High school boys sprint after the starting gun fires during the Sayeik Invitational on Douglas on Aug. 26. Students from Southeast Alaska schools are scheduled to meet at the same site Saturday for the Region V cross-country champions. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

High school boys sprint after the starting gun fires during the Sayeik Invitational on Douglas on Aug. 26. Students from Southeast Alaska schools are scheduled to meet at the same site Saturday for the Region V cross-country champions. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Juneau hosts Region V cross-country championships

Top high school runners in Southeast will vie for state berths Saturday.

Sixteen teams and a combined total of roughly 136 runners will compete at Juneau’s Treadwell Historic Mine Trails on Saturday to determine the Region V cross-country champions and Southeast’s representatives to next weekend’s ASAA state championships at Palmer.

“We are looking forward to having our entire team back together racing on the same course in the same weekend,” Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé co-coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo said. “Over the last month our team has been split between traveling squads and those racing at home. We have an incredibly deep team and have simply been amazed at the team results we have posted week after week at our various meets as we worked to provide travel opportunities to all our runners, regardless of how fast one runs. That said, we turn our focus to the ‘championship season’ and look forward to extending our streak of region titles with both teams.”

Thunder Mountain High School coach Jon Stearns said the Falcons entire team has shown grit, perseverance and a relentless pursuit of goals.

“Our team had 25 runners put up PRs this past weekend and we have had a dozen or more athletes do that every week this season,” Stearns said. “So that means the kids are working their tails off, doing the training and ultimately trust us by buying into their workouts. Everyone is peaking at the right time. Our team is young and is so energetic, but focused on the task at hand and it’s really cool to see that balance. The biggest progression and source of pride has been seeing our whole team and especially our region’s 14 (runners) work as a team. They know the teammates they need to run with and hang on for dear life.”

Girls from Thunder Mountain High School run on a trail in the Sayeik Invitational on Douglas on Aug. 26. Students from Southeast Alaska schools will participate at the same site Saturday for the Region V cross-country champions. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Girls from Thunder Mountain High School run on a trail in the Sayeik Invitational on Douglas on Aug. 26. Students from Southeast Alaska schools will participate at the same site Saturday for the Region V cross-country champions. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Saturday morning will begin with a land acknowledgement, 9 a.m. at A Káx Yaa Andagan Yé (Sandy Beach), followed by a junior varsity and community race at 9:15 a.m.

The Region V championships start with Division III boys racing at 10:15 a.m. followed by DIII girls at 11:15 a.m.

The DI and DII will combine their boys and girls races. Although racing together, they will be scored separately in their divisions for state qualifying. The boys race at 12:15 p.m. and the girls at 12:45 p.m.

The JDHS Crimson Bears, TMHS Falcons and Ketchikan Kings represent the Division I schools. For DI races the top 12 individuals and all members of the top-scoring team qualify for state.

The JDHS girls are seeking their 10th region title in a row and 43rd of the past 46 (TMHS won in 2012 and ‘13, Haines in 1980 when all schools were combined).

The Crimson Bears girls will race a top seven of senior Etta Eller, junior Ida Meyer, senior Rayna Tuckwood, sophomore Kate Schwarting, senior Iris White, freshman Kaia Mangaccat and senior Ava Newell. Eller, Meyer and Tuckwood swept the top three region finishes last season (Newell was fifth, Schwarting sixth) and Eller placed fourth at state with Meyer sixth as JDHS earned a state runner-up team placing.

“Our girls team is really coming into form,” Knutson-Lombardo said. “Despite losing two of our varsity runners from last season, they have more than made up for it with junior Elshaday Yerkees, Lua, Kaia and Ava trading barbs all season for the last two spots on our varsity roster this weekend. Kaia and Ava will carry the torch this weekend, coming in as our sixth and seventh runners based on last weekend’s results. Kate and Iris have been a solid fourth and fifth for us all season, continuing to close the time gap on our trio up front of Etta, Ida and Rayna — each formidable in their own right and all capable of winning the individual region title.”

The Falcons top seven region girls team will be sophomore Della Mearig, senior Sophia Owen, sophomore Brynne Loggy-Smith, junior Alison Tingey, sophomore Piper Blackgoat-Diehl, freshman Jillian Levy and sophomore Randy Stichert. Mearig placed ninth at regions last season, Tingey 11th and Owen 12th.

“Our girls region team only has one senior on it this year so this is a young group of girls that has worked really hard to get in this race Saturday,” Stearns said. “All of them have trained so hard, battled injury, illness and pushed through to be in their best shape of the season.”

The JDHS boys are seeking their 34th region crown in a row and 47th of the past 50 (Sitka won in 1983 and 1989 when in large school, Ketchikan in 1973 and Mt. Edgecumbe from 1963-72 when all were combined).

The Crimson Bears fill their top seven slots for the race with senior Edgar Vera Alvarado, junior Nick Iverson, senior Malachi Piemann, junior Joshua Reed, freshman Logan Fellman, senior Oliver Zigmund and junior Corder Janes. Vera Alvarado placed second at last season’s regions (15th at state), Piemann fourth and Iverson ninth. The Crimson Bears earned a fifth-place state finish as well.

“Our boys started the season with a spread of 1:11 between our first and seventh runners, very solid for the first meet of the season,” Knutson Lombardo said. “As of last weekend, they’ve managed to shrink it to a mere 45 seconds. With Edgar, Nick and Malachi leading all seven of our runners well under the 18-minute mark, this bodes well for this coming weekend. This is also, arguably, the most competitive the Division 1 Southeast boys have been in a long time. Thunder Mountain has been aggressively closing the gap on us this season while Ketchikan’s top had an impressive 10-second spread (all under 18 minutes) on their home course last weekend. With our 4-7 runners (Joshua, Logan, Oliver and Corder) continuing to shrink the time gap on our top three, we feel confident that if we show up with desire and keep doing what we’ve been doing all season long we’ll walk away with another team region title.”

The Falcons region boys include freshman Erik Thompson, juniors Owen Woodruff and Sage Janes, seniors Calvin Knapp and Justin Scussel, sophomore Miezen Deraimer and junior Finley Hightower. Scussel, Janes and Woodruff finished 10th-12th in last season’s regions.

“Our boys region team is fast,” Stearns said. “We have seven guys running that have drive, speed and a determination that doesn’t stop and I know they’re going to do something amazing this weekend. We understand that the Bears have history on their side and the lion’s share of the community backing them but the fact that our kids stick their noses in the fight every week is so awesome and makes me so proud.”

KHS Kings junior Casey Styles, freshmen Henry Vail and Noah Robbins and sophomore Carter Phillips have chased the top DI runners all season, and are poised to upset a front runner or two.

“We are happy to be able to bring up a full team of seven boys and seven girls this year,” KTN coach Sean Vail said. “We are looking forward to a great day.”

The Sitka Wolves and Mt. Edgecumbe Braves represent Southeast’s DII. In DII races the top 10 individuals and all members of the top scoring team qualify for state.

“I am looking forward to watching the athletes test their training,” Sitka coach Shasta Smith said. “They have been working hard and are excited to race. Regionals set the stage for state, and both teams have big goals. They are ready mentally and physically. It will be fun to see how it plays out.”

Sitka juniors Connor Hitchcock and Trey Demmert and senior Annan Weiland have all run 16-minute races for the boys and junior Clare Mullin has kept pace with the top DI girl runners in all season meets. Mullin is the defending girls region champion and Weiland, Demmert and Hitchcock placed second through fourth last year. Mullin placed second at state last season behind graduate teammate Anna Prussian and the Wolves were fourth as a team. Weiland ran fourth at state, Demmert eighth and Hitchcock ninth and the Wolves earned a state runner-up team finish.

Mt. Edgecumbe seniors Jacob Friske and Franz Fermoyle have a shot at breaking up the Wolves top runners at regions but will need season-best runs.

The Wrangell Wolves, Haines Glacier Bears, Angoon Eagles, Craig Panthers, Hoonah Braves, Hydaburg Warriors, Kake Thunderbirds, Klawock Chieftains, Metlakatla Chiefs, Petersburg Vikings and Skagway Panthers represent DIII. In the DIII races the top 15 individuals and top three scoring teams qualify for state.

The Haines girls and Wrangell boys are looking to repeat their region titles.

“Our men’s and women’s teams look a bit different this year because we graduated several seniors who made up our scoring team,” Haines coach Katie Russell said. “But this is a great opportunity for the runners who didn’t get to travel or score previously to shine. I’m excited to watch them grow in experience and confidence during regions this weekend.”

Haines junior Ari’el Godinez Long won the DIII girls region title last season and placed second at state and junior Andrew Hansen was 10th in regions and fifth at state for the boys. The Haines girls are defending state champions and the boys are state runner-ups.

Wrangell junior Daniel Harrison is looking to defend his region (and state) title for the boys if senior teammate Keegan Hansen or sophomores Boomchain Loucks and Jackson Powers do not claim it. The Wolves boys were also state champs behind D. Harrison’s top finish and Loucks in seventh. The Wolves girls feature freshmen Alana Harrison and Kalee Herman who could both place in the top five and classmate Bella Ritchie.

“We are excited to build on the success from last year’s championship season,” Wrangell coach Mason Villarma said. “On the men’s side we are young but collectively faster than last year’s team. They are an exceptionally driven group of student-athletes who I fully expect will earn another region and state title. On the women’s side we do not have a full team this season, however our three ladies are determined to PR and earn their individual spots at state. All three — led by Alana — should punch their ticket this weekend. For now we are just staying focused on regions. We want to show Wrangell isn’t just a solid 2A school, but among the top competitive programs in the state.”

Kake is also in the hunt, bringing both a full boys and girls team to the competition.

“It is especially exciting given that three teams in the division can earn state berths,” Kake coach Anthony Ross said. “So we have a real shot at sending both of our teams to represent our community and region at the state meet on Oct. 7 in Palmer.”

The Thunderbirds also have individuals who have made strong showings this season. Senior Dominic Ross and Freshman Xzavier Munoz-Torres should place in the top 15 for the boys and senior Jillian Jackson, sophomore Lydia Chang, and freshman Maria Chang have shown the potential to be top 15 in the girls race.

“I am very blessed that my team has great leadership and they come to work every day, both in the classroom and on the practice field,” Ross said. “They have motivated each other throughout the season. As a coach they just make my job so much easier. We have had to limit our travel to one trip per sport because it’s so expensive for us to get in and out of Kake. AMHS, specifically Kerri Traudt, has been working with us to reduce the cost. Our boys and girls have stayed positive by keeping the main thing the main thing. We started the season with a goal of going to state as both a boys and girls team, and no matter the distractions, and/or lack of travel, we have kept that goal in mind all year long.”

Petersburg, always among the team points leaders, features freshman Maria Toth, senior Kinley Lister and sophomore Gabriele Whitacre as region hopefuls for a girls title and sophomore Alex Holmgrain, junior Elias Ward and freshmen Ben Kandoll and Calder Ratliff for the boys team title hopes. Craig freshman Aulis Nelson is also vying for a top-five boys placing.

Awards for the division races and a potluck will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the JDHS commons.

JDHS and TMHS coaches also wished to acknowledge their senior runners who include Crimson Bears Eller, Tuckwood, White, Newell, Vera Alverado, Peimann, Zigmund, Leif St. Clair, Michael Orsborn, Liam Escue, and Harry Coutu; and Falcons Knapp, Scussel, Owen, Ethan Reichl, Shaylin Montgomery, Cedar Croteau, Sophia Nylen and Elijah Harvey.

“We as a coaching staff could not be prouder of this group,” TM’s Stearns said. “Literally everyone of these athletes has pushed themself so far beyond their comfort zones to reach a place they didn’t think was possible at the beginning of the season. They’ve inspired themselves, their teammates and us coaches. This weekend is going to be so fun to watch. The fact that we get to run on our own course Saturday is awesome. Our teams are showing up gunning to do something special. Ketchikan has awesome young talent on their team, great new coaches and are going to push us. Sitka’s team is always strong, very well coached and they always bring out the best in us. JD is a machine, what Tristan, Abby (Jahn) and the rest of those coaches do to continually make that team so strong is inspiring and the fact we get to always run with them makes us a better team.”

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