Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - There is a quote spoken often during the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé cross-country team practices: “I love it when I’m having a great race and a teammate passes me.”
It is not a professional runner’s twitter phrase or a mass-produced poster depicting Olympic runners, but it is fitting that it was said by an alumni of the JDHS XC program during his time wearing the red and black singlet.
“I love Johnny Elliot’s quote,” Juneau-Douglas co-coach Merry Ellefson said of the 2015 graduate. “Because it is an understanding of what team is. It was a challenge for us last year because we really believe in the concept of team, we build our strongest, fastest team off the results of everybody pushing each other. And last year we just couldn’t do that.”
JDHS has a roster of nearly 80 youth runners. The coronavirus pandemic last year prevented this year’s sophomores from understanding the value of depth and competition, something this year’s freshman will be seeking as well.
“Last year cross-country became this weirdly individual sport,” Knutson-Lombardo said. “Where it was solely about ‘how well do I do’ because we weren’t scoring a lot of things as a team, especially at Regions and State.”
The pandemic forced the Alaska School Activities Association to limit competitions and only the top six individuals from the various regions competed in the state championship at Anchorage.
JDHS sent five runners to the state championships last season and they all return, sophomore Rayna Tuckwood was second at the Region V championships with a 19:54, sophomore Iris White third in 20:03, senior Anika Schwartz fourth in 20:05, junior Skylar Tuckwood fifth in 20:32 and senior McKenna McNutt sixth in 20:46.
At state S. Tuckwood placed 16th in 19:46, Schwartz 17th in 19:49, White 18th in 19:52, R. Tuckwood 21st in 20:08, and McNutt 24th in 20:23.
“I am excited to get to travel again and have a really rewarding season with all the incoming freshmen,” McNutt said.
Returning boys state qualifiers include junior Eli Crupi who ran 17:41 to finish third at the Region V tournament behind graduated teammates Tim Degener (16:52) and Finn Morley (17:12); senior Aubrey Hekkers who placed fourth in 17:45, junior Will Robinson who placed fifth in 17:50 and senior Samuel Holst who placed sixth in 17:52.
Degener placed fourth at state in 16:12 and Morley 14th in 16:59, the only two southeast males in the top 15.
At state Crupi placed 27th in 17:28, Hekkers 29th in 17:41, Holst 36th in 17:56, Johns 37th in 17:58, and Robinson 38th in 18:05.
Continued Knutson-Lombardo, “I think it is an opportunity for this incoming freshman class and rising sophomore class who have never experienced cross-country as a team sport to say ‘okay, it’s bigger than just you, it’s about your teammates and here’s how… here’s the outcome of that.’
Added Ellefson, “The cool part with that is we have junior and senior mentors who can express what that is. We are looking to our upper class, meaning juniors and seniors, to help our team understand what our sport is, how we work together, and how it all works out when we race.”
“We’re excited because we always love to share our love of running and trails and teenagers as cross-country coaches,” Ellefson said. “Tristan and I have been working on a few values and we have a lot of freshmen to mentor those values with.”
Tenacity, support and humility are values the coaches instill in their charges.
Helping to lead by example will be senior team captains Marina Lloyd, Hekkers, Holst, and McNutt.
“I am excited to race against other teams and teach the underclassmen how fun meets can actually be,” Lloyd said.
Junior team captains are S. Tuckwood and Kyle Dusenberry.
“I just hope everyone has fun,” Tuckwood said.
Added Dusenberry, “I am just hoping that every one can have a strong season and we do well with all the meets and everything.”
The first meet is the Sayeik (Douglas) Meet on Aug. 21 on the Treadwell Mine Historic Trail at Sandy Beach. Teams from JD, TM, Haines, Petersburg and Skagway will be competing as well as a community race.
The community and unattached runners race is at 11:30 a.m., followed by the high school varsity boys race at 12:15 p.m. and the varsity girls race at 1 p.m.
“I hope the new kids have a fun time and come back next year,” Hekkers said.
Added Holst, “I hope we can have a season as close to normal as possible.”
Senior Girls - Ella Goldstein, Trinity Jackson, Marina Lloyd, McKenna McNutt, Lindsay McTague, Natanya Reed, Annika Schwartz, Ashlie Stringer, Celia Wheeler.
Senior Boys - Tias Carney, Owen Costello, Aubrey Hekkers, Samuel Holst, Colton Johns, Jake Sleppy.
Junior Girls - Nettle Fraley-Hart, Jayme Geary, Cara Hollingsworth, Mariah Kadinger, Mikayla Neal, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Stitz, Skylar Tuckwood.
Junior Boys - Philip (Eli) Crupi, Layne Cutnose, Kyle Dusenberry, Reece Dusenberry, Robbie Gabel, Benjamin Goldstein, Finn Kesey, Caden Mesdag, Tobin Montalbo, Will Robinson, Jack Schwarting.
Sophomore Girls - Tria Bowers, Etta Ellers, Morley Maisy, Ava Newell, Genevieve Pikul, Ruby Rivas, Rayna Tuckwood, Iris White.
Sophomore Boys - Harrison (Harry) Coutu, Wilder Dillingham, Kelton Griffith, Martin Holst, Edward Hu, Malachi Piemann, Leif St. Clair, Edgar Vera Alvarado, Andrew Waldron, Oliver Zigmund.
Freshmen Girls - Talia Aparezuk-Schlosser, Addie Buss, Serena Crupi, Peyton Edmunds, Cerys Hudson, Mary Johnson, Ida Meyer, Makayla (Kayla) Peter, Sophie (Simone) Rabung, Evelyn Richards, Angelica Rodríguez, Bailey Rogusta, Anna Caroline (Acey) Wall, Cadence Ward, Elshaday (Ellie) Yerkes.
Freshmen Boys - Dashel Culbreth, Nick Iverson, Corder Janes, Finn Lamb, Reed Maier, Miles Quigley, Joshua Reed, Shem Stitz, Ryan Thibodeau, Ferguson Wheeler, Eero Woolford.
Aug. 21 - Sayeik (Douglas) Meet.
Aug. 28 - JD/TM Two-Day Dual Meet.
Sept. 4 - at Skagway.
Sept. 11 - at Anchorage (Varsity), at Wrangell (JV).
Sept. 18 - at Sitka Invite.
Sept. 25 - Capital City Invite.
Oct. 2 - at Ketchikan, Region V Championships.
Oct. 8-9 - at Anchorage, State Championships.