Griffen Roder said leaning his chest across the finish line wasn’t part of his practices this season for the Lathrop High School track and field team.
What he didn’t practice, however, is what seemed to help the Malemutes junior win in 23.52 seconds in the Class 4A boys 200-meter dash final for the first time in the Region VI Championships on Saturday at West Valley High School.
Roder seemingly leaned his chest across the finish line ahead of West Valley’s Jomar Perez, who also seemed to have leaned his chest across the finish line. Perez was clocked at 23.55.
“I was kind of nervous about it,” Roder said. “My coach (Lathrop head coach Kim Kelly) was telling me to keep running. I kind of looked at her, and I finished through.”
Roder said he appreciated getting pushed by Perez.
“I love racing against West Valley. It brings, like, the best competition, what we see in Anchorage,” said Roder.
West Valley was the best 4A boys team again in the Region VI meet, as the Wolfpack compiled 103 points. The Lathrop Malemutes were runners-up with 38 points and the North Pole Patriots were third with 29 points.
The Wolfpack captured the Division I state team title last year.
“The boys have a chance to win it again,’’ West Valley head coach Milo Griffin said. “We’re short maybe two people, but if everybody overachieves, we can do it again.”
West Valley also gained the girls region 4A title after amassing 110 points. Lathrop was second with 57 points and North Pole third with five points.
“We’ve been lucky so far by getting some good performances from (Kendall) Kramer and some of the other girls that’s been there (the state meet),’’ Griffin said. “But we’ve got some jumpers this year and some people that can place (at the state meet) if everything falls right.”
The Hutchison Hawks earned the Region VI-3A team title with 111 points, just three more than the Eielson Ravens. The Monroe Catholic Rams ended third with 102 points and the Valdez Buccaneers, in their school’s first Region VI Championships, took fourth with 94. The Delta Junction Huskies finished fifth (74) and the Galena Hawks were sixth (20).
Monroe Catholic dominated for the girls region 3A team trophy after tallying 133 points. Eielson placed second with 84, just two points ahead of Valdez.
Delta Junction finished fourth with 82 points, while Hutchison was fifth with 69 and Galena was sixth with 32.
The first-place finishers in the individual events and the winning relays from the four region meets across Alaska during the weekend automatically qualified for the Alaska School Activities Association/First National Bank Alaska Track and Field State Championships on Friday and Saturday at Palmer High School.
The Class 4A winners at the Region VI meet automatically advanced to the Division I portion of the state meet and the 3A winners during the weekend at West Valley automatically advanced to the Division II state competition, also at Palmer High School.
Also qualifying for the Division I and Division III state meets are the respective next best 12 combined individual results and next best four combined relays from the four region meets across Alaska during the weekend.
The finish in the girls 800-meter run was extremely close.
West Valley sophomore Naomi Bailey and Lathrop junior Laura Alvanna went 1-2 in the 2 minutes, 23.88 seconds and 2:23.95. West Valley’s Kendall Kramer placed third in 2:24.31 after leading early in the two-lap race.
“This year, what she (Kramer) has been doing is working on her speed, and Naomi is like her. I don’t know her rabbit or something,’’ said Dan Callahan, who coaches the Wolfpack’s distance runners.
“They actually ran like this last week (May 11 in the Region VI All-Schools Meet at West Valley). They both ran 2:23, and they were, like, right together the whole team. This time, they had the Lathrop girl in there, which made it even more interesting.”
“I don’t know. I was just like, ‘I’ve got to give it my all.’ I don’t know where that last bit of energy came from,” Bailey said.
The finish also helped prepare her for the Division I state meet.
“I guess it shows me what I can do. So when I’m dying at state, I can figure that I can actually get like one more bit of strength,’’ Bailey said.
Senior teammate Camron Herron won the boys 800 (1:57.22) and 1,600 (4:24.04 ) Saturday for the Region VI distance triple crown. The University of Arizona recruit won the 3,200 run Friday.
Wolfpack senior Terrell Johnson was inspired by the spectators at West Valley on his way to winning the boys long jump at 21 feet, 6.5 inches.
“I think it was just the energy,” he said. “The crowd actually helped me out a lot. There was like a hundred people watching, so I just felt a different energy. It was good.”
Johnson, a Colorado State University Pueblo recruit, also won Saturday in the 300-meter hurdles in 42.02. He placed first Friday in the boys high jump.
Lathrop senior Maya Pelayo won the girls shot with an effort of 33-11.
West Valley’s Sheridan Blasey cleaned up in the girls hurdles. The Wolfpack won the 100 hurdles in 16.96 and the 300 in 49.80.
Lathrop senior Kevin Johnson was the boys 110 hurdles winner in 15.99.
West Valley had both victories in the 100 dash. Freshman Olivia Manley won the girls race in 13.47, and junior Justin Cummings took the boys title in 11.33.
Kramer, a junior, added a victory of 5:06.82 in the girls 1,600 Saturday to her 3,200 title Friday.
Lathrop swept the 400 dash titles, winning the girls event in 1:06.16, and freshman Ian Thomas took the boys honor in 53.60.
West Valley swept the girls relays. The Wolfpack won the 4x800 (10 minutes, 17.20 seconds), 4x200 (1:53.57), 4x100 (54.73) and 4x400 (4:26.02).
The Wolfpack boys team was first in the 4x800 (9:32.70), 4x200 (1:32.32) and 4x400 (3:32.66). Lathrop placed first in the 4x100 in 45.16.
Delta Junction junior Hailey Williams swept the girls sprint titles for the second straight year. The Huskies standout won in 12.44 seconds in the 100-meter dash, placed first in the 200 dash in 25.59 and repeated as the 400 titlist in 59.40.
In the 200 final, Williams bolted from the starting line and blazed around the curve to open a significant lead over the rest of the field.
“The strategy for the start was just try to explode out,’’ she said. “It’s my last individual event today, so I just wanted to make sure for myself to just be able to explode and feel good with that block start.”
Williams also swept the girls sprint titles at last year’s Division II state meet in Palmer.
“Just making sure to keep a good, straight, level head and stay positive,” Williams replied when asked about the key to sweeping three sprint races in a region and state meet. “Not only that, but just encourage other people around you.”
The Monroe Catholic boys 4x400 relay was encouraged by a strong start from first-leg senior Nathan Walsh en route to its victory of 3:47.58.
“Phenomenal runner. He’s a top runner right now in our whole region, I’m pretty sure. Four A and 3A,” said Rams senior Landon Nicholson, who was the 4x400’s anchor leg.
“Since we had a sizeable, we were racing against the clock instead of the people. We were just trying to beat our best time in the end.”
Walsh also won in the individual 400 dash in 52.42.
Valdez junior Owen Chadwick won the boys 200 dash in 23.45.
“I just had to be confident. Usually, I make up the stagger pretty fast, and then I start to slow down because I’m nervous. As I’m getting way ahead, I think I’m going to die,’’ Chadwick said.
“But I just had to pump my arms real hard the last 100 and keep my knees hard.”
Chadwick was a three-time winner Saturday. He also placed first in 41.93 in the boys 300-meter hurdles and won the 100 dash in 11.58.
Valdez junior Hunter Hoppe won in the girls shot put, recording a heave of 29-2.5. Eielson freshman Joey Rodriguez won the boys discus at 118-2.
Delta Junction swept the long jumps, as junior Brenna Marchuk led the girls with a distance of 15-4.5, and sophomore James Caslin reached 18-3.5 for the boys title.
Monroe swept the 800-meter run victories. Rams freshman Katie Bast won the girls race in 2:34.04, adding to the 3,200 title she earned Friday. Landon Nicholson took the boys 800 in 2:06.22 on Saturday.
Bast also was the anchor for the Rams’ winning 4x800 relay (10:40.47). Monroe also won the girls 4x200 in 1:55.20 and 4x100 in 54.60.
Eielson senior Jolie Lucas won the girls 100-meter hurdles in 17.79 seconds and sophomore Garren Nicholson won the boys 110 hurdles for Monroe in 17.88.
The girls 300 hurdles were won by Monroe freshman Erin Hendricks in 51.97.
Hutchison sophomore Natalie Clemente won the girls 1,600 in 5:49.26 and Monroe junior Jordan Higbee earned the boys 1,600 title in 5:07.75.
Clemente also was the first leg for the winning Hawks squad in the girls 4x400 relay (4:33.13).
Hutchison won the boys 4x800 relay in 9:33.45 and Valdez gained the 4x100 title in 45.52. Monroe had a victory of 1:35.51 in the 4x200 to go with its 4x400 title.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.