Track and field fans are always in for a treat when Bartlett's Taj Showalter and Chugiak's Tyler Rohde take to the track for a hurdles race. Saturday's 300-meter hurdles event at the Cook Inlet Conference championships will mark the last time the two friends will race in Anchorage.
The seniors have trained together throughout their high school careers and made a habit this season of taking the top two spots in most hurdle races.
"We're like brothers," Showalter said. "He's like my teammate, even though we wear two different jerseys."
The two friends turned in the two fastest times in the 300 hurdles Friday in preliminaries at Dimond High, with Showalter finishing in 40.07 seconds and Rohde in 40.11 seconds.
Showalter was also fastest in Friday's 110-meter hurdles at 15.00, but Rohde was disqualified for impeding a competitor's progress when he accidentally hit a hurdle in the adjacent lane with his trailing foot.
Rohde set a state record at 14.61 seconds in the 110 hurdles in last season's state meet. Showalter was right behind him at 14.93 in that race. Friday's disqualification means Rohde won't have a chance to defend his title next week in Fairbanks, unless Friday's ruling is overturned after video review.
"They would need sufficient evidence to overturn it," Rohde said. "As of now, even I think I'm DQ'd. I was not ready for this to be my last high school 110 race."
Friday's action was primarily preliminaries races on the track. The day's only contested finals came in the high jump, where Chugiak's Payton Fullmer topped the boys by clearing 5 feet, 10 inches, and Bartlett's Taylir Kueter won the girls title at 5-1.
The meet concludes Saturday with shot put and triple jump in the morning and track finals beginning at noon.
The lanes on Dimond's track are 30 inches wide, and Rohde is used to running on lanes 36 inches wide. The CIC championships were originally scheduled to be held at Bartlett High, where the lanes are 36 inches, but sloppy field conditions forced a move to Dimond.
"I don't think it would have happened on a different track." Rohde said. "I've never raced on this track in my life and the fact that the lanes are smaller and the hurdles are smaller, it confuses you. Everything should be on point in hurdling, you know, you practice so much and it's all a technique form, and my leg does come out a little farther than it should, but it's never impeded anyone else in another race."
Showalter usually relies on Rohde to push him during a race and said it will be strange not to have him on the track for the 110 hurdles at the state meet.
Still, Showalter will savor the chance to run the 300 hurdles with Rohde before they both move on to Division I college competition next season. Showalter will compete for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Rohde will compete for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Showalter and Rohde praise each other's work ethic and attention to detail in a sport that offers constant room for improvement. Both say they enjoy the hurdles because of the intricate technique involved that takes the event well beyond just running. They train together at Bartlett regularly, and workouts often leave them completely exhausted.
"We don't even want to get in the car to drive back home, we're so tired," Rohde said.
But the hard work has its rewards. Showalter and Rohde are both ranked in the top 100 nationally this season on athletic.net in the 110 hurdles. Showalter is 67th with a season-best 14.56, and Rohde's 14.69 ranks 91st. Rohde is also ranked 34th in the 300 hurdles with a season-best of 38.42.
Nailing a good time is what the training is all about, Showalter said. It's the reason the two friends push each other to the brink and a big reason they aren't bothered when they lose to one another.
"If I run an amazing time and get second, I'm perfectly fine with that," Showalter said. "We're just gonna go out there and give people a good show."
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
Cook Inlet Conference
Track and field championships
Girls high jump -- 1, Kueter, Taylir, Bartlett, 5-1. 2, Johnson, Chrisalyn, Dimond, 4-8. 3, Weimer, Kalena, West, 4-8. 4, Cooper, Samantha, Chugiak, 4-8. 5, Evern, Sylvia, Dimond, 4-6. 6, Gregg, Rachel, Chugiak, 4-6. 7, Warners, Scout, Eagle River, 4-6. 8, Maybin, Nia, Bartlett, 4-4.
Boys high jump -- 1, Fullmer, Payton, Chugiak, 5-10. 2, Elliott, Leroy, West, 5-10. 3, Stalker, Wade, Bartlett, 5-10. 4, Clayton, Wilson, Dimond, 5-8. 5, Hellman, Bryce, Bartlett, 5-8. 6, Parker, C.J., Dimond, J5-08. 7, Tui, Esene, West, 5-6. 8, Hawk, Chase, East, 5-6.
By JEREMY PETERS