Delta Junction's Andrey Ionashku earns first state title in 3,200

FAIRBANKS — A favorite and an underdog made names for themselves in the Class 1A-2A-3A 3,200-meter run in Friday’s ASAA State Track and Field Championships at the Lathrop High School.

Andrey Ionashku set records in the boys event, and Katie Strong shaved huge time off her qualifying mark as the two walked away with their respective crowns.

Boys

Ionashku’s top priority as he ran the 3,200 was to push himself and test his limits. While staying focused on that goal, Ionashku won the event, set a personal record and ran the race in the best Class 1A-2A-3A time this year, besting his May 13 performance of 9 minutes, 36.65 seconds.

“I feel great,” the Delta Junction junior said after completing Friday’s race in 9:34.98. “I came to test myself and see if I can push past my limits. I aim for a (personal record) every race, and I did all of that, so I feel great.”

Ionashku beat his state seeding time from last week’s Region VI meet by two seconds and pulled away from the second-place finisher, Grace Christian’s John Klein, by about 30 seconds.

“It felt good to run against the best of the best out there,” Ionashku said. “I haven’t in a while, so it was nice to have them pushing me.”

Klein stayed up to speed with Ionashku for the first half of the race, but couldn’t hold the near-sprint pace through the end. Klein went on to beat his seed time by less than a second, finishing in 10:05.32.

Ionashku said he kept repeating a single phrase in his head while running the race, a phrase his first track coach had him repeating.

“I just kept saying, ‘Be hungry,’” said Ionashku, whose 3,200 win marks his first state title, adding hardware to his nine regional championships.

He runs in today’s 1,600, 800 and 400-meter races, always looking to set another PR.

“I figure I’ll go hard again for a PR in the mile. Why not?” he said. “The 400 and 800 aren’t really my races, but I’m ready to do what it takes and push my limits, test myself.”

His pushing-the-limits attitude stems from coach Mike Pelto’s constant support, Ionashku said.

“I can’t thank him enough. He’s really great,” Ionashku said. “He’s done so much for me and my running.”

Seward’s Miles Knotek finished third in 10:17.82, and Daniel Serventi (Grace Christian) and Blake Hamilton (Haines) rounded out the top five, respectively, with 10:36.64 and 10:38.10 finishes.

Girls

Katie Strong’s seed time from her region meet last week was 12:09.43, securing her a fourth seed in the girls event at Friday’s finals. The Port Lions standout dropped an impressive 21 seconds from her qualifying time to capture the state title in 11:48.00.

Grace Christian’s Claire Trujillo finished second in 11:56.22, and two-time defending champion Kailey Wilson of Kenny Lake was third with a time of 12:06.84.

Mariah Applegate (Grace Christian) and Mickey Murtiff (Eielson) finished in 12:11.07 and 12:21.86, respectively, for fourth and fifth place.

Contact staff writer Renee Thony at 459-7583.