An invitational track meet this weekend at West High will give spectators something they don’t see often at an Alaska high school meet.
One is athletes running 10 abreast. Most tracks in Alaska are eight lanes wide, but West’s track has 10 lanes.
Another is a showdown of state champions.
With separate meets in place for big schools and small schools, Alaska’s fastest runners don’t always meet head-to-head. That changes at the annual Brian Young Invitational, which for the first time is being held in Anchorage instead of Kodiak.
About 100 athletes — many of them winners of state championships last weekend in Palmer — will compete in the two-day meet.
Some of the most intriguing showdowns are in the sprints.
On the boys side, Division I champion Colton Herman of East High — who broke the 100-meter state record last week by running a time of 10.86 seconds — will run head-to-head against Fredrick Onochie of Anchorage Christian. Onochie is a four-time Division II state champion in the 100, and he swept all three sprints — the 100, 200 and 400 — last week in Palmer.
Onochie will be in fast company. Besides Herman, top Division I sprinters expected to race include Jeremiah Wilson of Chugiak, who boasts a sub-11.00 time in the 100, and Carter Gladwell of Eagle River. Onochie boasts a state-best time of 50.20 in the 400 and could get a push from Gladwell, who won the Division I title in 50.30.
On the girls side, Hailey Williams of Delta Junction will get a chance to see how she stacks up against girls from bigger schools.
On paper, Williams rules. At the state championships, her winning times in the 100 (12.45), 200 (25.06) and 400 (58.10) surpassed the Division I winning times in each event. Among those hoping to outsprint her will be Damecia Jones of Bartlett, who won Division I titles in the 200 (25.95) and 400 (58.94).
Held in Kodiak for the first time in 2012, the Brian Young Invitational is held the week after the state high school championships and typically draws the best runners, jumpers and throwers in the state.
Absent from the field this year will be Alaska’s top distance runners, Daniel Bausch of Chugiak and Kendall Kramer of West Valley. But some of the other events, especially the sprints, look loaded. Also absent is Dimond’s Alissa Pili, who wrapped up her decorated high school career last weekend with titles in the discus and shot put.
The meet was created by Marcus Dunbar, the retired Kodiak track coach. This year he teamed up with Joe Alward, a former West High track coach, to bring the meet to Anchorage.
The meet has always helped pay transportation costs for athletes flying to Kodiak, so having it in Anchorage will reduce costs. Even so, more than $16,000 was raised to bring athletes to Anchorage from the Interior and Southeast, and many of the donors are from Kodiak, Alward said.
“I believe the meet will go back to Kodiak, but I think it’s going to come here occasionally just to decrease the cost,” Alward said. “It’s so expensive to get everybody over to the island.”
Another reason the meet is being held in Anchorage is to showcase West High’s polyurethane track, which Alward and Dunbar say is one of the fastest in Alaska. In 2017 at the West High track, the four-minute barrier in the mile was broken for the first time on an Alaska outdoor track.
Alward said he and a couple of other West High alums fought hard to make the track 10 lanes wide, partly to benefit Anchorage’s middle schools. West shares the track with Romig Middle School, the usual host for the Anchorage middle school championships.
“There are 10 middle schools and every school deserves a lane,” Alward said. “Before you always had to have a second heat.”
Action begins at noon and wraps up around 3:30 p.m. each day. Admission is free.