ANCHORAGE — In the two weeks leading up to the 2013 Alaska School Activities Association cross country championships, Thunder Mountain High School junior Maddie Hall battled a cold, was bitten by a dog and badly sprained her left ankle.
“No excuses,” Hall said as she stood near the finish line of Saturday’s state championship 4A girls race in Anchorage after running a 19-minute, five second 5K for third place. “I do not like to make excuses for myself.”
With a heavily taped ankle Hall went out at the opening gun and stayed on the heels of defending 4A champion Allie Ostrander from Kenai and Wasilla’s Alex Mathis.
“Third is awesome,” Hall said. “I went out way too fast. The hardest part became not dropping back too much.”
Ostrander won with a personal best time of 17:49.5 and Mathis finished second in 18:57.8.
“Allie would have won no matter how fast we went out,” Hall said. “I tried to keep her in sight and pushed up the hills, and then opened up my legs on the downhills trying to get gravity’s help as much as I could.”
The TMHS girls finished 10th in the team standings while the JDHS boys finished seventh. The West Valley boys and the West Anchorage girls won the 4A team titles.
The Grace Christian Lions swept both the boys and girls 1/2/3A titles and made history. The Lions boys won their eighth consecutive championship, breaking a tie with Dimond High School (1973-79), and the girls notched their sixth in a row.
Petersburg surprised the small school field with a third-place team finish, putting Grace Weller at 17th, Diane Murph at 30th, Robyn Schwartz 45th, Fran Abbott 53rd, Hannah Pfundt 59th, Kayleigh Eddy 74th and Nicole Peterson 72nd. Ketchikan’s top 4A girl was Sarah Cool at 55th and the Kings’ only 4A boy, Christopher Llanos, finished 45th.
No one would come close to the individual winners on Saturday.
Ostrander seemed to ride every breeze along the trails, as her diminutive size was deceptive.
“I am five-foot-one… and A HALF,” Ostrander admonished a reporter who mistakenly labeled her as 4-foot-11.
Ostrander pulled 40 seconds ahead of the pack at the 2K mark and inched farther along each twist and turn on the paths. She continued to pull ahead on the solid uphill climb at the 4K point.
“On my walk through before the race I told myself at the top of every hill was a nice down,” Ostrander said. “Just get over the top and keep moving. I am kind of a slow and steady runner. I don’t like to go out too fast, just slow and steady.”
Ostrander said she woke up Saturday morning feeling like it was her day.
“Let’s go out and get it,” Ostrander said. “It was awesome to win. I am so happy I was able to put a solid end to the season, just icing on the cake. That last uphill was so mental. You know at the top you are going to get a downhill to the finish but your legs are so dead at that point it is so hard to push up the hill.”
Kodiak’s Levi Thomet continued his dominance of state running, blazing to a personal best of 15:10.8, his fastest race since last season.
“I was just thinking this was a good day to race hard,” Thomet said.
“Key for me today was just going for my best time. Getting a state championship was definitely up there but I really wanted a good PR.
The Kodiak team is my main goal. I wanted to win regions and we did, and we battled here. I love our team.”
Michael Lohrey topped the Falcons boys with a PR of 17:36, good for 47th. Nicolas Wright improved to 54th (17:44) and Khalil English 60th (17:50).
This was JDHS junior Riley Moser’s third attempt at the state course.
He was ill his freshman year and took a nasty spill at the start of his sophomore race. On Saturday, he fell off his normal pace and finished fourth among Crimson Bears (36th overall).
“I started out feeling good,” Moser said. “Then something just started feeling wrong. Things were not clicking getting my muscles going. This upcoming summer I am going to try more big races.”
Teammates Alize Arthur (25th), Brian Holst (29th) and Johnny Elliott (30th), Russell Healy (50) and Harrison Bibb (77th) all had improved times.
“I think they all ran right where they thought they could run and where we thought they could run,” JDHS coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo said. “These runs were really close to their best times.”
Added multi-sport participant Corey Box (48th), “As a workout this is harder. Hockey may have more action but running is hard.”
The Crimson Bears’ top girl runner was senior Eliza Walker at 49th (21:05.6).
“I relied on the training we had all year,” Walker said. “The course was really hilly and hard so our training got us through. It was really packed in the beginning so it was hard to get up there. I have been improving all season, we all have, and I am proud of our team.”
Teammate Jesse Greg got her first taste of state running.
“The words that were going through my head were ‘let’s do this’ and I tried not to be nervous,” Greg said. “It was really hard because this was my first time at state. It got really stressful when we were lining up at the start and the second lap was tough. I thought I was finishing but I still had a kilometer to go. So it was a bit of a mental ‘oh no’ moment. I just kept pushing myself and after a while that joy of finishing a 5K run, that is why I do it.”
Other Juneau finishers included TMHS’ Naomi Welling (32nd), Estie Dawson (71st), Krysten Mossburg (82nd), Dunya Hermann (83rd), Jessica Landry (85th) and Rhys Coffee (86th), and JDHS’ Katline Barrows (61st) and Molly Tamone (67th).
Grace Christian’s Daniel Serventi took the 1/2/3A boys title in 16:20.4, pushing the pace at the 2K mark and finishing 26 seconds faster than the last race on this same trail.
“I knew if I didn’t continue to push it would come down to a close finish,” Serventi said. “I just made it hurt a little bit more. I feel really blessed I was able to run the time I did on this course. I was nervous this morning but I just prayed because I knew I was not in control today, God is. When He is in the driving seat, regardless of what the outcome is, it is for His glory.”
Petersburg’s Tucker Hagerman compared the course to Southeast trails.
“This is a lot more muddy,” Hagerman said.
“Definitely more puddles and hills. It is a tough course. At least the sun came out. I should have pushed it more on the shorter hills but overall, I had one of my better races.”
Thorne Bay sophomore Taylee Nyquest, the defending 1/2/3A girls state champion, was bested by Glennallen freshman Briahna Gerlach.
“Briahna runs a lot like I do,” Nyquest said. “We both start fast and take the hills slow at the top. It was weird to be running with someone that runs exactly the same way that I do. It was good, it was a challenge. I made myself get out of my mind because I would not have run as fast as I did, but my body was definitely feeling it.”
The long finishing hill slowed the pace for both runners, who were never more than four seconds apart.
“I just wanted to be ahead of that Thorne Bay girl,” Gerlach said. “I knew she would be fast from the beginning because she won last year. I just tried to stay by her and then kick it out at the end. It feels really awesome right now. I am really happy. Now I need to train more.”
For Thunder Mountain’s Hall, who finished eighth two years ago, improvement also comes from work.
“You have to train hard,” she said. “And expect anything at these races. I am not too worried about other people’s expectations of me, because I can’t control that. I am more worried about disappointing myself at these races.” Ostrander, too, will be looking forward to another rematch.
“I have a solid group of training partners,” Ostrander said. “A lot of the boys push me in practice and cheer me on during the race, playfully chastising me and inspiring me to get better.”
Heading back to Prince of Wales Island, Nyquest was determined.
“I feel like I have room to improve, which is always good,” Nyquest said. “I want to keep running as soon as I get home and improve my minutes for next year.”
Official Team Scores:
4A boys – West Valley 66, West Anchorage 81, Kodiak 122, Kenai Central 122, South Anchorage 130, Chugiak 130, JDHS 156, Colony 164, Lathrop 178, Service 200.
4A girls – West Anchorage 56, Soldotna 90, Wasilla 111, South Anchorage 118, Lathrop 139, Eagle River 158, Dimond 165, West Valley 167, Colony 168, TMHS 215.
1/2/3A boys – Grace Christian 35, Anchorage Christian 42, Homer 95, Seward 98, Sitka 126, Kotzebue 199, Mt. Edgecumbe 210, Ben Eielson 213, Wrangell 230, Chevak 235, Su Valley 318.
1/2/3A girls – Grace Christian 25, Homer 32, Petersburg 139, Delta Junction 152, Mt. Edgecumbe 157, Craig 179, Bethel 185, Seward 187, Barrow 191, Anchorage Christian 211, Su Valley 275.