Students from Juneau’s high schools made a strong showing at the state cross country championship, with two boys and one girl placing in the top 15 for their divisional categories.
Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé High School seniors Tim Degener and Finn Morely placed fourth and 14th respectively in their Division 1 category, and Thunder Mountain High School junior Kiah Dihle placed eighth in her race.
“The mitigation measures worked well (wave starts) and it was great to be back at Kincaid on a course which we’ve trained well for in Juneau- rolling, ups and downs, corners, a flat soccer field at one point,” said JDHS co-coaches Merry Ellefson and Tristan Knutson-Lombardo in an email. “(It’s) tricky to run one lap, as we are used to loops, but the weather goddess provided a perfect day to race.”
The meet was the first in-person meet of the season, and numerous measures were enacted to mitigate possible coronavirus spread, said TMHS coach Sandi Pahlke in an email.
“(The Alaska School Activities Association) did a good job with the mitigation. The kids ran in groups of eight and started every minute,” Pahlke said. “It was different because both boys and girls were on the course at the same time which was hard from a coaching/spectator perspective if you were watching more than one athlete.”
Runners met the end of the season on their own terms, said Ellefson and Knutson-Lombardo.
“There’s adrenaline, expectations. Some people show up and have the race of their season, others show up and feel like they let their team down. So, yes, there are highs and lows at any meet- that’s the journey of our sport,” said Ellefson and Knutson-Lombarto. ”And it was great to have two teams there to process the day and unwind together. Most of our athletes are already thinking about what they’d do differently or what strategies they felt good about. The reflection gives us an opportunity to support and guide them as coaches.”
JDHS’ girls put up a strong showing with its many underclass runners, which bodes well, said the JDHS coaches.
“It was great to see the “pack” or close running, on our girls squad, a testament to their pace-group training and depth,” said Ellefson and Knutson-Lombardo. “The girls finished with Skylar leading in 19:46 and McKenna in fifth — running 20:23 and a personal record. They were spread out by less than 35 seconds, which speaks to a fast team future.”
TMHS also showed strongly despite its relatively small contingent of runners, and Dihle, who cracked the top 10, is only a junior.
“I am very proud of the dedication and resilience of the whole team,” Pahlke said. “It was a tough and challenging year with COVID but everyone did a great job. I am especially grateful to the team captains Ellie Knapp and Eli Mead for their work and leadership this season.”
The teams will wind down their season now, said the JDHS coaches, having end-of-season squad races and awards events. All of the coaches praised their runners for their hard work.
“It was great to see our hard working athletes do what they are training to do: compete,” said Ellefson and Knutson-Lombardo. “Providing safe opportunities for youth to compete and connect is important and it’s gonna get really hard as the weather gets colder depending on the sport they choose. We have a community responsibility to keep COVID numbers down so our kids can stay healthy.”
Preseason for cross country will begin in June next year.
Juneau schools results
Men’s Division 1
JDHS Tim Degener, fourth place 16.11.3
JDHS Finn Morley, 14th place: 16.58.4
JDHS Eli Crupi, 27th place: 17.27.7
JDHS Aubrey Hekkers, 29th place: 17.40.7
JDHS Samuel Holst, 36th place: 17.55.4
TMHS Matthew Johns, 37th place, 17:58.0
JDHS Will Robinson, 38th place: 18.04.6
Women’s Division 1
TMHS Kiah Dihle, eighth place 19.18.8
JDHS Skylar Tuckwood, 16th place 19.45.4
JDHS Annika Schwartz, 17th place 19.48.5
JDHS Iris White, 18th place, 19.52.2
JDHS Rayna Tuckwood, 21st place, 20.07.2
JDHS McKenna McNutt, 24th place, 20.22.5