Emily Pieh knew the moment the 2.2-pound discus flew out of her hand, it was going to be a big one.
Friday afternoon at Machetanz Field in Palmer, Pieh captured a shocking victory in the Division I girls discus throw at the state track and field championships, toppling defending champ Alissa Pili of Dimond.
“I knew it was going to take a lot to beat her,” Pieh said. “Three weeks ago was the first time I threw over 120 (feet) in a meet, so I knew I had to pull one out today.”
The moment was one of many highlights for peninsula athletes at the season-ending track meet, which went off at a furious pace under warm, sunny skies in the Valley.
In the team race, the West Valley boys and South Anchorage girls prevailed in Division I, while the Sitka girls and Anchorage Christian boys took home Division II team crowns.
The Homer boys came the closest to a team championship, finishing second in Division II with 87 points, only behind the 107 of Sitka. Last year, the roles were reversed as Homer was the victor over Sitka.
The Soldotna girls took fourth in the Division I team race with 53 points, behind the 88 of South.
Pieh, a SoHi senior, claimed the discus title with a personal best heave of 129 feet, 6 inches, just 3 inches farther than Pili’s toss. Pieh smashed her previous PR by a whopping 7 feet, 9 inches.
“I was just going in as my last meet and just had to have fun and do it,” she said. “I was trying not to psych myself out.”
Consider it a success. Pieh’s gold medal heave came on her penultimate throw, just after Pili had overtaken her. Pili has been a standout athlete in just about every sport she has competed in, dominating the volleyball and basketball courts for the Lynx and winning state championships throughout the school year.
Pieh credited the work that coaches Phil Leck and Galen Brantley Jr. have put her through, as the SoHi throwing team has flourished under Brantley’s guidance.
“She has ice water in her veins,” Brantley Jr. said, noting that he has seen her reach 130 feet in practice. “For her, it’s not something that happened by accident.”
Pieh said the 2017 battle with Pili at the state meet played out very similarly, as Pieh was ahead in the throws until Pili cranked out her state-winning toss.
This time, however, Pieh was the one mustering up one big blow.
“When she threw that one that was farther than me, I was thinking of last year,” Pieh said. “There was a lot of yelling (with friend and family), and I actually started crying.”
With her prep career behind her now, Pieh said she will try to throw for Northern Arizona University in the fall, where she plans to major in astronomy.
Pieh’s sophomore teammate Ituau Tuisaula finished just behind in fourth with a toss of 101 feet, 1 inch, and sophomore Bailey Leach took sixth with a 98 foot, 6 inch, throw. Tuisaula finished second in the shot put on Saturday.
Soldotna senior Brenner Furlong also celebrated a big weekend by defending his Division I 400-meter boys title, and going out with a new school record in the process.
Furlong officially claimed the SoHi 400 school record in Friday’s preliminaries with a 50.43-second lap, bettering the previous mark of 50.62.
Then, in Saturday’s 400 final, Furlong lowered his new mark even more with a time of 50.21, holding off Bartlett senior Kevone Henderson by just .06 seconds for the win.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Furlong said. “For prelims, it was dry and sunny, and coach Leck came out and asked if I wanted to go for the record now or just finish top four (to reach the finals).”
Furlong said he knew the goal was attainable Friday, so he decided to give it all he had.
“I came out hot and was with (Service’s Jacob Belanger) and (Bartlett’s Kevone Henderson) on the curve,” Furlong said. “I crossed the line and thought I saw 49.50 at first. But I knew it was fast.”
The Kenai Central teams were shut out in the victory column over the weekend, but still placed numerous athletes in event finals. The top finishers included junior Hayley Maw’s fourth-place finish in the girls 100, sophomore Savanna Wilson’s fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, and a third-place in the girls 3,200 relay, which consisted of Brooke Satathite, Addison Gibson, Ithaca Bergholtz and Jaycie Calvert.
Senior John Grossl finished fifth in the boys discus for Kenai, while junior Jarett Wilson took sixth in the boys 110-meter hurdles. Wilson missed the final of the 300 hurdles, the race he won last year.
At the Division II level, Seward senior Ruby Lindquist managed to score most of her team’s points on her own by pulling a clean sweep of the distance races.
Friday, Lindquist got her weekend started off with a dominant win in the 3,200, running a personal best 11:24.19 to beat her closest pursuer by 12 seconds.
Saturday, Lindquist captured the win in her favorite event, the 1,600, with a time of 5:16.39, before rounding out the day with a dominant 800 win in 2:23.83.
“I’ve been trying to get a state championship in running since I was a freshman,” Lindquist said. “To be able to do it at my last meet is nice.”
Lindquist almost claimed the Division II cross-country running title last fall, but was outkicked by Homer’s Autumn Daigle in the final 100 meters and finished second.
Lindquist made sure to be prepared for the state track meet, and credited head coach Dan Marshall’s coaching prowess. Marshall was coaching his final meet as head coach at Seward after a long career.
“Dan’s always believed in me,” Lindquist said. “It’s going to be sad to see him go, but I think he’s super happy.”
The Homer girls got their only event victories from junior Anna Brock, who swept the shot put and discus throws. Freshman Laura Inama also took silver in the long jump.
Brock began her run at the throwing double Friday with a victory in the discus. Brock just beat out Nikiski sophomore Kaitlyn Johnson by three inches, sending the disc to a new personal best of 115 feet, 10 inches. Johnson settled for the silver while Seward junior Coral Petrosius took third with a new PR of 107 feet, 9 inches.
Homer sophomore Marina Carroll also enjoyed a nice weekend with a runner-up in the girls high jump with a new PR of 5 feet, 1 inch, and a third-place in the triple, leaping 31 feet, 9 inches.
The Homer boys also picked up a few wins, including junior Luciano Fasulo’s win in the 800. Fasulo reached his season goal of breaking the two-minute mark in the challenging race, winning with a time of 1:58.88.
Fasulo bided his time and ran a smart race, which allowed him to make his move with just over 200 meters to go. Fasulo passed Joseph Pate of Sitka on the outside of the final curve and crushed the home stretch to win by almost two seconds.
“It was the best race,” Fasulo said. “It felt horrible.”
Fasulo also picked up a win as part of the Homer boys 3,200 relay.