Last Dance

Sitka Fine Arts Camp elementary age campers dance with instructor Brendan Jones in their final day of camp today at the Sheldon Jackson College Campus. Middle School Camp, for grades seven thru nine, begins Monday. Registration is still open at 907-747-3085. (Sentinel Photo by Klas Stolpe)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Edgecumbe Runners Face Tough Competition

By GARLAND KENNEDY

Sentinel Sports Editor

With only two weeks to go until the Region V cross country tournament in Juneau, the Mt. Edgecumbe High Braves tested their mettle against some of the quickest runners in the state Saturday at Sitka National Historical Park.

Edgecumbe’s boys earned eighth place out of 12 teams, and the Lady Braves took sixth out of eight squads present. Also in the meet were runners from Sitka High School, whose girls snagged third and their boys finished fourth overall. Both Edgecumbe and Sitka, as mid-sized schools, run in Division II races, though larger, DI schools including Juneau-Douglas, Thunder Mountain and Ketchikan also were on the course. Grace Christian, an Anchorage private school, won both DII races, but the Sitka Wolves were at their heels.

 

Mt. Edgecumbe senior Bessie Williams, of Akiak, crosses the bridge across Indian River during the cross country meet, Saturday in Sitka. (Sentinel photo)

With almost 250 runners competing on the 5 kilometer course, MEHS coach Josh Arnold said, the meet not only provided his team with a chance for more training, but brought teams together from widely different parts of Alaska.

“We’re always happy to host a race here in Sitka,” Arnold told the Sentinel. “And thank goodness, the weather turned out really nice and we had all these guests from Anchorage come down. Just fantastic. Seeing all the bodies out there, lots of energy out there, lots of positive energy, love to see all these kids running… and lots of good sportsmanship.

The initial forecast called for rain Saturday, but the foul weather held off until later in the day and athletes ran in crisp but generally dry conditions.

First across the line for the Braves was senior Jacob Friske, of Sitka, who took 26th place in 18:04. He went into this meet with a concrete objective.

“This week, I trained pretty hard,” Friske said a few minutes after crossing the finish line. “Normally, when I’m going I just try not to get tired. But this week during practice, I was pushing myself because last week, Sitka’s fourth guy (Calder Prussian) beat me by about half a second… So I was like, ‘All right, I’m not going to let him beat me this week.’”

Friske outpaced Prussian by 30 seconds, with the Sitka sophomore placing 31st in 18:33. Edgecumbe athletes dive into training a couple of weeks later than do students at other schools, Friske noted, which means the team needs to play catchup through the season.

“We get faster during the year, so it’ll be good to see how we are these next couple of weeks in regions,” he said.

It’s possible, he said, for the Braves to give some Sitka runners a run for their money by the time the regional meet arrives.

“We’ll have a good chance to contend with Sitka’s top four and three, and maybe at least push them during regions,” Friske said. He said he’d like to break into Sitka’s top three as well, but catching up to the Wolves’ top performers – Connor Hitchcock, Trey Demmert and Annan Weiland – will be a challenge.

About a minute behind Friske was Franz Fermoyle, an MEHS senior from Chevak, who crossed the line in 19:13 to claim 39th place out of 150 boys in the race.

“Just finishing strong, that’s it,” Fermoyle said. “Starting the race at a smooth pace and then finishing the race strong, which I did when I first got up the hill. I picked it up and I tried to go all the way.”

Through the season, he has worked on his “endurance and stamina” on the course. Saturday’s cross country meet, as far as coaches were aware, was the largest ever hosted in Sitka, a fact noticed by the runners as well.

“There were a lot of people from all over, and it was pretty interesting. I’ve never raced in this big of a race before,” Fermoyle said.

Though he began running as an elementary schooler, he took time away from the sport and joined the MEHS squad only this year.

Finishing in 19:43 to take 52nd place, Derek Wilson, a freshman from Sand Point, said he went into the race with a single goal – to enjoy himself.

“I did cross country because it’s just the sport I can do… I think it went pretty good,” Wilson said. “I just tried my best and I didn’t care if someone beat me or if someone didn’t. I just wanted to have fun.”

By that metric, he concluded, the cross country meet was a success.

What he most enjoys about the sport is that “it clears my mind, clears my head and it’s fun. All the other sports, I just can’t do it… but cross country, it clears my head and I just go with it.”

With what’s left of the season, he’d like to shave off an additional 10 or 15 seconds from his current 5k time.

On the girls’ side, Edgecumbe junior Bessie Williams was the first Lady Brave across the finish line, taking 24th place in 23:36. Behind her was Aries Bioff in 27th place 40 seconds later.

Sarah Bahnke, a senior from Nome, finished in 26:16 to take 51st place.

“For every race, my expectation is you want to always be beating your own time. And of course, running with the two best girls in the state is a lot of motivation,” she said, referring to Sitka’s Clare Mullin and Juneau’s Ida Meyer. “Also, it’s really nice to just see a bunch of other hard working girls. It was really nice this year in Sitka, because the race was huge... It’s just so nice to just have a bunch of other girls around you that are pushing you, too,” Bahnke said.

She wishes she could have run a little faster on the trail that day but hopes to see continued improvement in the late season and is already looking forward to the next cross country meet.

“I’m always thankful to do a race with my team, but I wish I could have done better. I ran a couple of seconds slower this year than I did last year,” she said. “But I’ll have to fix that next week.”

Only about 15 seconds behind Bahnke was another Lady Brave, Sarah Nanouk-Jones, who finished in 26:31. Like some of her teammates, she highlighted the scale of the competition and the top talent on the course that day.

“It’s actually really cool. It’s just like seeing how well, how strong of athletes these girls are, (it’s) really encouraging, to push myself even harder to try to keep up,” Nanouk-Jones said.

The senior from Unalakleet said she’s “proud of myself just for getting out there and pushing myself through it.”

Finishing in 27:25 was MEHS sophomore Breana Nelson, of Napakiak, who hopes to trim a few more seconds off her time before the season ends.

“I’m hoping to see more improvements as I’ve been really pushing myself,” Nelson said.

She struggled in the final push to the finish line, she noted, and thinks there’s room for improvement in her ability to close out a race.

“I would have done better, but I slowed down because my legs were burning as I was going towards the finish line,” she said.

Coach Arnold was happy with Saturday’s results, and with his team’s approach to the sport itself.

“I love this team. They work hard, and nobody’s complaining; they show up whether it’s rain, or Totem Park smells terrible (due to spawning salmon), or if the hills are steep, they just run hard. And I really like that,” Arnold said.

His goal for the team is straightforward, but not easy.

“I charged the kids with being competitive by the end, and I feel like we will be able to keep pace with most of the runners in the state. So I’m looking forward to that. The kids are working hard. We’re having fun.”

Runners from both Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe high schools will compete in Ketchikan this coming weekend, and then in Juneau for the regional tournament a week later. The state tournament this year, which in recent years has taken place at Bartlett High in Anchorage, is to be held on a flatter course in Palmer.

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20 YEARS AGO

June 2004 

Advertisement: Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital Caring Employee of the month! Franklin Thomas Hospital Nutrition Services.

50 YEARS AGO

June 1974

Edna Revard is enjoying a much-deserved vacation: she and youngest son Joe are in Italy visiting her older son, Jack, his wife and child. Jack is with the military, stationed in Italy. Edna will be gone a month, the crew at Revard’s Restaurant says.

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