For the first time in nearly a decade, the Kodiak boys track and field team does not enter the season as the defending Region III champions.
The Bears’ string of eight consecutive years atop the region was snapped last year by Colony at the regional championships.
You can bet that the goal this season is to get back on top.
“I think I like our chances for this year for regions,” Kodiak coach Marcus Dunbar said.
Not only does Dunbar believe his team is capable of winning its ninth region title in 10 years, but he also believes he has enough horses in the stable to challenge for a state title, something that Kodiak has done twice under Dunbar.
“If you are ever going to shoot for a state championship, this here is a team that can do it,” Dunbar said.
Like most Dunbar-coached teams, the distance crew will be the pulse of the squad. At the forefront is nationally ranked senior Levi Thomet, who could be approaching times never seen by an Alaska high school runner.
He enters this season as a two-time 1,600- and 3,200-meter state champion and the defending champ in the 800.
“He could be the fastest that we have ever seen in the state in the mile and two-mile,” Dunbar said. “I think Trevor’s (Dunbar) school record and state-leading performances are in jeopardy.”
Trevor Dunbar holds the top time in the state for the 1,600 with a mark of 4 minutes, 5.22 seconds. Thomet’s best time is 4:11.63, and he has already eclipsed Dunbar’s 3,200 time with an 8:45.32 ran earlier this year at the New Balance Indoor Nationals.
Thomet is backed up by a slew of talented runners in Levi Fried, Keith Osowski, Jack Hannah and Michael Parnell.
Fried, a senior, was the state’s top 800 runner as a sophomore and finished second behind Thomet at last year’s state meet, while Osowksi, Hannah and Parnell are all coming off a successful cross country season that ended with a state title.
The team is not all about distance, though, as Kodiak has a balanced attack across the board.
Junior Billy Alcaide and senior Jemuel Mangalus — a pair of starters on the basketball team — will pace the sprinters.
Both qualified for state last year either as in individual or in a relay, and Alcaide has already cracked the school’s all-time top 10 list with his performance at the intersquad Blue/Gold meet and will add depth in the jumping events.
“They are going to cover the open sprints for our big points,” Dunbar said. “They are the anchors for the sprints, just like the Levis are for the distance.”
Junior Kordell Pillans, a state returner from a year ago, tops the throwers, while the Bears have a handfull of hurdlers with Jeremiah Black, Aaron Alonzo, Tyler Teuber and Hadyen Foster, the latter returns to the team after a stint at Palmer High School.
Kodiak begins its season today at the Big C Relays at the Dome in Anchorage.
“The team, as a whole, is a lot fitter than we have been early in the season. The training over the winter was good. The weather was relatively mild, and people stayed with their training.”
Kodiak only has 16 girls on its roster compared to 45 for the guys. Dunbar said this is the lowest turnout he has seen for the girls during his tenure as coach.
“I think the girl programs all across the board have lower participation,” said Dunbar, who pointed to the new soccer program and spring weather for the reasons for the low numbers.
Kodiak does return four athletes — Zoe Bigley, Yuri Ahn, Richelle Walker and Rosie Aquino — with state experience and Dunbar will rely on that group to lead the younger girls.
Bigley leads the distance squad; Ahn is a hurdler; Walker is a thrower and Aquino is a jumper.
Dunbar pointed to Melisa DeGuzman, Ruth Dela Cruz, Kylie Jordinelli and HoneyRose Macatuno as potential point scorers for the Bears.
“They are hard working and they are young, so I’m expecting improvements,” Dunbar said. “I wish I could say we would be in the hunt for a region title, but I don’t think we have the depth to do it.”