Huge turnout for ERHS cross country team

Girls eye a return trip to state meet


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Eagle River’s Ben Hall (164) and Ben Smith (179) hit the trails during the start of the Bartlett Invitational on Aug. 18. Hall and Smith are the Wolves’ top returning boys runners this season.

MIKE NESPER

Eagle River is loaded with 42 athletes in its 2012 cross country running program.

“This is our largest squad we’ve ever had,” Wolves’ head coach Jacob Bera said.

Much of the team is made up of underclassmen, he said, and the start of the season couldn’t be going any better.

“We’re having an awesome year so far,” Bera said. “The kids are really supportive of each other.”

Bera said he’s focused on growing the program every season.

“Every year, were trying to reach out more,” he said.

The creation of a booster club this year has also increased the interest in running at Eagle River, Bera said. All the booster support — including providing food at races and purchasing a new team tent — is much appreciated, he said.

“As coaches, we’re super thankful for that,” Bera said. “We can focus more on the kids.”

On the boys side, Eagle River’s lone runner to make state last year, Brandon King, decided not to return for his senior year, Bera said.

Sophomore Ben Hall and senior Ben Smith are key returners, he said.

Hall finished 43rd in 17 minutes, 41 seconds at the Bartlett Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 18 to lead the Wolves. Smith placed 66th in 18:10.

Kodiak’s Levi Thomet won the boys race in 16:01 and West Valley won the team title.

Kenai’s Allie Ostrander won the girls race in 17:58 with Wasilla winning the team title.

For full results, visit www.athletic.net.

Eagle River senior Hannah Stevens led all local girls with a 21st-place finish in 20:13. Stevens, who finished ninth last year at state, is a key returner, Bera said.

Last year, Eagle River sent its first team to state in school history. Though Evy Hail graduated and Shayna Wolery is playing flag football, three of the five girls that made up Eagle River’s third-place team at the 2011 Cook Inlet Conference Championships are back.

Sierra Richardson and Nikki Boggs join Stevens from last year’s historic team. At the Bartlett Invite, Richardson finished 27th and Boggs came in 41st.

Hail, who finished 15th at state in 2011, will be hard to replace, Bera said.

“She was a big loss for us,” he said.

While the girls are eyeing a return trip to state, the boys want to send their first team to the season’s final meet, Bera said.

And they have a legitimate chance at achieving that goal, he said.

“There’s a good 10 or 11 guys that can compete at any given race,” Bera said.

At the start of every season, Bera said his main focus is keeping his team healthy.

“We’re just trying to get to Labor Day without any injuries,” he said.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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