The Crimson Bears cross-country team has been building momentum since Day 1 of the season. And with the state meet approaching in Bartlett on Saturday, Juneau-Douglas hopes it has saved its best for last.
Hopes are high for both sides, but assistant coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo said expectations for the boys' team are slightly higher after a season full of dominant performances.
"Our guys definitely have a shot at the state title, and being up there with the top team. We really want those guys to get out there and be competitive with the other teams out there," he said. "So we need to work on identifying the teams we'll be competitive with - Service and Kodiak - and running hard against those guys."
Juneau-Douglas runner David Francis said the team is beginning to feel better as a whole heading into the biggest meet of the season.
"Everyone's running really well. Sage (Thibodeau) had a little injury he's getting over, Zack (Bursell) was feeling a little sluggish but had a good race last week, and everyone else is doing well," he said. "I think we should do well this weekend."
But Francis knows the level of competition will be the most difficult it's been all year, and he and his teammates are prepared, he said.
"We want to better our time and still run as a pack. We try and pace off each other, then the last kilometer or so, we do our own thing and try to bring it in," he said. "It gives us people to draft off of... ."
As he mentioned already, Knutson-Lombardo said the focus of the boys will be on the green-and-gold-clad Service Cougars.
"Service is the team to beat up there. They are pretty solid. So we're going to be looking for those green jerseys up there, challenging and chasing them," he said. "Hopefully we can beat those green jerseys."
As for the girls, Knutson-Lombardo said the road to a state title looks a bit more difficult. But with the improvements the team has made throughout the season, he said he expects great results.
"(The girls have) made some huge strides as far as PRs last weekend, so it'd be great to see them carry those performances over to this weekend and continue to improve," he said. "The plan for this week is to relax because all the hard work has been done. They just really need to believe they can do as well as they want, because they can.
"We have a bunch of talented boys and girls, but believing in the work they've done is the key for them."
Sid Browning, last week's Region V 4A girls' winner, said she expects a fifth- or sixth-place finish, but with hard work she believes the team has a chance to exceed those expectations.
"We're trying to practice hard and get ready mentally. We want to do the best we can and maybe get some PRs on this course," she said. "All of us have to look at our splits and push really hard throughout the race, work harder than we have all season and just want it badly."
The state meet is Saturday at Bartlett Trails behind Bartlett High School. The 4A girls will run at 12:45 p.m. with the boys following at 2:15 p.m.