The Juneau-Douglas High School cross country teams travel to Ketchikan this weekend to run against a large contingency of Southeast schools.
Virtually every school from region will participate in the Ketchikan Invitational, which should be a good preview to the Region V championships in Sitka on Sept. 22. The boys will start first at noon on Saturday, and the girls race will follow at 1:00 p.m.
In addition to Ketchikan, the Crimson Bears are expected to compete against Craig, Kake, Klawock, Metlakatla, Mount Edgecumbe, Petersburg, Sitka, Skagway, Wrangell and Yakutat.
But the meet has different implications for each Juneau team. The Crimson Bear boys should have an easy time against their competition, which is virtually the same field as the Juneau Invitational two weeks ago -- minus the team from Idaho.
On the other hand, the Crimson Bear girls should have their work cut out for them as the strong Ketchikan girls team will try to make a run at the region title. Last season, Juneau edged Ketchikan by a mere point in the Region V meet, winning 27-28.
At the Juneau Invitational on Aug. 25, Juneau again got by the Kings 30-42, as all five scoring Crimson Bears finished in the top ten.
On Saturday, Juneau can expect the Kings to be ready on their home turf to dethrone the Crimson Bears' reign. However, the Juneau girls do not seem to be too worried about the Kings.
"Ketchikan is our top competition," senior Heidi Denton said before a workout this week. "Their top three runners are tough, but we can beat them. Our No. 4 and No. 5 runners have been closing. Brittany (Rohm) was there for us in the last meet. If she wouldn't have beat the girls behind her, we would have lost."
Denton was the Crimson Bear girls' top runner last week in a sweep of the Homer and Seward Invitationals in back-to-back days last weekend. In both meets, Juneau was dominant, scoring almost half as many points as the second place teams.
The Juneau girls' strength this season has been their ability to stay together, run as a team and just have fun.
"Our team has been working on running together," Denton said. "I really think we can do it. It's been a lot of fun and Merry (Ellefson) has helped us so much."
The Crimson Bear boys also had a good showing last week, winning the Homer Invitational, but placing third the next day in Seward, behind defending state champion Soldotna and runner-up Palmer.
Jesse Stringer, well on his way to a third-straight Region V individual title, easily won the Homer Invitational. But running competitively on consecutive days took a bit out of him on Saturday as he placed fifth at Seward.
"I was happy with fifth place," Stringer said. "I ran the day before and they (Soldotna and Palmer) didn't. We were expecting them at Homer."
Soldotna standout Kyle McBride, one of the preseason favorites to win the state title, won the Seward meet and finished 26 seconds ahead of Stringer.
"I could see them. It wasn't like they worked me," Stringer said. "They took off fast. I was in something like 25th place and worked my way up. They race a lot different up north. They race a lot at the beginning, which is pointless. Besides, they didn't run the day before. It's got to take at least 20 seconds off everybody's time for running the day before."
"Soldotna didn't have to race the day before, that's why they beat us," senior runner Brian Nowlin said.
The Southeast competition in Ketchikan will by no means be as strong as last week, but the Crimson Bear boys still have a goal in mind.
"We talked about a perfect score (at Ketchikan)." said freshman Bryce Iverson, who has been the Bears' No. 2 runner the past three races. "I think we can do it."
"I think we're going to be running in more of a pack," Nowlin said. "Everyone will have each other to run with. It makes it easier when you can hear your teammates talk to each other."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.