Emma Dohrn at a shot put training on April 26. ( (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

The Glacier Bears track and field team is smaller than it’s been in the fast few years, but that hasn’t stopped them from turning heads at a recent meet in Ketchikan. 

The Bears posted several top performances, including a clean sweep of the girls triple jump, a division-best time in the boys 300-meter hurdles, and a 106-foot personal best throw in the discus.

“It’s definitely a lot smaller than last year, but we have a lot of skill and I think we’re going to take a good team to state,” said Emma Dohrn, a junior, in between bouts of practicing shot put. 

Dohrn crushed the competition at the season-opening meet, winning the discus by 17 feet. She said that she’s gunning for Fran Daly’s discus record of 117 feet. 

“She’s my assistant basketball coach so it’s kind of a fun thing we have,” said Dohrn. 

She’s got a good chance of it with nearly two full seasons to go of her high school career. She’s been working on doing a complete rotation before throwing the discus, a technique that takes much more finesse and practice but that has the potential to add significant distance to her throw. At the Ketchikan meet, she only used the half-spin technique and set a PR on her first throw.

“I just practiced with the half turn last year, and I’m just getting into the full turn this year,” she said. 

Last year there were 30 athletes. This year there are just 18.

The small team does have some advantages. Distance coach Katie Russell says working with her single athlete, 3200-meter specialist Andrew Hansen, means she can finetune workouts to his individual feeling each day. 

“There’s times when he’s injured or feeling really good, and we can adapt the workout to how he’s feeling,” said Russell. “It you have a bigger group, sometimes it’s hard to adapt.”

Still, training alone can be hard. On a recent Monday, Hansen ran eight 800-meter repeats by himself, sometimes swerving around the sprint team that was walking down the track. 

“It’s hard to be motivated when you’re running all by yourself, but he’s a very motivated and very dedicated runner, and he’s been pushing really hard in the workouts,” said Russell.

Nearby on the track, JC Davis was hard at work on a series of 200-meter sprints. The sophomore improved on his previous times in the 300 hurdles last weekend by several seconds. It was also the top time in the division. Davis attributed the improvement to a winter-long lifting program in the gym, which has helped him add muscle mass and improve his speed. 

JC Davis had the top division time in the 300-meter hurdles at the season-opening meet in Ketchikan, something he attributed to a winter-long weight-lifting program that helped him knock several seconds off his personal record. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

“I was just hoping I got faster because this track (in Haines) is so much different than a rubber track,” he said. 

He’s already learned something for his next meet: after switching to the faster, bouncier rubber track, he realized that four steps between hurdles might be too many. 

“It’s just easier to make up that difference with the rubber tracks and spikes,” he said. 

It’s hard on the Haines’ track’s pea-gravel dirt, but the team has been training indoors in the gym to simulate some of the feeling. 

The team is preparing for its first — and only — home meet of the season this weekend. Co-head-coach Jessie Sanders said it’ll be a nice break from the normal weekend travel, but for coaches it also means extra responsibility for things like painting lines on the track. 

“It’s definitely more work, but it’s nice to stay home for the kids and be able to perform in front of their parents and families,” said Sanders. 

Jessie Sanders, head coach, watches students during a track and field warm up. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

Sanders said there’s no big goals for the season, other than to qualify as many people for state championships as possible. 

“The goal is to bring 18 kids to state — that’s how many we got — but at the end of the day that might not happen. That’s what we’re working towards and would be ideal obviously.”

In the early season, the atmosphere isn’t too competitive, the athletes say. 

“We’re having fun,” said Davis. 

Events begin 3:15 p.m. on Friday and 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.