The Juneau-Douglas cross-country team picked up right where it left off last season against Southeast Conference opponents as both the girls' and boys' teams claimed first place in Saturday's Ketchikan Invitational.
The Crimson Bears boys' team took the win with 18 points, followed by Sitka with 52. The Thunder Mountain Falcons charged into the top three with 107 points, while Mt. Edgecumbe's 112 and Ketchikan's 139 rounded out the top five. In cross-country, lower team scores are better scores.
Zach Bursell led the charge for the boys' team with a time of 16:47 in the 5,000-meter run, and he was followed closely by Sage Thibodeau and David Francis who were three seconds and 15 seconds off his pace, respectively. Jesse Miller and Ian Andrews made up the rest of Juneau-Douglas' top five finishers.
The Juneau-Douglas girls did just about as well as their male counterparts, cleaning up first place with an overall score of 22 points, followed by Sitka's 44 and Ketchikan's 90 points. Wrangell finished fourth overall with a final score of 116, and the Falcons - who have a full girls' team for the first time ever - rounded out the top five with 154 points.
Sid Browning and Lillian Burger-Pothier finished in the top two with times of 21:35 and 21:52, respectively. Martina Miller, Sarah Donohoe and Clancy Cheeley finished out the Bears' top five runners.
"We were trying to be a little conservative in our approach. It's a long season and we're pointing toward the end of the year," said JDHS coach Guy Thibodeau. "Everybody's really excited early and the tendency is to go out hard, and our kids were not at the front of the pack going out."
Guy Thibodeau also said some of his top runners - namely Bursell and Francis - started conservatively before turning it on for a strong finish.
"Overall, everybody came out healthy and we had some nice PRs for a lot of kids, too," he said. "The times now aren't where they were late last year, but it's early in the season. This weekend (in Petersburg) will tell where they're at...and we'll keep progressing."
As for the Falcons boys' team, the improvement from the program's first year to its second is already evident.
Thunder Mountain coach Scott May said he's pleased with his group's effort in the season-opening meet, especially on the boys' side where the top five finishers scored within eight points of one another.
James Steeves led the way for the Falcons with a time of 19:12, followed closely by Andrew Gianotti's 19:13.00.
"That's a great, tight group, which is what we're trying to achieve," he said. "We had a number of people that ran for the first time, and in cross-country when you run your first race there's a lot of things you'll do differently the next time as far as pacing and figuring everything out."
FIrst-year runner Katie Jones blazed the trail for her Falcon teammates with a time of 23:41, which was good enough for a top-20 finish. Close behind were Ashlynn Kay and Amanda Gile, followed by Rhyan Holmes and Nicole Nicholson whose combined times were good enough for fifth place overall.
"I think everyone learned a lot, and it's encouraging to see the amount of improvement that we showed on this course from last year," May said.
May also said his boys set six personal records on a Ketchikan course they ran last season, but this year's race came earlier than last.
"That's noteworthy because last year we ran this course later in the season whereas now we're just starting out on it," he said. "You wouldn't necessarily expect those PRs to come earlier in the season."
Both schools will be running next weekend in Petersburg.