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Story Last modified at 7:06 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Young tracksters dominate at state meet in Fairbanks

Alaska Star


Chugiak's Tyler Rohde dashes toward the finish line during the second preliminary heat of the boys 110 meter hurdles during the first day of the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 2011 Class 4A Track and Field State Championships on May 20 at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks.
Eric Engman/News-Miner

No individual Chugiak or Eagle River athlete came away from last weekend's ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Class 4A State Track and Field Championships in Fairbanks with a state title.

They'll be back.

Some of the top local performances at the state meet (held May 19-20 at Lathrop High) were turned in by athletes with plenty of high school left. Among the stars of the meet were Chugiak sophomores Tyler Rohde (2nd boys' 300 hurdles, 4th 110 hurdles), Sam Hartke (3rd girls' 1,600) and Dane Prince (6th in the boys' 100 and 200); and Mustangs juniors Alex Collins (3rd girls long jump, 6th triple jump) and Matthew Keith (4th boys triple jump). Chugiak, in fact, didn't have a single senior in the meet after two team members left the squad for other obligations.

"Most of the kids that went this year were sophomores and juniors," said Chugiak coach Scott Roleff. Two of them – Hartke and Keith – broke their school records in their events, too.

Rohde came the closest to winning a title when he finished less than a second behind South's Elliot Bauer in the 300 hurdles. Bauer was a senior, and Roleff said he thinks Rohde will be the hurdler to beat in Alaska next season.


Eagle River's John Owolabi placed second in the state in the 400 meter and was part of the school's fifth-place 800-meter relay team.

"I don't think anybody's going to catch up to him," Roleff said.

Roleff said he was especially pleased with the work put in by Prince, Rohde, Sam Brownlee and Ben Perrell in the boys' 4x200 relay. With seniors Sean Casey (hockey camp) and Ben Morse (summer job) out of the race, Perrell and Brownlee stepped right in and helped the squad place third in one of the premier relay races.

"Those guys were real happy," Roleff said. "Their handoffs were phenomenal."

One local senior who was gunning for a title was Eagle River's John Owolabi, who saw his dream of becoming the first boys' state track champion in Wolves' history come up just short when he lost to Dimond's J.J. Jack-Nixon in the 400 meter final.

"I think he had a lot of pressure on him," said Wolves coach Matt Turner of Owolabi, who was also fifth in the 800 and will still go down as the most decorated trackster in school history.

"Every race he's ever run he's pretty much got the school record in," Turner said of Owolabi.

Owolabi also teamed up with junior Edward Massey, senior Devon Fox and sophomore Brandon King to help the Wolves place fourth in the 4x400 relay.

Also making finals event appearances at state were Chugiak sophomore Chris Kveseth, who was eighth in the boys' 800, and Eagle River seniors Clarence Summers, who finished seventh in the boys' long jump, and Colten Palmer, who was eighth in the high jump.

Roleff said Kveseth had an interesting race. He was an alternate after finishing 10th in Friday's preliminary round, and was told on Saturday that he wouldn't be needed. Then, minutes before the race – and after having lunch – Kveseth got the call.

"You could see it in his face that he should not have eaten," Roleff said.

Still, Kveseth finished the race, earning his first state finals appearance in the process.

The meet was a learning experience for Eagle River sophomore Scout Warners, who placed 12th in the girls' 400 and 12th in the high jump. Turner said Warners had hoped to do better in the high jump, which may have affected her 400 later on Saturday.

"She's had better days," he said.

Still, Warners is one of the team's leaders, as is freshman Kaitlyn Mondl, who was 13th in the 3,200 run on Friday's opening day.

When asked if he thinks the state experiences will lead to better results in the future for the girls, Turner didn't hesitate.

"I definitely do," he said.

Chugiak's Kristy Howard, a junior, finished 15th in the girls' discus.

Roleff said he believes the Chugiak team is poised for a big run next season – although without him at the helm. After leading the team by default this year, Roleff said he plans to take a back seat role to whomever takes the head job next season.

"I pretty much decided whoever is the head coach next year can come and knock on my door and I'll be their assistant," he said.

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This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, May 25, 2011.