JDHS runners struggle with hills at state

Posted: Sunday, October 03, 2010

The consensus at the 2010 State High School Cross Country Championships was the hills were tough.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"All hill broke loose," Sage Thibodeau said after finishing in fourth place with a time of 16:32. "That first hill is pretty big, but I was feeling pretty good there."

Service's Silas Talbot topped the boys' field in 16:02, helping his Cougars win the team title with 39 points over second-place West Valley. Juneau-Douglas finished in fourth place with 89 points.

Thibodeau, David Francis (17:11), Zach Bursell (17:19), Jesse Miller (17:22), Tal Norvell (17:41), Andre Bunton (18:23) and Ian Andrews (18:25) planned to be in the front of the wide start to avoid getting trapped in the back of the field at the bottleneck.

"I knew that if I just paced myself well the guys in front would die out," Thibodeau said. "You have to realize it is still early in the race and people will still be dying out. In the third K I started picking it up."

In the fourth K, runners were setting each other up for sprints through the last portion of hills and to the finish line.

"I knew Silas was up there," Thibodeau said. "I didn't close soon enough. It is something I should have done differently. I didn't pass the Service guy but I was feeling a lot better than he was."

Juneau-Douglas head coach Guy Thibodeau said the race was exciting.

"It is a tough course," Thibodeau said. "Some of the guys just didn't get the preparation in due to injuries. It is always nice to be on your home course. We have never had a home state meet, but everybody runs the same course.

"It was a great day for a race, everybody had the same challenge," he continued. "We positioned ourselves to move up during the race. We didn't go out too hard and they all finished strong. It was just a tough day out there."

Thunder Mountain coach Scott May echoed that sentiment when talking of his individual state representatives.

"It was just a really tough course," May said. "Katie (Jones) tried really hard and did all she could. Our guys (Avery Stewart, James Steeves and Hugh Watts) got a taste of state, too, now we just have to go out and work the hills. None of us had spikes so we talked about how to stay out of the slippery spot and use momentum for the down hill.

"There were a lot of firsts for us here... first big race, first hilly course, first windy run, first race without the support of teammates."

The top Crimson Bears girl finisher was Sidney Browning in 28th place with a time of 20:48.

"We visualized all the hills in our heads," Browning said. "But there was one I just didn't remember. We talked about the race starting after that really big hill in the beginning. We tried not to go too fast in the beginning and after that hill work on moving up. At the top of the hills we do ten fast strides to go up and over, then find our pace.

"Definitely a tough course, definitely have to mentally prepare for more than one tough hill next year," she continued. "We definitely know all the tricks now."

Kodiak's Jaymi Bethea edged Service's Jenette Northey at the wire with a time of 19:05 for the top spot. The JDHS girls finished 10th overall with 225 points; Wasilla edged South 71-83 for the girls' team title.

"It's a tough course," Crimson Bears assistant coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo said. "It's a constant rolling hill; there are not a lot of flat sections."

Knutson-Lombardo said the girls' team talked about a conservative start because 400 meters into the course loomed the biggest hill, and the strategy was to make up time over the top. Knutson-Lombardo said they wanted a top-five team finish, but are young enough and hungry enough to get it all next season.

"We only had two girls returning who have been at state before," Knutson-Lombardo said.

Martina Miller finished 31st in 20:53, one of the only runners to aggressively pick up positions inside the course.

"It feels really good to pass someone," Miller said. "It gives you more energy, it's like exponentially building you mentally, and you stay more in the moment. You don't worry about the course way in the front, but you concentrate on the next girl.

"The bottom line, though, is you feel the pain the whole race on this course, and you have to concentrate on other things," she continued. "I read somewhere that human beings are basically distance runners, so I like to think that I am the perfect design to be doing this."

Juneau-Douglas' Lily Burger-Pothier finished 49th (21:51), Amelia Tamone 70th (22:23), Sarah Donohoe 71st (22:24), Sarah McDermott 79th (22:42) and Clancy Cheeley 85th (23:47).

"I thought a lot about this being my last run," McDermott said. "But during the race I had to focus on the moment, getting around the next corner and up the next hill."

Added Burger-Pothier, "I visualize my races thoroughly so I can prepare a mental strategy and follow it. I just did not remember the course well enough and my strategy failed. When we hit a hill I hadn't expected around 3K, I got nervous that my strategy was wrong. We are going to remember this course. I have two more years. We'll be back."

Thunder Mountain's lone girl runner, Katie Jones (22:54), said she made quite a few mistakes, such as forgetting her morning ibuprofen for a sore calf.

"It would have helped minimize the pain," Jones said. "The hills were absolute torture but it made the course worthy to be the state course. For state you need something a little more complicated to bring out the best of every single runner that comes."

Kenny Lake junior Kailey Wilson won her third 1/2/3A state championship in 19:54, and the top Southeast girl was Skagway's Kaitlyn Surdyk (21:03); Grace Christian was the top girls' team with 34 pts, Craig was third with 107 points, Sitka fourth with 113 and Haines finished ninth overall with 214 points.

The top SE boy was Mt. Edgecumbe's Teddy Payenna (17:07); the Sitka boys finished third, Mt. Edgecumbe fourth and Wrangell seventh. Grace Christian's John Klein won the title with a time of 16:44.

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