Take notice, Alaska prep runners: there’s a new sheriff in town.
Juneau-Douglas High School freshman Sadie Tuckwood beat the field Saturday to place first overall at the 2016 Alaska Cross Country Championships, sending the message to female runners across the state that she’s a force to be reckoned with.
“I am just really proud and it feels good to beat everyone,” Tuckwood said.
Tuckwood clocked in at 18 minutes, 16 seconds, the fastest time ever logged by a freshman at the state meet and the fastest anyone not named Allie Ostrander has run since race officials began compiling times in 2002. (Ostrander, of Kenai fame, currently ranks as the best collegiate runner in the entire U.S. Tuckwood’s 18:16 beat Ostrander’s freshman finish by 30 seconds.)
“Sadie is starting to put herself in her own category,” JDHS coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo said. “That’s one of the top performances this state has ever seen as a runner and it’s all the more exciting to know that we have three more years of growth.”
Tuckwood had to start fast to earn positioning before the Bartlett High School course narrowed from a field to a tree-lined trail.
“I tried to keep the same pace the whole race but I had to start out faster,” Tuckwood said. “I didn’t want to get stuck behind in the trees and then have to catch the people up front.”
Bartlett’s notoriously hilly course is considered one of the toughest in the state, yet Tuckwood completed her 5K only four seconds slower than the region-winning time she logged Sept. 24 on Sitka’s relatively flat course. She beat her closest competitor, West Valley’s Kendall Kramer, by 13 seconds.
“I wasn’t really that nervous because I had raced against a few of these girls before,” said Tuckwood, who is a recent transplant to Juneau from Dillingham.
Following Tuckwood for Juneau runners was Thunder Mountain’s Erin Wallace (19:17), who placed fifth at the meet. The junior logged her best finish to date by working on her pacing and psychology (she placed 23rd as a freshman and 22nd as a sophomore).
“I ran differently than last year. Instead of coming out at the start and booking it, I took it easy,” Wallace said. “Going up these hills and coming down I was flying, in a good position and feeling strong, thinking positive thoughts. … I really surprised myself this year and hopefully next year I can work harder, get better and maybe finish top four or top three.”
“She keeps improving. Her confidence is going up and it translates in her times,” Falcons coach Scott May said.
Tuckwood wasn’t alone in making a splash for JDHS’ next generation. Fellow freshman Anna Iverson placed 11th overall for the Crimson Bears. Iverson has consistently been finishing third in Region V meets this year behind Tuckwood and Wallace.
“I really tried to push myself on this course,” Iverson said. “I’m already looking forward to next year to try and improve more and do the whole thing over again.”
Juneau’s top boys finisher was sophomore Arne Ellefson-Carnes, who finished 15th at 16:37. Ellefson-Carnes went out fast, at one point holding fourth place.
“There was a pack of about ten people in front of me and I was just trying to stick with them,” Ellefson-Carnes said. “I just knew you had to get out fast, so that’s what I did. I just got better position than last year, when it felt like I was walking at the start.”
The JDHS girls finished eighth in team totals while the boys finished 10th.
Other Southeast Conference finishers:
44. Taylor-Roth, Clem – JDHS 17:26
51. Coss, John – Ketch. 17:41
57. Stephens, Leif – Ketch. 17:53
60. Sleppy, Justin – TMHS 17:56
70. Burger, James – TMHS 18:16
72. Stitz, Shadrach – JDHS 18:25
76. White, John – JDHS 18:31
77. McKenna, Tim – JDHS 18:32
80. Doddridge, Kadin – JDHS 19:31
81. Allmendinger, Paul – Ketch. 19:53
82. Blust, Aaron – JDHS 20:26
56. Thompson, Sally – TMHS 21:35
66. De Mello, Desiree – Ketch. 22:13
67. Goering, Eva – JDHS 22:16
68. Knight, Elizabeth – Ketch 22:16
71. Monsef, Sosan – JDHS 22:23
73. Seley, Tori – Ketch. 22:48
77. Greg, Jessie – JDHS 23:10
81. York, Maddie – JDHS 23:38
Glenallen’s Briahna Gerlach made history by becoming only the second-small school athlete to win the state championship for the fourth year in a row. Gerlach finished at 18:44, a full 32 seconds faster than runner-up Megan Pitzman, from Homer.
Gerlach’s 2016 time is the second-fastest she’s run in a state championship, trailing only her freshman mark of 18:34. Both are the two fastest small-school times recorded at a state championship meet since the Alaska Scholastic Activities Association began compiling times in 2002.
Rounding out the top five for the girls were Ruby Linquist, Seward (19:24); Allison VanPelt, Houston (19:31) and Grace Gannon, Grace Christian (19:39).
1, 2, 3A Boys
Homer beat Sitka’s defending state champion boys, scoring 45 points to Sitka’s 63. Anchorage Christian took third overall with 78 points. Region V champion David Wilcox placed seventh overall, Colin Baciocco ninth and Joe Pate 14th.
Galena’s Jacob Moos took individual first place with a time of 15:55, another state championship meet record.
Rounding out the top five were for the boys were: Hunter Kratz, Seward (15:57); Blake Bennett, Anchorage Christian (16:02); Trent Fritzel, Grace Christian (16:21) and Zach Hamberger, Cordova (16:38).
• Contact Sports and Outdoors reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.