The capital city was well represented on Saturday at the ASAA Division I girls state cross country race.
Juneau’s Sadie Tuckwood and Kiah Dihle each cracked the top eight in the afternoon race of over 80 runners on the Bartlett High School Recreation Trails in Anchorage.
Tuckwood, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé, was the second-place finisher behind West Valley’s Kendall Kramer for the second year in a row, and Dihle, a sophomore at Thunder Mountain High School, improved her state meet time by one and a half minutes — from 20 minutes, 40 seconds, down to 19:10 — en route to finishing eighth overall.
“It was a great race and it was really fun,” Dihle said. “It’s fun to race against girls outside of Southeast.”
Tuckwood’s Crimson Bears placed third in the team standings with 79 points, 26 off from first-place winner South Anchorage (53 points). West Valley of Fairbanks was second overall with 57 points, and Service was just one back of JDHS with 80 points.
The race featured more than 10 different teams from the Interior, Southeast and Southcentral, and was the final of six 5-kilometer races on the wooded course in the northeast corner of Anchorage. The event started at 10 a.m. with the small schools boys race.
Like Dihle, Tuckwood also chopped off time on the Bartlett course, the regular venue for the state meet. She clinched the state title as a freshman with her 18:16, and on Saturday dropped that time to 18:13.
“I was just going to do my best and that’s all you can do,” Tuckwood said.
Behind her and Dihle were freshman Skylar Tuckwood (16th, 19:32), Anna Iverson (21st, 19:55), Annika Schwartz (24th, 20:07), Katie McKenna (27th, 20:15), Hannah Deer (50th, 21:01), Trinity Jackson (54th, 21:15), Ellie Knapp (55th, 21:17) and McKenna McNutt (65th, 21:46).
Kramer led by over 20 yards by the 2-kilometer mark, leaving Tuckwood and South Anchorage’s Ava Earl jostling for second place. Between the 2K and 3K mark, Tuckwood distanced herself from the Wolverines runner to take sole possession of second.
“I wanted to stay as close as I could to Kendall,” Tuckwood said. “I just tried to not slow down too much.”
That strategy was apparently adopted by Dihle, too, who kept in front of the main pack of runners.
“I wanted to stay out in front, not get too far behind,” Dihle said. “I wanted top-10 and I got it and I’m pretty happy.”
Falcons coach Sandi Pahlke wasn’t necessarily surprised by her sophomore’s big race.
“We knew Kiah was going to run really strong,” Pahlke said. “They were all rested, they were ready to go. The big thing about this (meet) is if it’s you’re first one, it’s kind of a mental one because it’s a totally different race — it’s hillier but it’s also the atmosphere.”
Fellow underclassmen Skylar Tuckwood and Schwartz also impressed, according to Crimson Bear co-coaches Merry Ellefson and Tristan Knutson-Lombardo.
Coming off a state title, the improvement of South Anchorage and West Valley proved too much this time for Juneau-Douglas, who collectively ran faster than they did a year ago.
“It’s really hard for the girls to come in as defending state champions and be running as a team faster than you were last year and also to have the rest of the state have gotten faster,” Knutson-Lombardo said. “I thought that they really stuck their necks out there and they just competed for what is a good solid finish for them based on what the rest of the state is doing.”
Team Scores — 1) South Anchorage 53; 2) West Valley 57; 3) JDHS 79; 4) Service 80; 5) Chugiak 119; 6) Eagle River; 7) Soldotna 222; 8) Lathrop 229; 9) Colony 235; 10) Kodiak 244.
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