Junior Crimson Bears runner Leah Francis will begin her fight for a third state championship on Saturday as the Juneau-Douglas cross country teams visit Palmer for the 2008 State Championships on the Mike Janecek Trails.
Francis, easily the favorite to win the 4A girls' race, has been her old dominant self for Juneau-Douglas this season, racing past the majority of the state's competition in dominant fashion. A 2008 championship would put her on pace to become just the second four-time state winner ever.
"She's in rarefied air (with two state titles) already. She has a lot of confidence going in, and I think she can go ahead and get this third one out of the way," coach Guy Thibodeau said. "She's really had a great season, and she deserves another one."
The rest of the boys' and girls' teams are more of an unknown when it comes to this year's state meet. The Crimson Bears' boys team lost David Francis, a freshman sensation early in the season, but still have three runners hoping to make the state's top 10.
Senior Daniel Stoops was joined by sophomores Zach Bursell and Sage Thibodeau in the top four spots of last weekend's Region V Championships. All three hope to be back at the front of the pack this weekend.
"It's a real deep field this year, and they've been right on the outside looking in so far in the state," Thibodeau said. "They're just a few seconds off of the top 10 category, but they've looked good this week and all three have a shot (at the top 10)."
Juniors Francis and Annika Ord join freshmen Sid Browning and Karissa Jackson to round out a solid top four for JDHS' girls team. Each of the group finished in the top five spots in the Region V Championships, and hope to stick together to help Francis boost the team score.
"We still need a fifth runner to step for us and join the group," Thibodeau said. "It's really going to cost us if our fifth is a minute behind our fourth."
Sophomore Aubrey Briscoe was the team's fifth runner last weekend, but senior Elisha Thibodeau was just eight seconds behind. Either one could pick up the slack in that slot this weekend. Alice Ottoson-McKeen also has a chance to step up after impressing her coaches with a ninth-place finish last week.
The boys finished fifth in the state in 2007, narrowly missing out on fourth by a handful of points when the scores were tallied up.
"Having lost (Francis), we're really counting on our depth to come through for us," Thibodeau said. "We were third at the Lynx meet against all of these teams, but everybody else has been improving right along with us."
Sophomore Andre Bunton was Juneau's fourth runner last weekend, finishing in fifth. Seniors Nolin Ainsworth and Nick Waldo join junior Robin Woodby to round out the Crimson Bears runners.
"Everybody's healthy and ready to go give it hell," Thibodeau said. "This is their only chance to come through with a good result to end a year of pain and hard work."