The buzz started softly, as Juneau-Douglas High School junior Tristan Knutson-Lombardo started picking off runners to move from 15th, to 10th, to fifth place on successive laps at Saturday's state boys Class 4A cross-country running championship race in Palmer.
It grew as Crimson Bear sophomore Tyler Dinnan hung close to the leaders to finish 14th.
And when Juneau's Wesley Dinnan, Ray Huebschen, Isaac Milligan and Tim Davin crossed the finish line in order - 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd - the noise created by the Crimson Bears reached its crescendo. Juneau had reached its loftiest goal. The Crimson Bear boys had won their first-ever state cross-country team title.
Juneau coaches Merry Ellefson and Guy Thibodeau saw the outcome developing as they checked the progress of their runners during the race.
"Guy and I, we ran all over the course, and everyone all around was like, 'Juneau, look at Juneau - they're all together!'" Ellefson said.
"It looked great right at the start ... and after two laps you realized our group wasn't going to give it up - they were just too deep today," Thibodeau said.
The Juneau boys won the title with a total of 67 points - 11 points ahead of second-place Chugiak - as many of the Crimson Bears set personal records Saturday. Dimond was third with 86 points.
Chugiak's Jesse Cherry won the boys 4A individual title with a time of 15 minutes, 48.45 seconds.
Knutson-Lombardo led the way for the Juneau boys with his fifth-place finish - a PR of 16:28.75 on the 5-kilometer course (3.1 miles) on the Michael Janecek Trails at Palmer High School. Tyler Dinnan's 14th-place finish came in 17:06.54.
Next for Juneau was the quartet of sophomore Wesley Dinnan (17:12.84); Huebschen, a freshman (17:14.45); and seniors Milligan (17:18.00) and Davin (17:19.76). Juneau freshman Nils Domke finished 65th (18:16.64).
Knutson-Lombardo was in the finish chute, being checked in by race officials, when he looked back and saw the Crimson Bear quartet reach the finish line.
"I saw the big pack of Juneau (runners) and I was thrilled," he said. "I knew we had done well, really well."
Davin said the group did not start out together. But as other teams' runners dropped back, the Juneau runners grouped together and got a sense that things were going well.
"It was on the second lap that the Dimond pack fell back, and I was thinking, 'I haven't seen a lot of Chugiak guys,'" Davin said. "We were pretty confident."
At the Palmer Invitational earlier this month - held on the same course as state - the Crimson Bears made waves by winning the team title. At that meet, Wesley Dinnan, Huebschen, Milligan and Davin finished 24th, 25th, 27th and 28th, respectively. When that same pack emerged again Saturday, Davin was optimistic.
"When we saw that the four of us were in a row (at the finish), collapsing on each other, we were thinking this is how it worked out at (the) Palmer (Invitational), so we were hoping it would work out again," he said.
"The kids handled the pressure beautifully and just came through," Thibodeau said. "It was a relief, after winning the Palmer Invite, to come back up here and win more convincingly this time."
The Crimson Bears will lose just two runners - Davin and Milligan - to graduation next spring, and Davin said he expects the returning runners to come back strong next fall.
"It's great way to go out after all these years of hard work - and the great thing is that next year they're going to have a solid group, and they could do just as well," he said.
The Crimson Bear boys and girls cross-country teams are scheduled to arrive back in Juneau at about 9:30 p.m. today on Alaska Airlines Flight 70.
In the Class 1A-2A-3A boys race, Valdez won its third straight boys team title, edging Seward 57-59. David Tamura of Valdez won the boys race in 16:43.
The top Southeast finishers were Mount Edgecumbe's Kyle James (15th place, 17:48.77) and Skagway's Kyle Mulvihill (18th, 18:13.83).
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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