Running in to the future
Near the conclusion of the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Cross Country Running Championships Saturday, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds hovering over Bartlett High School, setting the sky aglow.
It was a silver linings kind of day.
Chugiak’s vaunted girls team fell far short of its goal, finishing fourth in the team standings after starting the day as one of the prerace favorites.
“We’re disappointed, we wanted to win,” said Mustangs coach Cody Priest after the race, which saw his Region IV champions finish behind champions West Valley, runner-up Kenai Central and fellow Region IV foe Service.
Despite the disappointment however, Priest said there were plenty of positives to take away from the meet, which saw three Mustangs finish inside the top-17.
“They raced as well as they could today, that’s all we can ask,” Priest said.
Priest said he’s encouraged by the fact his team is still young – all seven Mustangs in the girls’ race will return next season – and that they’re a close-knit bunch that spends time together on and off the race course.
“They put in a lot of work together, which is great to see,” Priest said. “Some coaches don’t always have that, but these guys are great.”
Chugiak sophomore Emma Blei said the seven girls on the varsity team aren’t just teammates and training partners, but also good friends.
“We have a really good bond – like, crazy good,” Blei said.
The team raced with identical Mustang hoof tattoos on their shoulders as a sign of solidarity. Junior Brynn Kruchowski said the team’s bond goes back to their time on the cross country team at Mirror Lake Middle School, which all seven varsity runners attended.
“Running just brings us together,” she said.
Kruchowski was the top Chugiak finisher in 10th place, finishing in 19 minutes, 29 seconds. Juneau-Douglas freshman Sadie Tuckwood won the race in 18:16.
Junior Emma Nelson was 16th for Chugiak, freshman Adrianna Profit placed 17th, sophomore Emma Sees was 45th, Blei was 48th, junior KayLee Manwaring was 29th and sophomore Gwendolyn Mueller placed 63rd.
Although the group had dreams of a state championship dancing in their heads before the race, none were hanging their heads afterward. If anything, they’ll be using this year’s race as a springboard into next season.
“This just motivates us even more and hopefully we’re going to kill it,” next year, Blei said.
While the Chugiak girls had high hopes, the Mustang boys were just happy to be at state. Priest said he geared his team’s training to peak for regions in an effort to qualify for state – a move that got the team into the big meet but may have produced slower times at state for the Mustangs, who finished eighth.
“We tapered pretty hard,” for regions, Priest said.
Sophomore Max Hartke was the lone Mustang whose training was geared toward the state meet, Priest said, and Hartke delivered with a 26th place finish. Still just a sophomore, Hartke finished in 16:51 to lead the way. Like the Chugiak girls, the Mustang boys are extremely young, with just a single senior out of the seven who raced at state. Other finishers included junior Charlie Latimer in 43rd, junior Liam Baez-Terry in 46th, senior Thomi McCormick in 49th, sophomore Miles Dennis in 64th, freshman Max Beiergrohsle in 65th and sophomore Jacob Koskinski in 69th.
Service’s Gus Schumacher won the individual title in 15:44, while the West boys took the team title.
Each year there’s more team spirit and the group gets better. The team has only grown in the last couple years and it’s really exciting. — Chugiak Cross Country
Coach Cody Priest
Priest said the youth movement gives him reason to be optimistic for both the boys and girls squads.
“Each year there’s more team spirit and the group gets better,” Priest said. “The team has only grown in the last couple years and it’s really exciting.”
While Chugiak was looking toward next year, the small contingent of Eagle River runners was content to revel in a solid showing by all three of its athletes. Sophomore Nick Carl turned in a standout 16th place finish, completing the course in 16:37 to trim a second off his time from regions.
“It was virtually the same time, so I’m glad I could repeat my performance,” said Carl, the only Eagle River boy in the race.
On the girls side, sophomore Helen Wilson was positively beaming after setting a new personal best in 19:56 to place 24th. Wilson said the key to her solid performance was simple.
“Just go for it,” she said of her strategy. “Don’t hesitate.”
It’s a philosophy that Wilson said serves her well. And when she starts to get tired, she said she has a technique to use discomfort as an advantage.
“I just look at my watch and say, ’10 more minutes of pain’ and then I feel good again,” she said.
Eagle River senior Peyton Young also had a fine day, clocking a time of 20:43 to placed 38th overall.
Wolves coach Jacob Bera said he couldn’t be prouder of his three runners, who spent the week leading up to state with a relaxed, low-key training regimen that included a trip to the South Fork trails and a stop at the Bonnie Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series in Anchorage.
“To have all three kids come out and run what I think is their best race today, that’s all you can hope for as a coach,” Bera said. “I’m pretty proud of them.”
Both Bera and his counterpart at Chugiak agreed that cross country running is on the upswing in the Chugiak-Eagle River area, and both said they’re already making plans to improve next time around.
“I think we’ve got a lot of momentum,” Priest said.
ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State Cross Country Running Championships
At Bartlett High School
Saturday, October 1
Team scores – 1. West Valley, 48; 2. Kenai Central, 72; 3. Service, 109; 4. Chugiak, 112; 5. West, 118; 6. Colony, 134; 7. Dimond, 157; 8. Juneau-Douglas, 189; 9. Palmer, 223; 10. Lathrop, 239
Individual results – 1. Sadie Tuckwood, Juneau-Douglas 18:16 2. Kendall Kramer, West Valley 18:29 3. Maggie Druckenmille, West Valley 19:10 4. Jaycie Calvert, Kenai Central 19:10 5. Erin Wallace, Thunder Mountain 19:17 6. Riana Boonstra, Kenai Central 19:22 7. Jenna Difolco, West Valley 19:23 8. Grace Fahrney, Service 19:24 9. Maggie Meeds, South Anchorage 19:28 10. Brynn Kruchoski, Chugiak 19:29 11. Anna Iverson, Juneau-Douglas 19:30 12. Magdalen York, West Anchorage 19:32 13. Coleen Geraghty, Colony 19:39 14. Brooke Satathite, Kenai Central 19:43 15. Emma Axelsson, West Valley 19:43 16. Emma Nelson, Chugiak 19:47 17. Adrianna Profitt, Chugiak 19:49 18. Jill Bowker, Colony 19:51 19. Aubrey LeClair, West Anchorage 19:53 20. Nichole Blake, Service 19:53 24. Helen Wilson, Eagle River 19:56, 38. Peyton Young, Eagle River 20:43, 45. Emma Sees, Chugiak 20:51, 48. Emma Blei, Chugiak 21:03 49. KayLee Manwaring, Chugiak 21:13, 63. Gwendolyn Mueller, Chugiak 22:07
Team scores – 1. West, 33; 2. West Valley, 89; 3. South, 95; 5. Service, 95; 5. Lathrop, 170; 6. Kodiak, 171; 7. Colony, 186; 8. Chugiak, 197; 9. Wasilla, 225; 10. Juneau-Douglas, 243
Individual results – 1. Gus Shumacher, Service 15:44 2. Finn Walker, West Anchorage 16:00 3. Keith Osowski, Kodiak 16:06 4. Hamish Wolfe, South Anchorage 16:08 5. Declan Dammeyer, West Anchorage 16:09 6. Tracen Knopp, Colony 16:10 7. Luke Jager, West Anchorage 16:11 8. Ti Donaldson, West Valley 16:15 9. Foster Birnbaum, West Anchorage 16:19 10. Ethan Davis, West Anchorage 16:19 16. Nick Carl, Eagle River 16:37 26. Max Hartke, Chugiak 16:51 43. Charlie Latimer, Chugiak 17:18 46. Liam Baez-Terry, Chugiak 17:35 49. Thomi McCormick, Chugiak 17:39 64. Miles Dennis, Chugiak 18:01 65. Max Beiergrohsle, Chugiak 18:02 69. Jacob Kosinski, Chugiak 18:16.