High School Sports

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

PALMER — Alex Emers admitted he was having an off day.

But despite being sore and tired, the West Valley junior still claimed a second straight state high jump title on Friday at the Alaska State Track and Field Meet.

Emers arrived Friday morning from Anchorage less than 18 hours after helping the Wolfpack earn a 2-0 win in the opening round of the Division I State Soccer Tournament.

While that turnaround left him dragging a bit, more than anything, it was the wind at Palmer High that caused him fits.

He cleared 6 feet with ease, but landed on the edge of the landing mat. When he cleared 6-foot-2, he nearly missed the mat altogether, landing mostly on his back on the hard track surface. He was temporarily shaken but continued competing. While he wasn’t able to clear the next height, due to a tiebreaker he was able to edge runner-up Phoenix Perkins of Service, who also jumped 6-foot-2.

“It kind of shocked me,” he said. “I closed my eyes and hit my head but I wanted to keep jumping. I had all the adrenaline and was ready to go.”

Emers won the event last year with a jump of 6-foot-3 and was a heavy favorite after jumping 6-foot-7 at regionals.


“I wish I could’ve gone higher,” he said. “At regionals I went 6-foot-7 but I just had a soccer game (on Thursday) and I’m going to a soccer game right after this.”

He said the wind was difficult for multiple reasons — it slowed his approach and pushed him while he was in the air.

“I felt like I was running a lot slower,” he said. “I’ve never really jumped in win like that.”

With a little time before his soccer game, Emers said he planned to do a lot of stretching and a couple of ice baths. Despite the grueling weekend, he said he couldn’t see himself skipping either track and field or soccer.

“It’s pretty tough,” he said. “I want to help both teams.”

While Emers will have another year to bolster his resume, Chugiak senior Campbell Peterson began the process of putting a cap on hers.

Peterson repeated as 3200 champ, setting a personal record in the process. The race was close for the first six laps but Peterson opened up a significant lead in the final two and finished in a time of 11 minutes, 16.54 seconds.

“Coming into it all I could do was put my best effort out on the track,” she said. “I did have a goal to reserve a little bit and kick the last two laps and I followed through on my plan and I think it worked out.”

The Chugiak girls won last year and Peterson said as much as her individual wins, the team successes have been a big part of her legacy.

“I’m really proud of my team,” she said. “We’ve really built up our program and have become a really successful running environment and community. I’m proud of us and the Alaska running community in general.”

At the DI level, Chugiak’s distance runners have set the pace in recent years. That’s a mantle the Sitka girls are starting to take over at the DII level.

Sitka’s Clare Mullin swept the 800, 1600 and 3200 last year as the team finished in second overall. On Friday, senior Anna Prussian cruised to a victory in the 3200 in 12:12.59 what she hopes in the first of many strong finishes for the Wolves.

“It’s my senior year and I wanted it to be my best effort,” Prussian said. “Coming out of regions it’s been really exciting because the team’s been doing great all season. We’re going for a team title this year and I wanted to contribute to that.”

The race of the day was in the DII boys 3200, where Homer’s Seamus McDonough galloped down the final straightaway to catch and pass Grace Christian’s David Sliwinski and win a state title.

It was both a repeat and a bit of an anomaly in the races between the two standout seniors. The repeat came in it was the second straight weekend with McDonough passing Sliwinski late to win.

“We had regions in Palmer (last weekend) with the same competition pretty much,” he said. “That’s the style I used and won the mile and 3200 and I just thought that’s what I’m going to do today.”

While the race was virtually a carbon copy of the regional, Sliwinski has had most of the success at state meets. He won the 1600 and 3200 at state last year and topped McDonough by two seconds to win the 2022 state cross country title.


“We’ve gone back and forth since junior year but he’s always won the state title,” he said. “It feels really good. This is the first state title I’ve got.”

His time of 9:28.34 was about a second faster than Sliwinksi’s (9:29.38).

McDonough said the regional win was a confidence booster but didn’t guarantee a result this weekend.

“Last year I won every race at regions and then in state, David beat me at every race so I knew there was a lot of work to do,” he said.

Colony’s Matthew Rongitsch cruised to a win in the boys DI 3200 in 9:42.45. He lead wire to wire after taking the 2022 cross country title at the DI level.

Other high jump winners at the DII level included Hutchison’s Zane Robinson (5-8) and Homer’s Brightly Thoning (4-10). Soldotna’s Katelyn Morrison (5-0) won the DI title.

In the girls discus, West’s Norah Brown (129-11) in DI and Redington’s Alexia Pike (119-09) in DII took state titles. Wasilla’s Eric Kolomeychuk repeated as DI champion shot put, throwing 52-08 3/4. At the DII level, Nikiski’s Truit McCaughey took the top spot with a throw of 45-06.

The triple jump winners were Bartlett’s A’Lante Owens-Player (44-2 1/2) in boys DI and Petersburg’s Hendrik Cumps (40-7 3/4) in boys DII. Eagle River’s Gabrielle Okorodudu (35-3 1/2) won DI triple jump for girls and the DII winner was Sitka’s Ada Parker (32-6 1/2).

The second days continues Saturday with a majority of the track events and the remainder of the field events.

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.