From left to right, Thunder Mountain High School cross country runners Randy Stichert, Piper Blackgoat and Kobe Yturbe finish up their run at cross country practice on Monday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

From left to right, Thunder Mountain High School cross country runners Randy Stichert, Piper Blackgoat and Kobe Yturbe finish up their run at cross country practice on Monday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Lacing up: Local cross country teams prep to host the largest race in Southeast Alaska this weekend

Run Juneau, run!

Students at Juneau’s high schools prepare to lace up their racing spikes and sneakers as the days count down until racers from all over the region will head to Juneau to compete in the largest cross-country race in Southeast Alaska.

Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé are set to host the Capital City Invite Saturday morning at A Káx Yaa Andagan Yé (Sandy Beach). The race will be the last chance for runners to compete in the regular season before the schools head into the championship season next week.

Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, co-coach for the JDHS cross country team, said the race will be the largest cross country meet in Southeast Alaska and estimated around 16-17 teams and at least 200 runners will be traveling to Juneau to compete. The 5K race’s course will consist of three laps starting at the baseball fields at Savikko Park and looping through the Treadwell Historic Mine Trail, Knutson-Lombardo said.

Knutson-Lombardo said it’s been a great season so far for the JDHS cross country team, which consists of about 70 runners this year.

“It’s been a really great season,” he said. “We have two really strong and well-healed teams to showcase this weekend.”

He said the girls’ team lost a bit of “depth” after saying goodbye to some top-performing graduating seniors last year, but he said this year’s team has been consistently getting stronger as the season goes on and expects them to do very well on Saturday.

As for the boys team, he said they also suffered the loss of a few graduating seasons last year but are already bouncing back and filling in those gaps.

Knutson-Lombardo said this weekend’s race is important as it’s the “last shot” for racers to compete for one of the top seven varsity spots as they head into championship season in the coming weeks.

He said once Saturday’s races finish, the teams will have one week before the regional championship that is set to take place in Sitka. There, the racers will compete to determine which of Southeast Alaska’s varsity teams will compete at the state championship on Oct. 8 hosted in Anchorage.

Knutson-Lombardo said he’s feeling confident that both the girls and boys teams have a shot at heading to state this year, and said this weekend’s race will be fun for spectators to see how far the students have come since the beginning of the year.

Jon Stearns, the co-head coach of TMHS cross country team, said he’s also confident in his team’s chance at snagging state positions and encourages community members to watch the event or participate in the community race hosted before the competitions.

“It’s going to be a super fun weekend,” he said.

Stearns said the TMHS team,which consists of around 65 runners,has been having an “amazing” season so far, and he expects runners to only get better as the champion season grows near.

From left to right, Thunder Mountain High School senior cross country runners Michael Wittig, Justus Paden, Ben Erickson, Aliyah Overturf and Mackenzie Olver smile for picture after cross country practice on Monday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

From left to right, Thunder Mountain High School senior cross country runners Michael Wittig, Justus Paden, Ben Erickson, Aliyah Overturf and Mackenzie Olver smile for picture after cross country practice on Monday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

“Every weekend we have team members setting PRs (presonal records) and just last weekend we had something like 26 PRs and six season bests — so it looks like everyone’s peaking at the right time,” he said.

Stearns said this year’s team is very young compared to previous years, but said the younger athletes have already picked up the slack and filled in the gaps left by last year’s graduating seniors.

“This year, a lot of the team is made up of freshmen and sophomores, so we’re young but super excited for the next couple of years — I think we’re building something cool here,” he said.

He said it’s great to be hosting and to compete alongside JDHS and said he hopes local residents stop by to watch the flood of racers that will be competing here in the capital city this weekend.

“It’s very much an iron sharpens iron thing,” he said.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

Know and Go

What: Capital City High School Cross Country Invitational

When: Saturday, Sept.24. Community Race at 8 a.m., land acknowledgment at Yanyeidí Gooch Totem at 8:50 a.m., girls race at 9 a.m., boys at 9:45 a.m. Potluck, Top 10 recognitions and “Senior Night” celebration at 10:30 a.m.

Where: Starts at Savikko Park/ Sandy beach area, loops through the Treadwell Historic Mine Trail

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