a record for that one in the 80s or 70s, or something like that,” Pennino said. “You got the prestige, or glamour, relays — the 4x400 and the 4x100. So that’s generally where you try to stick all your talent, all your best sprinters. But I put them in that one, and they did awesome.
“It worked out well for them,” he continued. “I don’t think any of them realized it, either.”
Relay teams are typically in flux this early in the season.
“Most definitely, the relays teams change throughout the year,” Pennino said. “I’m not big into giving the kids time trials, and stuff like that. I put the (relay) teams together by feel. You can’t really tell until you see them out on the track, really doing it against competition. So it’s always a moving thing throughout the year.”
This was the first year Pennino can remember — at least in long while — that Kayhi’s had girls participating in every event.
The Kayhi girls’ team beat the girls’ squads from Sitka, Petersburg and Haines, scoring 112.5 points. Sitka’s girls’ squad scored 62.5. Haines had 32, and Petersburg’s girls’ tallied 11.
“We had girls in all the relays out there,” he said. “We had girls in all the jumping, all the throwing, (and) all the running events. That’s the first time I can remember having that for quite a while.”
In addition to the 4x200 relay, Knight won the 400-meter race, setting a PR. The senior runner finished in 1:01.9.
Oden won the 100-meter hurdles, in 16.8 seconds, and tied in the 300-meter hurdles, with Sitka’s Adelaide Poulson, crossing the finish line in 52 seconds.
Kayhi freshman Linnea Loretan placed third in both the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles.
“(Linnea) had a really good meet for us,” Pennino said. “She kind of bit it on a hurdle in the 300s, but she picked herself up and kept running, which is always good to see. She did really good in the relays for us, too.”
In the longer events, Kayhi’s Anneliese Hiatt, Morgan Elerding, Jenna Walker and Rylee Geil finished second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 3,200-meter race.
The foursome also finished in succession — third to sixth place — in the 1,600-meter race. Elerding finished ahead of Hiatt, with Walker and Geil taking and fifth and sixth, respectively.
Kayhi’s Jenae Rhoads won discus, throwing it 70’1”, and placed second in shot put, throwing it 28’6”. Biggs finished behind Rhoads in both events, taking third in shot put, at 27’8.5”, and second place in discus, at 68’8”.
Kayhi’s Hiatt, Lauren Olson and Gabriela Tirado swept the high jump, finishing in that order, respectively. Rhoads and Tirado also placed in long jump, and Malia King won second place in triple jump.
Jumping proved to be key on the boys’ side.
Kayhi’s Riley Deal won the boys’ long jump event, at 16’11.5”. It scored several points for the boys’ team.
“We were in desperate need of points when he scored that one for us,” Pennino said. “We got beat by Sitka by 0.5, which is kind of rare in track. But I was glad the boys held their own with them.”
Sitka’s boys’ squad won the meet, scoring 72.5 points. Kayhi’s boys’ squad tallied an even 72 points. Haines had 54.5, and Petersburg scored 24.
Deal also won the 110-meter hurdles, finishing in 18.4 seconds — a new PR. Kayhi’s Malakai Herby also set a PR, placing third in the event, completing it in 22.1 seconds.
Deal placed third in the 300-meter hurdles. Herby finished fifth in the event.
“We had some freshman boys do pretty good for us, too, which is always nice,” Pennino said. “Trevor Dash had a good track meet. Phoenix Boles had a good one, (too).
“Jared Rhoads, I think, led our scores on the boys side,” he continued. “He racked up some points in the field events for us. He did a good job out there, too.”
Jared Rhoads’ older brother, Josh Rhoads, won both the shot put and discus. Josh tossed the shot put 37’10”, and the discus 113’9”.
Jared finished second in shot put, at 33’0.5”, and third in discus, at 85’3.5”. Jared also placed second in triple jump and third in high jump.
Jared and Dash finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 400-meter race — with just five tenths of a second separating them. Jared completed the race in 1:00.4, and Dash in 1:00.9.
Kayhi’s Brent Capps won the 400-meter race, finishing in 56.2 seconds. He set a PR in the event’s preliminaries, at 55.4 seconds.
Dash and Boles also were in the mix in the 100-meter finals.
Boles tied for fourth, with teammates Curt Estacio and John Rodriquez-Bernardo. The trio finished in 12.6 seconds.
Kayhi’s Juster Gabor placed seventh in the event, in 12.8 seconds, and Dash was right behind him at 13.1 seconds.
Running through the hallways
Before the sunny weather, during the snowy days through early April, Kayhi practiced inside the high school, and worked on handoffs and various other techniques.
“We do a lot of work with handoffs, so when you get out on the track it’s, ‘OK, you guys already know about your targets and your arms, and the different kinds of handoffs,’” Pennino said. “So when you get to the track, you can get (into) it pretty quickly. But you can’t really tell until you see them run a race full-out against other people.”
Running through the hallways at school — the same hallways members on the team walk through every day — can get boring.
But the team still made the most of it.
“It is difficult to be out on the track when it’s cold and blowing; it’s hard to get work done,” Pennino said. “So yeah, we do run in the school. But it gets kind of monotonous. We got some good workouts in there (this year). We got to work on some handoffs, and just did some conditioning. But yeah, being out on the track, there’s nothing like that.”
Indeed, there isn’t.
There aren’t too many elementary schools around with a view like the one at Fawn Mountain.
“When we’re running in the halls, you can tell that it bothers some of the kids’ shins,” Pennino said. “There’s only so much limited stuff we can do.
“So yep, when we’re out on the track, and the weather’s nice, everybody’s there,” he continued. “They can stay late. Nobody is worried about the rain. Everybody is like, ‘Yep, I’ll do some extra work today.’”