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Glacier Bears Track and Field team take top places in Sitka meet


May 2, 2019

Last weekend, the Glacier Bears track and field team placed in 12 categories during a meet in Sitka where they competed among 100 other athletes—receiving four first-place, three second-place and five third-place rankings.

“We were the smallest school there,” said head-coach James Blilie

“But we had the biggest impact!” said 15-year-old sophomore, Wesley Verhamme.

Verhamme won first in his main events, shot put and discus. He notched two personal bests—throwing 119 feet 9 inches in discus and 42 feet 10.75 inches in shot put. Now, Verhamme is ranked 12 statewide, and second in 1a, 2a, and 3a schools. He was also a member of the team that ran in the 400-meter boys relay, which won first-place.

Verhamme said he felt different this year. “I’m not a freshman, so I’m not worried about looking stupid while I’m throwing,” he said. “I’m not worried about what other people are throwing.”

Verhamme said “meat, potatoes, lifting weights, and a lot of form practice” helped him excel in his events.

Fourteen-year-old freshman Avery Williamson, who won second-place in her first meet ever, said that one key to success is remembering form when she gets fatigued. “If you can handle it during practice, then you can handle it in the race when you’re going to be tired,” Williamson said.

But Williamson said she faced psychological challenges as well, because she had to run against the best 400-meter runner in her division.

“I had to run against her in both events, so I was pretty intimidated by that,” she said.

Williamson overcame that fear by running her own race, she said. This is one common thread that links the Haines track and field team throughout every event: they try to focus on beating themselves. Sixteen-year-old junior Becca Wheeler, a thrower, even has “beat your own record” written on her shoes.

Last weekend Wheeler won second for shot put and third for discus. In her division, she is ranked second in the region. Still, she said she didn’t throw her best in Sitka.

“I tend to push it a lot and get injured. My throwing coach, Tyrell, told me not to push it,” she explained.

Verhamme also has to slow himself down. Sometimes, he said, he intentionally makes himself tired before throwing to work on form.

“In the beginning of the season I was too worried about distance, so I would go throw (a 250-pound tire) and then throw,” said Verhamme.

“Our whole practice is mainly form with a lot of tweaking,” Wheeler said.

Coach Blilie said he was proud of how Haines did in Sitka, but expects even better results in the next three meets.

“I just love working with the kids,” said Blilie, “I love watching them progress.”

Sixteen-year-old Carson Crager practiced sprinting the 300-meter, for weeks and did better than he expected. In his first 300-meter hurdles competition, Crager won first.

Repetition is inherent to the sport. The team practices for two hours a day, five days a week, and they work on their own.

Their next meet is on May 3 and 4 in Juneau.


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