The sun just keeps shining on the Juneau-Douglas High School cross country team.
Seven days after a sun-drenched win in Ketchikan to open the season, the Crimson Bears had the Coppertone out in Sitka. But more than tan lines were improved on Saturday, as both the men and women remained unbeaten in the young season.
You needed to look no farther than the official clock to notice the most significant improvement of the day. In addition to several personal-best times being recorded, the women also finished on pace with their team time on the same course during the Region V meet in 1995.
What makes this so noteworthy is that the women went on to win a state championship that year. And the fact that the Bears were able to match that time so early in the current season has coaches Guy Thibodeau and Nancy Thomas dreaming those championship dreams again.
As she did last week, Maria Eley took the tape in the women's race. The senior, who is showing no signs of a summer without training, finished the flat and fast 5-kilometer Totem Park course in 19 minutes, 5 seconds - a full minute quicker than her clocking in Ketchikan.
Also once again, Juneau was dominating, sweeping the top five places for another perfect score of 15. Within 15 seconds of Eley's top finish, three more Crimson Bears were in the finish chute. Breea DeSloover was second overall at 19:16, followed in rapid succession by Christy Race (19:17) and Jeanette Gardiner (19:20). Abby Blair rounded out the scoring, placing fifth in 19:52.
Two Petersburg runners broke the Juneau stranglehold on the top seven, coming in behind sixth-place finisher Marta Race (20:27). And freshman Michael Kohan, running in her first varsity meet, placed ninth overall with her time of 21:04.
Three unattached Juneau runners also registered personal bests on Saturday, Hannah Slotnick, who took two minutes off her time from last weekend, Nobu Koch and Erika Carls.
The victorious men also matched their nearly perfect point total from Ketchikan, grabbing five of the top six spots for a score of 17. Pacing the Bears this time out was Jeffrey Early, last week's third-place finisher, who surprised the field with his top clocking of 16:11.
``Jeffrey had a wonderful run,'' said a happy Coach Thomas. ``He had the best run of his life.''
Tight-pack running was the order of the day again for the men, who saw just 37 seconds elapse between their first and fifth finishers. Joe Kegler was second for the Bears, seven seconds back of Early, while Shawn Miller, the team's normal front-runner, finished third in 16:26.
Only Sitka's Mitch Mork, who came in alongside Juneau's Luke Dihle and Dewey Peacock, was able to avert a perfect men's outing. When the dust settled from the virtual photo finish, Mork was awarded fourth place with a time of 16:44. Dihle, running in his first varsity meet of the season, placed fifth in the same 16:45 finish assigned to Peacock, who placed sixth.
Dan Fagnant, the Bears' sixth runner, came in seventh three seconds later, while Steve Beedle topped Ketchikan with an eighth-place finish in 17:10. He was followed by Cory Denton of JDHS.
Juneau's unattached runners did well in the men's race, with Jeremy Gray placing 10th in a personal best time of 17:38. Meanwhile, Vince Rinehart and Todd Denton pushed each other to a dead heat finish in 17:49, while a trio of freshmen, Kevin Almlie (18:07), Chris Miller (18:08) and Justin Dorn (18:25), staged their own little battle. Clint Sullivan (19:00) and Mark Griffith (19:05) rounded out Juneau finishers.
Next up for the JDHS varsity is the state's largest cross country meet, the Palmer Invitational, on Saturday. The rest of the Bears will be in Skagway.
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