Falcons Ready for Region V Cross-Country Championships

    Members of the Thunder Mountain Falcons Region V cross-country team. (Klas Stolpe)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons cross-country team has selected their girls and boys teams to compete at the Region V Championships in Ketchikan on Saturday, with seniors Kiah Dihle and Matthew Johns leading the respective teams.

      “We had a ton of our runners PR in last weekends race,” Thunder Mountain co-coach Kent Mearig said. “That was before they started a full taper. So we are excited for the group of kids who are going to regions to feel healthy and strong and like they are running their best race of the season at regions. And I think if they can say that for themselves at the end of the day then we will be really happy about the job that we did together as a team this season.”

      Fourteen harriers, seven boys and seven girls, have been given the honor to wear the Falcons singlet.

      Dihle is the number one runner for the Falcons girls, winning each of the races she participated in this season.

      “As an individual I am hoping to run as hard as I can and maybe stay in front of Anna Prussian from Sitka,” Dihle said. “And as a team just keep positive mentality and hope everyone has fun.”

      Senior Grace Sikes is number two in the scoring position.

      “As an individual I need to really stretch this weekend, get my body loose and also just get into the right mindset,” Sikes said. “We all have a pretty high cardio base right now but we all just need to believe in ourselves and know that we can do it because we have been training hard this season. For the team we just need to encourage each other and help each other out and cheer for each other.”

      Senior Abigail Booton is third in the team lineup, followed by junior Mackenzie Olver, junior Aliyah Overturf, sophomore Sophia Owen and senior Jayda Skeek. The first alternate for the girls is senior Ruchi Haight, second alternate is sophomore Mackenzie Lam and third alternate is senior Naomi Olver.

      “Individually I think I just need to take it easy this week so I have a lot of energy for regions,” Booton said. “And as part of the team I just have to try my best to get our points where we want them.”

      The Falcons boys are led by Johns who is coming off his best career race at the Capital City Invitational last weekend.

      “At regions I will try for the same time,” Johns said. “Ketchikan has this really large hill at the beginning that slows a lot of people down.”

      The number two scoring position had been given to freshman Kael Nord but a recent injury means he will miss the Region V Championships. Only runners participating in the region meet can earn a state bid. Senior runner Tommy Bowman was first alternate so he moves into the seven scoring members of the region team.

      “It is definitely a bummer that I got injured right before regions and state,” Nord said. “But I’m just glad I was able to do cross-country this season and I know I will have three more years to do this. I am just glad that the alternate was a senior who was really encouraging to me all season. I’m just glad he was able to go to regions because it was his last time to be able to. I’m really glad that we all support each other. It really helps your morale when running and it really gives you confidence in yourself when you race. I’m just a freshman, I have three years left. I still have time.”

      Junior runner Justus Paden is number two on the team list.

      “As an individual you have to eat healthy and make sure you are staying active,” Paden said. “As a team we have to support each other and don’t push each other down. Come together as one.”

       Freshman Sage Janes is in the third starting spot.

      “Individually I think I need to take it easy this week and stretch out a lot,” Janes said. “And as a team we have to encourage each other, bring each other up, and just do what’s best for the team.”

      Freshman Quinn Quiroga, senior Darin Tingey, sophomore Justin Scussel and Bowman round out the team. The next alternates are freshman Owen Woodruff and senior John Magalhaes.

      “We have done all the training and everything pretty much at this point,” co-coach Topaz Shryock said. “We are just doing tapering now so a lot of it is just kind of strategy and getting mentally ready. Eating a good meal ahead of time and good sleep.”

      The Region V Championships are at Ketchikan’s Ward Lake course.

      The Division I are 4A schools JDHS, TMHS and Ketchikan. The Division II are 3A schools Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe. They will race together but be scored separately in their divisions for state qualifying.

      The boys race at 9 a.m. and the girls at 9:35 a.m.

      For DI, the top 12 individuals and all members of the top scoring team qualify for state. In DII, the top 10 individuals and all members of the top scoring team qualify.

    In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, ASAA held the region xc championship as an individual sport and six were qualified for state. The Falcons’ Dihle, then a junior, won regions for the DI girls and Ketchikan’s Mickey Lapinski, then a junior, won the boys DI region title but did not go to state. Unofficially JDHS won both girls and boys teams scores.

      Dihle placed eighth at last seasons state meet.

      In 2019 Dihle qualified and also placed 8th (then juniors Hannah Deer placed 50th and Ellie Knapp 55th).

      In 2018 Dihle qualified and placed 32nd (so. Deer 44th).

      For the boys, Johns qualified for state last season and placed 37th.

      In 2019 Johns qualified and placed 43rd and Bowman 67th. (then senior Tucker Kelly 33rd).

      Unofficially, JDHS has won 41 of the past 44 girls large school region titles (TMHS won in 2012 and 13, Haines in 1980 when all schools were combined) and 44 of the past 46 boys titles (Sitka won in 1983 and 1989 when in large school, Ketchikan in 1973 and Mt. Edgecumbe from 1963-72 when all were combined).

      The Division III schools are 2A schools Craig, Haines, Metlakatla and Petersburg and 1A schools Angoon, Gustavus, Hoonah, Klawock, Klukwan, Pelican, Skagway, Thorne Bay, Wrangell and Yakutat. They all race together for state qualifying.

      The DIII  boys race at 10:15 a.m. and DIII girls at 10:55 a.m.

      For DIII, the top 15 individuals and top three scoring teams qualify for state.

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