West Valley s Patty Eagan hands off to teammate Erika Gaskins in the girls 4X200-meter relay event during the prep high school track and field meet at West Valley High School Friday afternoon, April 30, 2011. Eric Engman/News-Miner
FAIRBANKS — One official at Saturday’s Region VI all-schools track and field meet offered an apt description of Andrey Ionashku’s start in the boys 1,600-meter run on the West Valley High School track.
“He started off like he was shot out of a gun,” the official said.
The Delta Junction junior bolted ahead of 25 other runners and never looked back on his way to a goal-setting victory of 4 minutes, 29.94 seconds and a sweep of four races in the two-day meet.
“I knew I was the one who had to set the pace, so I wanted to get a good start and a good finish,” Ionashku said.
The next nearest competitors, West Valley’s Peter Noon and Tri-Valley’s Jake Carter, respectively came in second in 4:36.75 and third in 4:37.35.
Noon’s finish helped the host Wolfpack seize the points title with 279 in the eight-team meet. Delta Junction placed second with 72 and the Eielson Ravens were third with 51.
When Ionashku was well ahead of the 1,600 field by the halfway mark, he started focusing on his time.
“I really wanted to beat the 4:30,” he said. “It’s harder to just pace by myself. I’m usually a guy who runs behind the competition until the end. Just me leading the race by myself and setting the pace was the difference for a change.”
Ionashku, who also won Saturday in the 400 (54.78) and 800 (2:04.34) and placed first Friday in the 3,200 (9:42.60), wants to experience a change for the better this year, particularly when it comes to state meets.
Last October at the Class 1A-2A-3A State Cross Country Championships at Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Ionashku was leading the boys 5-kilometer race with 150 meters left. Grace Christian’s John Klein put on a strong kick to beat Ionashku by one second (16:44 to 16:45).
“Bad finish,” Ionashku recalled. “I was ahead most of the time by a lot and at the end, I just thought, ‘Well, I’m going to win anyway. I’m just going to jog at the end.’ Doing that allowed the runner-up to creep up on me and beat me right at the line.”
“In running,” said Ionashku, “you’re taught to never look back and I didn’t think he was that close. That changed me, too, because I told myself I’m never going to allow such a thing.”
Last May at the state track and field meet at Lathrop, Ionashku was a runner-up to Grace’s Jacob Kirk in the 1,600 and 3,200. Kirk set state-meet records in both races.
Ionashku had captured the distance triple crown (800, 1,600 and 3,200) a week earlier at the Region VI-3A meet at Lathrop.
“It definitely made me stronger, it made me not give up,” Ionashku said of the state meet. “I want to correct it this year and I told myself I’m not going to lose again this year. I’ll do whatever it takes, even if it hurts. If I have to run crazy like a maniac, I’ll do it.”
Mike Pelto, who has coached Delta Junction for 18 years, said Ionashku has more drive this year, especially after the state cross country meet.
“He is just more determined to stay out in front and be there,” Pelto said.
West Valley senior Will Vealy stayed out front Saturday to win the 100-meter dash in 11.20 seconds. It broke Cedar Gray’s 11-year-old school record of 11.24 and West Valley assistant coach Daniel Esparza said it was the best 100 time in the state this season.
“It was real good and I was nervous because we had Pat Brown from Eielson in my heat,” Vealy said. “He kind of did better than me at the beginning of the year, so I was a little nervous about that.”
Brown, a Ravens senior, placed second Saturday in 11.52 seconds, followed by Wolfpack senior Brandon Comeau in 11.99.
“I knew I had to do good coming out of the blocks, that’s what Milo (Griffin, West Valley head coach) has been working on me with,” Vealy said. “So I got out of the blocks good. That was it and I felt pretty confident.”
Vealy also won the long jump at 20 feet, 9 inches, and he combined with his brother, Anthony, and Brent Rodenberger and Comeau to win the 4x100 relay in 45.95.
The Wolfpack also won the 4x400 relay in 3:51.80 and 4x800 in 8:55.43. Eielson prevented a Wolfpack sweep by taking the 4x200 in 1:38.08.
West Valley’s Larenzo Graham swept the hurdles, winning the 110 in 16.60 and the 300 in 43.42.
Complete meet results are listed in the Scoreboard on Page C2.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.
Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - West Valley leaps to track and field win at Lathrop High