• All 14 Homer tracksters medal in at least one event
By Sean Pearson
After weeks of complaining about winter’s tenacious grip on Alaska’s spring season, perhaps another reference to the unorthodox and unneighborly May snows of 2013 would be redundant.
Still … blowing snow and 18 degrees at a track meet? That’s just wrong.
“It certainly was freezing cold, but we’ve been competing in conditions like that all year,” said Homer Track Coach Bill Steyer of a freezing Fairbanks. “We worked to find a way to reframe the frigidness as a positive thing.”
Steyer’s “reframing” strategy proved successful — especially for the Lady Mariner 1600 relay team. Homer runners Azizza Shemet-Pitcher, Tayla Cabana, Cassidy Soistman and Aurora Waclawski took first in the 4 by 400 event, finishing the race in four minutes, 21.69 seconds. Homer’s next closest finisher, Grace Christian, came in a full five seconds later.
“Being part of such an awesome 4 by 400 team and winning State is definitely something I will always remember,” said junior Tayla Cabana. “I am very very proud of my teammates. We all worked hard to get here and at State, it showed.”
Waclawski, a freshman who ran the final leg of the 1600 relay, said she feels her strong finish was helpful to the team’s success, as she started pulling away from the pack in the last few seconds.
“I think our team did so well, because we were all very psyched up and ready to go hard,” Waclawski said. “We knew we had to go all out — and we did.”
In fact, according to Steyer, the HHS relay team posted the second-fastest time in the state; right behind powerhouse Dimond High School.
“The girls were one full second faster than they were at Regions.” he said. “Our Lady Mariners were so fast, if they had raced against the large schools, they would have come in second.”
And, while theirs would be the only gold medal for the Mariner squad, Steyer said all 14 athletes medaled in at least one event.
Senior Casey Farrell turned in two stellar individual performances, taking second place in both the 1600 and 3200 events.
“I think I did very well, even though it was so cold outside,” Farrell said of her performances. “When I was running the last 200 meters of my mile, I felt like I was flying. The wind was like a wall, but I powered through it like in practice.”
Farrell said she felt like she was able to use the cold weather to her advantage.
“I trained all winter with my dad, but had no idea I would be training for the weather conditions like what we got at State,” she explained. “I used the cold to keep myself awake and sharp. I think I ran faster to keep warm.”
Second-place finishers included the 3200m relay team, as well as Waclawski in the individual 400m. Cabana took third in the long jump, stretching out to a leap of 15 feet, .05 inches.
“The snow and cold weather made everyone work a little harder, even if just to keep warm,” Cabana said. “I’m happy with everything I did, and I know our coaches are proud of us. They believed in us the whole way and pushed us to get where we are now.”
And, not only did the Lady Mariner team prove their prowess on the track by finishing second overall, they also won the academic award for having the highest grade point average with an overall team GPA of 3.9.
In boys State track action, senior standout Mark McGregor took second in the 110m hurdles with a time of 16.6 seconds. He took fifth in the discus.
“Mark is just a really strong competitor overall,” Steyer said. “The hurdles are a very mental event, and he has the ability to stay focused and get things done.”
Third-place finishes came for sophomore Connor Seay in the 300 hurdles, as well as the boys’ 800 relay team.
Senior Sam Reinert successfully completed his first year of track with a fourth-place finish in the 400m.
“The weather was pretty awful, but the 400 really came down to the last 20 meters,” Reinert said. “I was in sixth place, but didn’t want to accept that finish for my last race ever. So, I just kept pushing and never gave up.”
Distance runner Pedro Ochoa also kept pushing. The junior had the flu and spent most of his time throwing up during the lengthy drive to Fairbanks.
“Pedro doesn’t focus on obstacles,” Steyer said. “He didn’t let his illness get in the way of his goals, and finished strong.”
Ochoa said he found his track experience to be a positive one overall.
“It was perfect for me to join track this year,” he said. “I learned a lot from the seniors and have set some serious training goals for the summer.”
Steyer said the team exceeded his expectations for both the season, and the State meet.
“They worked really hard all year long and deserve these wins,” he said. “Everything just came together and people peaked at just the right time.”
Reinert called the season a “blast.”
“I’m glad I finally decided to run track this year, because it was totally worth it,” he said. “I’m proud to have ended my high school career with this team.”
Senior Jack Wheeler continued to turn in strong performances in the jumping events, tying for fourth in the high jump, and pacing sixth in both the long and triple jumps.
He had some not-so-nice things to say about the conditions for competition.
“The weather was absolutely horrible,” he said. “Doing my triple jump was the worst, because it was 18 degrees and snowing.”
Teammate and Lady Wolverine Robin Riley said she found the cold weather challenging, but worked hard to keep herself warm right up to her events. The promising freshman placed fourth in the high jump with a leap of 4 feet, eight inches.
“It was a really great experience for me, as a freshman, to get to compete with the best in the state,” she said. “Everyone there was very nice, and teams cheered for other teams, encouraging each other to do better. I am already looking forward to the next three years.”
And, while Wheeler’s days of high school track are now finished, he said his experience was worth all the hard work.
“Track was really a mess this year, but it was still fun,” he said. “I enjoyed every bit of it.”
400: 2. Aurora Waclawski, Homer, 1:03.86. 5. Tayla Cabana, Homer, 1:06.07.
800: 4. Molly Mitchell, Homer, 2:30.46.
1,600:.2. Casey Farrell, Homer, 5:34.49.
300 hurdles: 5. Tayla Cabana, Homer, 51.15.
800 relay: 3. Homer, 1:58.21.
1,600 relay: 1. Homer (Azizza Shemet-Pitcher, Tayla Cabana, Cassidy Soistman, Aurora Waclawski), 4:21.69.
3,200 meters: 2. Casey Farrell, Hom, 11:58.37; 4. Barae Hirsch, Hom, 12:10.45;
3,200 relay: 2. Homer, 10:12.98;
High jump: 4. Robin Riley, Nin, 4—8;
Long jump: 3. Tayla Cabana, Hom, 15—1-2;
400: 4. Sam Reinert, Homer, 53.91.
800: 4. Pedro Ochoa, Homer, 2:08.01.
1,600: 6. Pedro Ochoa, Homer, 4:49.79.
110 hurdles: 2. Mark McGregor, Homer, 16.60.
300 hurdles: 3. Connor Seay, Homer, 44.54.
800 relay: 3. Homer, 1:38.68.
Discus: 5. Mark McGregor, Hom, 104—00;
High jump: 4. (tie) Jack Wheeler, Ninilchik, 5—6.
Long jump: 6. Jack Wheeler, Nin, 17—4 1-4.
Triple jump: 6. Jack Wheeler, Ninilchik, 36-04.50
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