The Sitka Invitational on Saturday marks the first official meet of the cross country season.
The Juneau-Douglas High School teams are looking especially deep this season, with over 60 runners on the roster.
Leading the Crimson Bears boys team is senior Arne Ellefson-Carnes, who won the Douglas Island Mini-Meet on Saturday with a personal-best time of 16 minutes, 26 seconds. It was an improvement of close to 10 seconds from his previous personal best, which he set in the middle of last season at the Palmer Invitational.
Ellefson-Carnes said several years of coming in last at the state meet has brought about a shift in the team’s demeanor. Ellefson-Carnes said the team is taking the sport more seriously and hopes they have a top-five state finish in them.
“We have a really strong team and our team’s a lot deeper than it has been in the past,” he said. “The boys and girls team, there’s so many people that are racing for the last few varsity spots. It’s really exciting.”
Seniors Clem Taylor-Roth and Ronan Davies and juniors Ambrose Bucy and Max Dapcevich will provide a strong varsity lineup.
The JDHS girls will mesh a talented junior class of Sadie Tuckwood, Katie McKenna, Sosan Monsef and Anna Iverson with upstart freshmen.
With such a big team, Tuckwood said, almost everyone has someone at their own speed to push them during the meets.
“I think most people have people to run with that they know from practice and are friends with,” she said.
Sophomore Hannah Deer and junior Tucker Kelly appear to be the strongest runners for Thunder Mountain this year.
Kelly finished last Saturday’s meet in 17:28 and hopes to get his time under 17:00 by the end of the season.
“We have a lot of freshmen and they’re running really great times so it just makes me happy that Thunder Mountain has a strong future,” he said.
TMHS coach Sandi Pahlke agrees and thinks Matthew Johns and Abigail Booton will be some of her top freshmen.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.