For the first time in many years the Region V High School cross country running championships will have an athlete from nearly every school in Southeast Alaska.
Nineteen schools will be represented at Sandy Beach on Saturday as over 175 runners will compete along the Treadwell Mines Trails for a trip to next weekend’s state championships.
“We’re excited to be on our home course and the Region race looks to be tight,” Juneau-Douglas High School coach Merry Ellefson said.
Added co-coach Tristan Knutson Lombardo, “Which means that our boy’s team needs to build on their consistency.”
Said Thunder Mountain High School coach Scott May, “You never know what’s going to happen. That’s what makes this event so exciting.”
The JDHS region boys runners are Tal Norvell (Senior), Riley Moser (Sophomore), Martin Woodby (Sr), Corbin Mitchell (Freshman), Johnny Elliott (So), Brian Holst (Fr), and Ryan Moritz (Fr). The Crimson Bears girl’s are Lily Pothier (Sr), Eliza Walker (Junior), Kat Barrows (Fr), Alicia Norton (So), Sinead Scholl (So), Leah Liebelt (So), Maddy Handley (Fr).
The TMHS region boys are Khalil English (Jr), James Steeves (Sr), Ben Travers (Sr), Nicolas Wright (Jr), Nick Bursell (Sr), Michael Lohrey (So), and Luke Padden (Fr).
The Falcons girl’s are Maddie Hall (So), Naomi Welling (Fr), Marella Gungob (Sr), Katie Jones (Sr), Emilyanne Lohrey (Sr), Estie Dawson (Jr), and Ashlynn Kay (Sr).
The JDHS boys varsity have won all the SE meets this season, but the 4A division has been competitive.
The Crimson Bears’ boys are a relatively young team with three freshmen in their top seven and two sophomores. Racing provides them the opportunity to continue to explore new strategies and improve.
Seniors Norvell and Woodby have both raised the bar for their young team mates.
“It has been a great honor to run on the JDHS team,” senior Tal Norvell said. Norvell moved to Juneau from Gustavus in eighth grade. “To become a part of this community has been exciting, and to run the home course on my senior year is pretty special. This is a very important meet and we are looking forward to it.”
Moser too has pushed the team, racing at the front of the pack and challenging other runners across SE to personal records.
“The competition at regions is very strong this year,” TMHS’ May said. “Our boys have been dominated by a very strong JDHS team, however, there is a chance that our boys could qualify a record number of four athletes to the state championship meet this year.”
The Falcons’ English, Steeves and Wright hope to repeat last season’s state appearance, and add one more to their crew. Ben Travers, Nick Bursell, Luke Padden and Michael Lohrey all have shots at joining them this year. The team will look to improve from the 49 points they scored last year.
“We will be happy with anything under 40 this weekend,” May said.
Falcons assistant coach Sandy Pahlke stated that, “I love that the two schools are working together. Of course there are competitions, but they live in the same town, they are all friends.”
That friendship has brewed some nice race intrigue.
The Falcons’ English will try to keep in contact with JDHS’ Moser and Norvell who have been leading the Region all season. Expect English to bounce to the top after his race last week. KTN runner Christopher Llanos is also racing near the top, and JDHS’ Elliot bested him for the first time at the KTN invite. TMHS’ Steeves will look to give Ketchikan’s Llanos and JDHS’ Martin Woodby a run for their money and TMHS’ Travers will follow close to Steeves, and ahead of Ketchikan’s number two Jacob Guenther.
“I am pushing for a personal record,” the Falcons’ Steeves said. “But the team goal is first. We all want to get that title. We are all excited and we look strong.”
Falcon’s Bursell and Wright also will look to have break out races and surprise some folks.
“The social aspect of this running community is special,” JDHS’ Martin Woodby said. “The family atmosphere we create helps out a lot. That is definitely what we work for.”
Stated TMHS’ Bursell, “I just want to make it to the state meet, help our team make the state meet, get a personal record. It is going to be difficult on this course.”
On the 2A/3Aboy’s side, Craig’s Willie Brand popped a great race in Ketchikan last weekend and will be challenged by Klawock’s Sam Rew and Sitka’s Darin Davis.
On the 4A girls side, the race is going to be tight. The Crimson Bears are led by senior Lily Pothier and junior Eliza Walker, who have worked hard to develop a competitive connection with their young teammates. With two freshmen and three sophomores on the trails the season has been a steady improvement as the runners improve from meet to meet.
“It is an opportunity I really value,” JDHS’ Lily Pothier said of competing. “The season has a renewed sense of importance. I have definitely put everything into training that I possibly could have. The race is full of great runners and I know they will be having great races.”
The Falcons’ Maddie Hall has been leading the pack this year with freshman teammate Naomi Welling right behind her.
“This is more of a team based meet for me,” Hall said. “JDHS girls have been undefeated for a really long time and this is Thunder Mountain’s first real chance of changing that. I am really excited because we can do it, and we will see what happens this region meet.”
Added Welling, “High school is a different beast. It has been good for me and I just hope I can do my best this race. I don’t know what to expect but I hope to just be up there with Maddie. She is up where I would like to be so she pushes me to go faster.”
The expectations are that Hall and Welling will push the pace and get a serious challenge from the Crimson Bear’ Lily Pothier as the two teams vie for the Region V title.
The season has been a boon to both TMHS and JDHS as they are pushing one another to get better. The 4A girls three teams (JD, TM, and Ketchikan) have met three times this year. In Sitka, Ketchikan won, JDHS was second and TMHS third. In Petersburg, JDHS won, TMHS was second and Ketchikan was third. This past weekend in Ketchikan, JDHS won, Ketchikan was second and TMHS third.
All races have been close, especially between second and third. Anything is possible this weekend.
“This race means everything to me,” TMHS senior Katie Jones said. “I don’t want this to be my last race of the season. I want to run my absolute hardest and help our team win the region title. We are all really good friends and help push each other.”
The Falcons’ girls will all need to have their absolute best races in order to pull off a Region V title.
The keys to success for any runner is nutrition, sleep, and believing in themselves. If these all come together, the Falcons could pull it off, although it’s a long shot with how strong the Crimson Bears and Kings have been this year.
The Falcons’ have never placed above third at the girls Region Meet. This year is a definite true possibility, and if it does not happen three Falcons could qualify for the state meet. Jones is the lone Falcons’ girl to run at state, but Hall, Welling and Gungob have been running like state qualifiers all season.
Watch for JDHS’ Kat Barrows to close the gap on Walker, Hall, Welling and Pothier.
“I am really excited,” JDHS freshman Katline Barrows said. Barrows moved to Juneau from Virginia this year. “I just want to do my best and I have been training so hard this season. This team and community has been so welcoming to me, they have all pushed me to be my best.”
Said JDHS junior Walker, “All season we have been trying to close the gaps. I am trying to catch Lilly, Kat is trying to catch me, people behind Kat are trying to catch her. Our pack mentality is what we are working for.”
Said the Falcons’ Ashlynn Kay, “This race means a lot. We have been working hard and our goal is to get to state.”
Thorne Bay’s Taylee Nyquist has led the girl’s races all year and should be a heavy favorite for the 3A Region title. Nyquist is considered one of the state’s top 2A/3A runners. Grace Weller from Petersburg finished in the top three last weekend in Ketchikan and Zayla Asquith-Heinz from Haines has been running consistently in the top five.
“My last race was a bad one,” Thunder Mountain’s English said. English is in the running for a region title and has been on challenging trails with JD’s Norvell and Moser all season. “I lost some self confidence. I hope to build that back up this race. I want to be able to stay with my friends and rivals and challenge them all the way to state.”