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Middle distance runners vault Chugiak girls track and field team to second straight state title

May 28—PALMER — Last year, the Chugiak girls track and field team got some surprise results from its middle distance runners to help vault the team to a state title.

This season, that group went from being a pleasant surprise to the fulcrum of the team.

Chugiak swept the top three spots in both the 400 and 800 and racked up big points in the relays to run away with the title, earning its second straight Division I championship with 113 points. Dimond and Bettye Davis East tied for second with 55 points apiece.

"We were fortunate because aside from losing one girl, we have that same crew," Mustangs head coach Melissa DeVaughn said. "We gained three new freshmen who are also strong at middle distances. So we knew it was going to be a little less stressful weekend at state because we just had the points."

In the 800, Aaliyah Fields, Addison Capozzi and Campbell Peterson ran 1-2-3. In the 400 it was Skyler Belmear, Fields and Petra Knox who went 1-2-3. The Mustangs won the 800 relay, the 1600 relay and the 3200 relay.

Part of the team's success has been the ability to put different runners in different positions where they were still able to succeed, according to DeVaughn.

"We have 1600 distance runners running as 200 meter runners this year because they're so diverse," she said. "They won the four by two today. And it was three of them were the same girls that just came in 1-2-3 in the 400 and they're also running in the 800."

She said assistant Suzy Bick, who coaches distance runners, and sprint coach Luke Steele worked together to help the team maximize its potential.

"And to the girls' credit, they were willing to do what it takes to help the team," she said.

Peterson, who capped off a spectacular career with a win in the 1600 and 3200, said it was interesting to see her cross-country teammates develop into better short-distance runners.

"Addison and Skyler, they were my teammates on our state-winning cross-country team," she said. "Their strength and endurance have translated and we're seeing really good results here."

While the Mustangs dominated in the Division I girls division, the Sitka girls team was nearly as impressive at the Division II level. The Wolves girls team scored 113 points to easily outpace runner-up Homer (76).

The Sitka team practices on a dirt track. While it provides great resistance training, there are definite downsides, according to Sitka coach Jeremy Strong.

"That's a positive but the negative is, it's hard to explain relays," he said. "Like, the exchange zone and coming out of blocks. Block work on the dirt versus block work on rubber track with spikes is completely different."

But what the team may lack in training advancements, the Wolves made up for in talent and enthusiasm.

"The kids are good listeners and the coaching staff tries to create a positive environment for growth and they kind of buy in and just have some fun," Strong said.

Among the highlights for the Sitka girls was Clare Mullin. She won three individual races last year and continued her dominance of the mid to long distances, winning the 800 and 1600 and helping the Wolves' winning 3200 relay team.

"At the beginning of the season, I was feeling some pressure," she said of repeating her 2022 season. "But once I got out there and started racing, it went away. It's just about putting your best effort down every time you race."

[Despite a hard landing, West Valley's Emers repeats in high jump at state track and field championships]

Bettye Davis East senior Olyvia Mamae pulled off a rare feat, repeating in the 100, 200 and 100 hurdles.

"There was pressure for both but in different ways," she said. "Last year, it was pressure to perform. This year, it was just pressure to win because I have to defend myself."

Colony's Matthew Rongitsch helped his team to a state team title in Division I. Rongitsch, who is headed to UAA in the fall to join the Seawolves track and cross-country teams, won the 800, 1600 and 3200. After winning the 3200 with ease Friday, he needed to push a little harder to take the other two races.

"That 3200 was pretty straight shooting," he said. "I didn't know what the field was going to run (in the 1600) but they came out pretty quickly. They kept me going and kept me on my pace."

Colony (73 points) outpaced East (54) to take the Division I boys title.

One of the biggest surprises of the day came in the 1600 boys race in Division II. Defending champ David Sliwinski from Grace Christian figured to be battling it out with Homer's Seamus McDonough, who won the 3200 on Friday.

Instead, a newcomer crashed the party as Grace Christian sophomore Robbie Annett came from behind that duo and won, edging McDonough by 0.16 second.

"I'd never beat any of (those) guys before," he said. "I usually just stay in the back and see what I can do, but I just had a little bit more today. I started my kick quite a bit earlier, somewhere on the third lap."

Annett also won the 800, helping Grace Christian to a team title at the Division II level with 105 points. Sitka and Homer tied for second with 81 points apiece.

Eagle River hurdler Alan Szewczyk Jr. was a double winner, taking both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles.

"I've been waiting the entire year for this moment," he said. "To finally accomplish it, it's everything."

One of the most intriguing races of the day was the Division I boys 100, where Ketchikan sophomore Jason Lorig entered with plenty of buzz after running a 10.69-second final at the Region V championships. That time would have been fast enough for a state record, but official state records must be set at the state meet.

When Lorig ran second in the preliminaries to Bartlett's Marquez Nevitte, the whispers started.

"I had high expectations after the (regional time), and a lot of people thought it was a fake time," he said. "I had to prove them wrong."

And while he didn't set a record, Lorig earned a state title, taking the race at 11.26, edging out Nevitte (11.27).

"I was confident in winning," said Lorig, who credited a combination of weight training and health for his spectacular sophomore season.

Bartlett's A'Lante Owens-Player was a double-winner in the jumping events, taking both the long jump and the triple jump. Izzy Kizer of Valdez was also a double winner in the DII girls division, taking the 100 and long jump.

State Track and Field Meet

In Palmer

Individual winners

Girls Division II

100: Izzy Kizer, Valdez, 13.09

100 hurdles: McKinley Eddington, Tri-Valley, 16.56

200: Brennyn Edwards, Grace Christian, 26.54

300 hurdles: Gracie Mistake, Homer, 47.11

400: Ourea Busk, Unalakleet, 1:01.22

800: Clare Mullin, Sitka, 2:24.85

1600: Clare Mullin, Sitka, 5:21,87

3200: Anna Prussian, Sitka, 12:12.59

Discus: Alexia Pike, Redington, 119-09

High jump: Brightly Thoning, Homer, 4-10

Long jump: Izzy Kizer, Valdez, 16-6.75

Shot put: Jieaya Siatini, Anchorage Christian, 35-10

Triple jump: Ada Parker, Sitka, 32-6.50

400 relay: Kenai Central 52.46

800 relay: Grace Christian 1:51.32

1600 relay: Homer 4:18.69

3200 relay: Sitka 10:43.16

Boys Division II

100: LJ Clark, Delta Junction, 11.37

110 hurdles: Geremu Daggett, Grace Christian, 15.83

200: Reagan Graves, Kenai Central, 23.29

300 hurdles: Nolan Warren, Anchorage Christian, 41.32

400: Niko Alvarado, Ben Eielson, 51.78

800: Robbie Annett, Grace Christian, 2:00.53

1600: Robbie Annett, Grace Christian, 4:24.67

3200: Seamus McDonough, Homer, 9:28.34

Discus: Charlie Beck, Grace Christian, 135-1

High jump: Zane Robinson, Hutchison, 5-8

Long jump: Hendrik Cumps, Petersburg, 19-0.75

Shot put: Truit McCaughey, Nikiski, 45-6

Triple jump: Hendrik Cumps, Petersburg, 40-7.75

400 relay: Kenai Central 45.70

800 relay: Kenai Central 1:35.97

1600 relay: Homer 3:32.43

3200 relay: Sitka 8:39.64

Girls Division I

100: Olyvia Mamae, East, 12.58

100 hurdles: Olyvia Mamae, East, 15.25

200: Olyvia Mamae, East, 26.04

300 hurdles: Anaulie Sedivy, Soldotna, 47.91

400: Skyler Belmear, Chugiak, 59.09

800: Addison Capozzi, Chugiak, 2:21.29

1600: Campbell Peterson, Chugiak, 5:10.95

3200: Campbell Peterson, Chugiak, 11:16.54

Discus: Norah Brown, West Anchorage, 129-11

High jump: Katelyn Morrison, Soldotna, 5-0

Long jump: Sarah Dittman, Dimond, 16-3.75

Shot put: Layla Hays, Wasilla, 37-2

Triple jump: Gabrielle Okorodudu, Eagle River, 35-3.5

400 relay: West Anchorage, 51.56

800 relay: Chugiak, 1:48.12

1600 relay: Chugiak, 4:07.53

3200 relay: Chugiak, 9:58.68

Boys Division I

100: Jason Lorig, Ketchikan, 11.26

110 hurdles: Alan Szewczyk, Eagle River, 15.05

200: Brian Morris, East Anchorage, 22.48

300 hurdles: Alan Szewczyk, Eagle River, 39.28

400: Anders Larsen, Chugiak, 49.81

800: Matthew Rongitsch, Colony, 1:58.33

1600: Matthew Rongitsch, Colony, 4:23.65

3200: Matthew Rongitsch, Colony, 9:42.45

Discus: Ethan McNulty, Colony, 151-10

High jump: Alex Emers, West Valley, 6-2

Long jump: A'Lante Owens-Player, Bartlett, 21-7.5

Shot put: Eric Kolomeychuk, Wasilla, 52-8.75

Triple jump: A'Lante Owens-Player, Bartlett, 44-2.5

400 relay: West Anchorage 43.61

800 relay: East Anchorage 1:30.97

1600 relay: South Anchorage 3:29.97

3200 relay: Dimond 8:12.56

(Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Sitka won the Division II boys team title. Grace Christian won with 105. Sitka and Homer tied for second place with 81 points.)