The Juneau-Douglas High School cross country teams will enter its home meet this Saturday leg-weary and ready to battle.
The squads, led by coaches Guy Thibodeau and Merry Ellefson, have continued to train hard through this weekend's meet, a tactic that paid off in the times and grouping of its runners in Anchorage last weekend.
"I think it's good timing for us to stay home for a week before the regional meet. We can rest up a little bit better and run a course here that's pretty similar to the state course," Thibodeau said. "It's got some rolling hills and a few fairly long flat sections. It should be a good, tough meet."
The girls' race will kick off on Saturday at 1 p.m., starting from Sandy Beach on Douglas Island. From there, runners will run across the soccer fields and into a loop of the Treadwell trail system that they will complete three times before heading back to Sandy Beach. The boys' race is expected to begin at roughly 1:45 p.m.
"It's a great course for spectators to come out and see the action," Thibodeau said. "You can see them come by six or seven times and make an easy walk back to the soccer fields to catch the finish."
The meet also will be the final home race for six JDHS runners.
Senior captain Daniel Stoops has been one of the team's top runners throughout the season, and Thibodeau expects to see him near the front of the pack this Saturday.
Nolin Ainsworth moved into the team's top five last weekend in Anchorage, and Thibodeau thinks the senior is peaking in time to do more than just qualify for the top seven traveling spots.
Nick Waldo missed last week's meet due to illness, and is expected to compete with fellow seniors Erik Schlechter and Jarred Alcock to fill out the last few slots of the traveling team.
Elisha Thibodeau, Guy's niece, is the lone senior on the girls' squad and has been holding down the five spot for her squad with consistency and steady improvement.
"When you're counting on senior runners, the tendency is that you get a good result from those guys," Guy said. "They really are the backbone of the team this year, and they provide great leadership."
Junior Leah Francis is expected to take the title yet again on her home course after a convincing victory last weekend.
The seniors will be acknowledged, along with their parents, at the awards ceremony at Sandy Beach following the boys' race.
"I'm excited to see what we can do on our home course," Thibodeau said. "A lot of these kids have previous times here so we can really see where we've been making improvements with all of this hard training."
While most runners will be relaxing their training after this week, Francis will continue her full-bore workouts for, perhaps, another month or two as she prepares for larger regional meets that will include runners from around the Western United States.
"She'll still have quite a load on her," Thibodeau said.
"Hopefully she can peak at the best time for her, whenever that turns out to be."
Francis is the two-time reigning state champion and hopes to hold her title as the state's best female distance runner.
"The soccer fields give us a great starting and finishing point, so anybody that wants to come out can see the action up close and personal," Thibodeau said.
" Hopefully we can get a good crowd out to support the seniors and the rest of the kids this year."
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