Rayna Tuckwood, Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé sophomore, sprints to the finish during a cross country race at Savikko Park on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Tuckwood would place first with a time of 20:20 as the JDHS girls took the first five places. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Rayna Tuckwood, Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé sophomore, sprints to the finish during a cross country race at Savikko Park on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Tuckwood would place first with a time of 20:20 as the JDHS girls took the first five places. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Cross country teams coming out of the gates hot

JDHS girls scored a perfect meet: five-for-five.

Both Juneau high schools made strong showings at the Sayéik Invitational, the first cross country meet of the year, with runners showing marked improvements over their times on the same course last year.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé went on to win the meet, with the boys team dominating and the girls team achieving a perfect score.

“From my perspective, I thought it went really well. It was great to see all the athletes out for their first meet of the year. For about two-thirds, it was their first 5K race ever,” said Thunder Mountain High School Topaz Shryock in a phone interview. “I had a number of athletes who came up to me after who had run before who said it was their personal best on that trail. I thought it went great.”

JDHS had a particularly strong start to their season, with many of the lead runners coming in about a minute faster than this point in the season last year, said JDHS coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo.

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“We’re really happy and proud with both the outcomes of results and the efforts of our runners,” Knutson-Lombardo said in a phone interview. “It’s a nice start to the racing season, to have that confidence going in.”

Runners sprint off the line at the start of a high school cross country race at Savikko Park on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Runners sprint off the line at the start of a high school cross country race at Savikko Park on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

JDHS sophomore Rayna Tuckwood handily won the women’s race, turning in a time of 20:20 and leading the JDHS girls to a perfect score as they took the first five places.

“The girls did score a perfect score, one through five,” Knutson-Lombardo said. “[Freshman] Ida Meyer passed the Thunder Mountain runner coming up the finish, cementing that perfect score.”

JDHS senior Aubrey Hekkers won the boy’s race with a personal record 17:28 finish, with TMHS senior Matthew Johns trailing him closely. The JDHS frontrunners pushed the tempo of the race, Knutson-Lombardo. Moving forward, they’re going to work to tighten up the lead pack of runners, Knutson-Lombardo said.

“Those three made strategic moves during the race that moved everyone else along and kept the pace going fast,” Knutson-Lombardo said. “On the boys side, we’d love to see the time gap between our first and our seventh runner close.”

Runners round a turn during a high school cross country race at Savikko Park on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Runners round a turn during a high school cross country race at Savikko Park on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Both teams have considerable depth on their rosters this year, with more than 80 runners from the two teams competing Saturday.

“We’re up to around 50, and we’re having a few more trickle in. It’s pretty cool because it’s grown. It’s a little bit overwhelming,” Shryock said. “I’m super excited that we have so many runners, youth in the community who want to go out and run cross country.”

Both coaches echoed concerns about the pandemic, which prevented other teams from traveling to Juneau to compete on Saturday. They’ll hold inter-school races on Friday and Saturday, to keep competition lively, while hoping for levels to abate far enough to allow traveling.

Knutson-Lombardo also thanked Kurt Iverson and Jesse Stringer for helping to run the race Saturday.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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