Kodiak High School’s track and field team wrapped up its regular season last weekend at the state meet in Anchorage. While Alaska School Activities Association competition is done, more than a dozen of Kodiak’s athletes, in addition to 100 more competitors from around the state, will take part in a post-season track meet here in Kodiak this weekend.
The Brian Young Invitational is the only event of its kind in Alaska. For the past two years, the state’s top athletes have invaded the island the week after state and tried to beat their personal records. Last year’s meet was one of the fastest in the state, generating 63 personal bests, 13 school records, 11 all time top-ten marks and one Alaskan all time state best.
Kodiaks head coach, Marcus Dunbar, said Alaska has a really short track season and typically it ends right as the weather is getting nice and the athletes are starting to perform their best. The Brian Young Invitational is an opportunity to extend the season, but also pin some of the best small school athletes against some of the big school stars.
“Because we have a relatively small population in Alaska, having two divisions where the small school kids don’t race against the big school kids kind of let a little bit of a void. There are some things like, wow, I’d really like to see that person race that person but they’re in different races and categories. So in this meet, there are no classifications, everyone’s together. The best kids race the best kids and they get an extra week to do it.”
As the name suggests, the meet is also meant to honor Brian Young, a long time Kodiak fisherman and supporter of youth athletics who passed away while descending from the summit of Mount McKinley in 2011.
Dunbar said the meet is fully sponsored, meaning the athletes that participate don’t have to pay anything to come down and compete.
“That was a big thing, to have the meet fully supported, we didn’t want to charge a big fee because some kids could afford it and some wouldn’t – and you’d just get the well-to-do kids. You know, Brian was always giving every kid the opportunity and supporting it.”
The athletes come in teams, but they aren’t the typical high school teams they are used to.
“The all star teams come from three different regions. The Anchorage bowl, with Cook Inlet conference, and that’s the Anchorage school district schools. And then our region, region III, is everything in the valley and the Kenai Peninsula, including Kodiak, and region II schools and Region III schools. So we have some small and big schools in ours. And then there’s two smaller large school regions which was Fairbanks and Juneau – we’ve combined it to be the North/Southeast team. So all the teams are drawn from approximately the same population.”
Dunbar said coaches from each region can select what athletes they want to send to Kodiak, but there are also qualifying marks that athletes can hit to secure a spot in the meet. He said having the regional teams makes the meet especially fun for relay events, because suddenly athletes are running on teams with people they competed against all season.
As for memorializing Brian Young, Dunbar said there is a special event planned on Friday evening that will honor him and remind folks about why they are in Kodiak for this meet.
“Kelly Young is cooking food for all the kids coming in. And that’s going to be Friday night at 5 p.m. in high school gym. And there is a wonderful video that Max Romey put out, it’s on YouTube, called “Who If Not You: The Brian Young Invitational” and it’s like a 15-minute documentary. We’re going to be showing that, we’ll say some words about who Brian was and how this meet came to be, and then we’re going to show that video. And we have a guest speaker from Anchorage – Larry Whitmore, who was my high school coach in track at Bartlett High School. He’s coming in, he’s a very good speaker, and he’s going to say some words as well.”
The track meet will kick off Saturday with field events starting at 5:30 p.m. and running events beginning at 7 p.m. On Sunday field events will start at 3 p.m. and running events at 4:30 p.m. Dunbar said the meet follows an evening format, which is traditional for bigger meets around the country.
Here is a link to the Who If Not You: Brian Young Inviational documentary.