The Juneau-Douglas boys' and girls' teams topped the field in Saturday's Juneau Cross Country Invite, while Thunder Mountain finished fourth and seventh, respectively, along the newly designed course at Sandy Beach.
The Crimson Bears' Sage Thibodeau set his second course record of the year (16:49), finishing a 100-yard sprint ahead of teammate David Francis (17:02.17) and Mt. Edgecumbe's Teddy Payenna (17:02.54), and then pointing his finger at the fans for their support.
"It was a fun thing," Thibodeau said. "I was feeling so good I figured I would kick it in way back there... and then I gave a little celebration for the fans. I had a ton of family come out to see me. I like how Coach left a gigantic log out in the middle of the course, just to give it a little piece of Juneau."
The Falcons' top finisher on the boys' side was Avery Stewart, who finished 16th (18:39).
"I felt like I worked the hills pretty good," Stewart said. "The heat today really made a difference, though. It affected everybody."
Skagway's Kaitlyn Surdyk posted a time of 20:37 to win the girls' race, and Craig's Amber Nickerson was second (21:22).
Martina Miller set a personal record (21:23) as the top Crimson Bears girl, finishing third.
"It was pretty hard. The hills are really killer," Miller said of the course. "The log was fun to jump over and actually something to think about other than the pain. I'm looking forward to regions. Hopefully I'll get up with our two fastest runners and set another PR."
The Bears' top two girls' runners, Sid Browning and Lily Burger-Pothier, missed the meet due to illness.
Miller, Amalia Tomone (21:59), and Sarah Donohoe (22:01) rounded out the Top 5.
"It definitely was a hard course," said Falcons top finisher Katie Jones, who finished 14th (23:00). "It really proved to be a challenge."
Falcons coach Scott May said he had numerous runners close to personal records and he likes their chances at regions.
"I think Katie can go to state," he said. "And we had two freshmen boys move up, Khalil English (23rd 19:17) and Nicolas Wright (29th 19:29), which was unexpected. And Nick Bursell had a PR. We will work on strategy for regions. Running on the flats is different than the hills. We'll taper some and go into it real fresh."
Assistant Bears coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo stated the challenges of the new Juneau course.
"It was a hillier course than most of the kids have been running... and it was also warm out," he said. "We are not used to this warm weather in September and that being thrown into the mix, a lot of these kids in Southeast weren't ready, but everyone ran tough."
The Bears' Aubrey Brisco reaggrivated an old foot injury in the opening mile and a half and had to be helped off the course.
"I just landed on the outside of my foot wrong," Brisco said. "The same thing I did earlier this summer... it takes about two months to heal. It is something with the tendon and ligament."
Bear's coach Guy Thibodeau said the girls' team, and specifically Miller, stepped up in the abscense of its top runners.
"Martina really went out and tried to stay with the leader, and that was good to see," he said. "Amalia had another good effort.
"I really feel for Aubrey, though," he continued. "It's an old injury and she was trying to qualify for regionals so that is unfortunate ... Sage started out easy and worked his way up. That is kind of how he likes to run. Our fifth runner did the opposite and pushed it at the beginning... . We need to balance that and reduce the gap."
Sitka's flat course in Totem Park for next weekend's regional meet is conducive for personal records and has the Juneau teams anxious to lace up. Faster times mean the harriers feel better heading into the state venue, a possibility for all four Juneau teams.
"We just have to concentrate on form," Miller said. "And focus on smooth, relaxed running and we will do fine."
"It's the perfect course to set a PR," Sage Thibodeau added. "Anything below 16:10 would be beautiful."
Contact Klas Stolpe at email@example.com.