FAIRBANKS — Four jumping events, five state medalists guided by Lathrop assistant coach Greg Owens.
There were three first-place winners among those medalists who received tutelage last weekend from Owens during the Alaska Schools Activities Association/First National Bank Alaska State Track and Field Championships at Lathrop High School.
The Malemutes’ success at their home facilty — senior Alisha Allen winning the Class 4A girls triple jump and long jump; junior Tevin Gladden and sophomore Cameron Bryant going 1-2 in the 4A boys high jump; and senior MonTae taking first in the boys long jump for the large schools portion of the state meet — was a simple case of Owens making the most of the talent with whom he works.
“I’ve always found that when I’m awash in talent, I appear to be a pretty capable coach,” Owens said Saturday afternoon while leaning against a fence at Lathrop and enjoying being a spectator after all the jumping competition in the two-day meet had concluded.
The 55-year-old assistant coach, who has worked with Lathrop’s jumpers for three years after coaching at West Valley for 13 years, cited recruiting as the first step to success.
“Get them out and put them in a position to be successful,” he said. “Some things broke our way this weekend and sometimes your pony comes in.”
It’s only coincidental that the latter quote came on the same day that Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another galloped across the finish line in first place at the Preakness and will be vying at the Belmont Stakes on June 9 to become thoroughbred racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 34 years.
Lathrop didn’t earn either Class 4A jumping triple crown at the marquee event for Alaska high school track and field, as Bartlett’s Richard Predmore garnered the boys triple crown honor and Golden Bears’ teammate Morgan Kueter repeated as the girls high jump titlist.
But what the Malemutes accomplished is amazing, and four jumps winners from one school just doesn’t happen every year at the state meet.
The amazing weekend was actually a carryover from last year’s state meet, where Allen set a then girls state record of 37 feet, 8 1/2 inches in the triple jump, then Lathrop senior Vince Barnett won the boys long jump at 22-4.
Barnett was in fourth place before attempting his last jump, which would earn him first place. Tate, then a junior, was inspired by the moment.
“He popped a jump and he came up to me and said ‘Coach, I can’t wait for next year. I know what it feels like now to jump big,’” Owens recalled.
Tate experienced the feeling Saturday on his second attempt of the preliminaries, reaching 21-3 for the eventual state winner.
Owens was part of the reason that the soon-to-be culinary student at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., ended his high school track and field career with a state title.
“Coach Owens always has a saying for something that always gets us going,” Tate said. “He’s always pushing us forward, he’s always working hard and he’s a great coach.”
Owens doesn’t want any Malemutes jumper to just be happy with an attempt.
“He’ll say ‘You had a good jump. Now, let’s see you really get going,’ ’’ Tate said. “It always about him hyping us up to get us to do our best.”
Allen surpassed her best from a year ago. On Friday, she soared 38 feet, 10 1/4 inches to set another girls state triple jump record.
“Alisha is just rock solid,’’ Owens said of the five-time state winner (two triple jumps and three long jumps) and recruit for the University of Northern Colorado, an NCAA Division I program.
Owens saw Gladden’s potential in April in Anchorage at the Big C Relays. Gladden won the boys high jump at 6-5 in the Dome in the first competition of the season that athletes from Interior Alaska competed against their counterparts from Anchorage and other parts of Southcentral Alaska.
Owens wasn’t surprised that Gladden had the highest spot on the medals podium Friday with a high jump of 6-2.
“He went down to the Big C’s and beat everyone in Anchorage. So we expected this out of him, we expected a real good season out of him,’’ Owens said.
He also wasn’t surprised that Bryant was the runner-up after clearing 5-10.
Bryant was among the younger Lathrop jumpers who were motivated by their older teammates.
“You’ve got to believe to achieve,’’ Owens reflected. “These (younger) kids see it and they say ‘OK, we can do this.’ ’’
INTERNATIONAL TRACK AND FIELD: Eielson alumnae Janay DeLoach won the women’s long jump at the IAAF World Challenge on May 16, reaching 22 feet, 3 1/2 in the meet in Daegu, South Korea. The former Colorado State University All-American holds the Alaska girls long jump record of 19-5, set at the 2003 state meet.
CAMPUS TRAILS: South Florida, which includes sophomore pinch runner and Lathrop graduate Ilaura Reeves, plays host to Hofstra (N.Y.) Friday and Saturday in an NCAA Division I Super Regional softball series in Tampa, Fla. The winner advances to the College Softball World Series in Oklahoma City on May 31-June 6.
South Florida advanced to the Super Regional by sweeping through a regional last week in Gainesville, Fla. The Bulls won 1-0 Friday over Central Florida, 8-3 Saturday over Florida Gold Coast University and 1-0 Sunday over host Florida in the championship game. Reeves didn’t appear in any of the regional contests.
• Carroll College (Mont.) head coach Matt Morris, a Lathrop alumnus, and Wasilla alumnus and Eastern Oregon coach Ben Welch are each guiding athletes in the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships today through Saturday in Marion, Ind. Among Eastern Oregon’s qualifiers are siblings Isaac and Lucas Updike from Ketchikan. Isaac, a sophomore, and Lucas, a redshirt freshman, are both entered in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase Friday, and Lucas is also competing Saturday in the 400 hurdles.
• Freshman outfielder Curtis Wolfe from North Pole batted 2 for 3 with a double and drove in the only run for Treasure Valley Community College (Ore.) in Saturday’s 6-1 loss to host Yakima Valley Community College (Wash.) in the first round of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges East Region baseball tournament.
PRO NOTES: Caja Laboral, which includes guard and North Pole alumnus Brad Oleson, faces Real Madrid today in a ACB Spanish League semifinal basketball game. ... Point guard and Bartlett alumnus Mario Chalmers is averaging 10.9 points and 3.6 assists for the Miami Heat through 10 NBA playoff games.