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Versatile athletes face challenges at state track

Beth Bragg

Versatility ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. At least not this week at the state track and field championships.

A late-running high jump competition created headaches for Anchorage Christian’s Austin Monzon and West’s Leroy Elliott on Friday. Both had to put their high jumping on hold to run races, and both had to resume jumping almost immediately after they stopped running.

Monzon, competing in the Class 1-2-3A meet, had mere minutes between his 3,200 race and his second and third attempts at clearing 5 feet, 8 inches. He had no spring left in his legs and missed both times.

“Your legs are dead,” he said. “It’s two miles going as hard as you can. It threw me off mentally also.”

Monzon placed seventh in the 3,200 and fifth in the high jump.

Elliott’s double duty came a bit later, during the Class 4A high jump. He was one of three jumpers to clear 6-2, but then he had to dash off for his preliminary race in the 110 hurdles. West coach Travis Cantrell told officials that Elliott would pass on 6-3.

Lathrop’s Jaren Welch and Bartlett’s Bryce Hellman both cleared 6-3. The bar was raised to 6-4 and again they both cleared it. Hellman, a sophomore whose PR coming into the meet was 6-2, went out at 6-5, but Welch succeeded on his third attempt to establish his own PR. Welch had taken his first attempt at 6-6 — a miss — when Elliott finally returned.

At first, officials told Elliott he had to resume at 6-5. Cantrell objected, noting that Elliott had only passed at 6-3, and should be allowed to resume at 6-4. The rulebook agreed, the bar was lowered to 6-4, and Elliott missed all three attempts.

“I’ve never had back-to-back events like that before,” Elliott said. “My legs are really sore. 

“It’s definitely a weird feeling. It made me realize no matter what the challenge, just do my best.” 

The day turned out pretty good for Elliott. He won the triple jump, placed third in the high jump, had the top qualifying time in the 110 hurdles — his time of 14.78 seconds gives him hope that he can challenge the state record of 14.61 in Saturday’s finals — and the fourth fastest qualifying time in the 300 hurdles.

Welch, whose attempt to jump 6-6 was put on hold for several minutes while Elliott tried to play catchup, did OK too. He sailed over the bar on his second try to set a school record at 6-6 before missing all three tries at 6-7.

“It’s a great feeling,” Welch said. “I’ve wanted a state title since I was in seventh grade.”

Taking note of what happened with Elliott and Monzon was ACS coach Shelly Simmers, the mother of one of Alaska’s most decorated high school athletes.

Her son Nate won Friday’s 1-2-3A triple jump, but even before that happened, mom was thinking about Saturday, when Nate will compete in the long jump beginning at 9 a.m. and the discus beginning at 9:15 a.m. Both events take a lot of time and require multiple efforts, so Nate will be going back and forth between the two events for quite some time.

That’s a problem at Dimond, where the long jump pit is at the east end of the track and the discus is a couple hundred yards away, beyond the west end of the track and beyond the outdoor ice rink, in a small field near some temporary classrooms.  

But Shelly Simmers has a plan for making sure Nate doesn’t miss any jumps or throws and doesn’t get too tired going back and forth. 

“We’re gonna bring a bicycle so he can bike between them,” she said.

Reach Beth Bragg at or call her at 257-4335.

Anchorage Daily News