The Juneau-Douglas High School cross country team is dividing into two factions this weekend. The varsity team is headed to the Palmer Invitational, one of the largest meets in the state with close to 30 teams registered, while the junior varsity, along with crosstown rivals Thunder Mountain, is bound for the Petersburg Invitational.
It will be JDHS’ and TMHS’ fourth meet of the season and the second to last before the Region V meet comes to Juneau later this month. The JDHS girls have won all their meets thus far and Sadie Tuckwood, Anna Iverson, Katie McKenna, Trinity Jackson, Annika Schwartz, Jasmin Holst and McKenna McNutt appear ready to improve on last year’s eighth-place showing in Palmer.
Tuckwood won the meet last season with a down-to-wire finish. The then-sophomore leaned across the finish line a fraction of a second before West Valley’s Kendall Kramer — the 2016 state-runner up (behind Tuckwood) and 2017 state champion (two places in front of Tuckwood) — to win in 18 minutes, 9.95 seconds. Kramer’s time was 18:10.27. According to Athletic.net, it’s the fastest-ever time Tuckwood has clocked in a 5-kilometer race.
JDHS co-coach Merry Ellefson said the Palmer course, held on the Mike Janacek Trails, is known for producing fast times like that. In addition to being relatively flat, the size of the meet helps push runners along.
“It’s really important for new athletes, whether they’re freshmen or seniors, whether it’s Trinity or Ronan (Davies) to get up and go toe-to-toe with other people from around the state,” Ellefson said. “It’s great to see the Barrow or the Chevak or the Palmer singlets up there. It’s just different than seeing our neighbors here at every meet.”
Davies will be joined by Arne Ellefson-Carnes, Clem Taylor-Roth, Owen Squires, Ambrose Bucy, Koby Goldstein and Finn Morley. Ellefson-Carnes has come in first in the Douglas Island Mini-Meet, Sitka Invitational and Skagway Invitational.
How the boys and girls perform at this weekend’s meet — with perennial powerhouse like West Valley in the mix — will be telling of their potential at state, Ellefson said.
“I would never count anyone out,” Ellefson said. “I think that’s one of the great opportunities going to Palmer gives us is seeing where we stack out and the work we have to do and looking at points and how seconds count.”
The girls and boys race at 2:15 p.m. and 2:45 p.m., respectively, on Saturday.
Thunder Mountain will be led by junior Tucker Kelly and Matthew Johns in Petersburg. Kelly finished second overall in the Skagway Invitational, just one second ahead of Haines’ Siyel George. The Falcons girls will be guided by freshman Kiah Dihle and sophomores Hannah Deer and Ellie Knapp.
The boys race on Friday at 4 p.m.; the girls will follow at 4:45 p.m.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.