On October 29, 2003, Juneau-Douglas High School boy’s cross-country coach Guy Thibodeau and girls cross-country coach Merry Ellefson received a letter from former Poet Laureate of Alaska Richard Dauenhauer.
The letter congratulated the team on a great season and spoke of how watching them brought back many memories for him.
Duenhauer’s father had been a national high school cross-country champion in the 1930s and Dauenhauer himself had run cross-country and track in high school and “I never set the world on fire, but I had fun trying,” he wrote.
Dauenhauer mentioned running 10Ks and in the Governor’s Cup until back and leg problems sidelined him into outdoor activities such as hiking and walking.
Dauenhauer enclosed a poem inspired by the meet he had watched on a September day in 2003.
Dauenhauer, who passed on Aug. 19, made recording, transcribing and advocating for the Tlingit language his life’s work. His language expertise continued in Russian, Slavic and German as well.
Following is the poem sent to Thibodeau and Ellefson:
Iambics for the Southeast Alaska Regional Cross-Country Meet
The smell of analgesics wafting
on icy air, the easy springing strides
of high school runners – boys and girls – as if
autumnal earth becomes a trampoline,
returns each step with “earth power coming”
up in rain with hints of falling snow
and memories from fifty years ago.