Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - With the first prep cross-country race of the season set to begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday along the Treadwell Mine Ruins Trail in Douglas, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears and Thunder Mountain High School Falcons are ready to welcome schools from Haines and Petersburg in the Sayeik Invitational.
“We have a season of surprises and that has impressed all of our coaching staff, which is Tristan (Knutson-Lombardo) and about 10 others,” JDHS co-coach Merry Ellefson said. “We just got back from taking half the team up to the Yukon and half was here and then ended up in a time trial… I think we have a really young team and I think we are going to see a lot of shifting and changing and excitement in that. We also have a lot of experienced veterans, both on the girls’ and the boys’ side, but what we do know about this team is they really like to have a good time and they work really hard together. So we are looking forward to a season where we surprise them and they surprise us…”
TMHS head coach Jon Stearns said the Falcons, like the Crimson Bears, has a bevy of new recruits.
“Last year we doubled our team,” Stearns said. “And this year we have added probably about another 20 kids to the team and a lot of them are young. We have a lot of good freshmen and sophomore talent along with our seniors, who have amazing work ethic and are here to push the kids. But we have a really big young group, which is pretty exciting for the future…”
JDHS has over 70 runners this season and TMHS has roughly 60 team members.
JDHS juniors Etta Eller, Rayna Tuckwood and Maisey Morley and sophomore Ida Meyer return from the Region V championship girls team that ran to a third-place team finish in the state championships. Eller placed 11th in the state championship run at Bartlett High School, Tuckwood 16th and Morley 52nd. The Crimson Bears girls won their eighth region crown in a row last season, a remarkable 41 of the past 44.
JDHS seniors Will Robinson and Eli Crupi - 2nd and 3rd in regions last season - and juniors Martin Holst and Edgar Vera Alvarado return from the Region V Championship boys team that captured their 32nd crown in a row and 45th of the past 48 region titles, and helped the Crimson Bears to a ninth-place team finish at state. Crupi placed 38th at state last season, Robinson 47th, Holst 58th and Vera Alvarado 66th. Sophomore Josh Reed and junior Wilder Dillingham were state alternates.
“We have a strong handful on both sides of athletes that have been pushing really hard these last year or two and they are making some moves on that top pack,” Ellefson said. “Which is really exciting for us…”
TMHS had the top Southeast girls Division I runner last season, graduate Kiah Dihle, who captured the region crown and placed third at state, and returns seniors Mackenzie Olver and Aliyah Overturf - 13th and 14th respectively in regions last season - and senior Justus Paden for the boys along with junior Justin Scussel. Sophomore Sage Janes also returns from the Region V tournament team that saw the Falcons graduate four.
“We have a large group,” Stearns said. “And fortunately they are pretty self-motivated. It is really cool to see the people from the front runners to the people, like we have a lot of the girls basketball team that have come on the team and are using it for cross-training, and you have the people that are cross-country first and you have people that are training for other sports and everybody is all in. Everybody is giving their best effort…”
The Sayeik Invitational meet hosted by JDHS and TMHS will include teams from Petersburg and Haines. The meet will feature an open race at 9:45 a.m. for the public and for team members who do not have enough practices in to compete in the high school races. The girls high school race is at 10:30 a.m. and the boys race is at 11:00 a.m.
The JDHS coaching staff includes head coaches Ellefson and Knutson-Lombardo and assistants Abby Jahn, Geoff Roes, Zack Bursell, Jordan Tanguay, Jenn Shelton, Soren Thompson, Ricky Worl, Jesse Stringer and Henry Colt.
The TMHS staff includes head coaches Stearns and Kristen Wells, assistant coaches Kent Mearig and Carol May, and volunteer coaches Chris Shum, Topaz Shryock and John Nagel.
JDHS Seniors - Kona Atkins, Philip (Eli) Crupi, Layne Cutnose, Kyle Dusenberry, Reece Dusenberry, Nettle Fraley-Hart, Robbie Gabel, Jayme Geary, Cara Hollingsworth, Finn Kesey, Will Robinson, Jack Schwarting, Skylar Tuckwood and exchange student Wasiq Malek.
TMHS Seniors - Ben Eriksen, Mackenzie Olver, Aliyah Overturf, Justus Paden, Wage Smith, Caleb Stiles, Michael Wittig and Kayla Woodbury.
JDHS Juniors - Harry Coutu, Wilder Dillingham, Etta Eller, Kelton Griffith, Martin Holst, Edward Hu, Maisy Morley, Ava Newell, Malachi Piemann, Ruby Rivas, Angelica Rodriguez, Jonathan Sleppy, Leif St Clair, Rayna Tuckwood, Edgar Vera Alvarado, Iris White and Oliver Zigmund.
TMHS Juniors - Cedar Croteau, Jenna Dobson, Makaley Johnson, Calvin Knapp, Mac Lam, Shalen Montgomery, Sophia Owen, Ethan Reichl, Justin Scussel and Lakai Smallwood.
JDHS Sophomores - Talia Aparezuk-Schlosser, Addie Buss, Serena Crupi, Dashel Culbreth, Caden Haygood, Cerys Hudson, Nick Iverson, Corder Janes, Lincoln Johnson, Mary Johnson, Finn Lamb, Reed Maier, Ida Meyer, Makayla (Kayla) Peter, Joshua Reed, Andy Rodriguez, Bailey Roguska, Shem Stitz, Ryan Thibodeau, Anna Caroline (Acey) Wall, Ferguson Wheeler and Elshaday (Ellie) Yerkes.
TMHS Sophomores - Cailynn Baxter, Kerra Baxter, Pema Curry, Dori Germain, Matthew Godkin, Merrick Hartman, Elijah Harvey, Carvin Hass, Kate Hetle, Sage Janes, Alexis Jurgens, Casey Knapp, Elijah Levy, Amy Lockwood, Bruno Malecha, Kael Nord, Ella Osborn, Matthias Paden, Thomas Rice, Violet Ricter, Ben Sikes, Paul Smith, Hayden Soboleff, Alison Tingey, Ian Ward and Owen Woodruff.
JDHS Freshmen - Bence Bury, Alder Caouette, Nolan Cruz, Landry Dillingham, Elias Dybdahl, Siena Farr, Clara Ferguson, Rise Fraley, Breven Jackson, Ainsley Mallott, Lua Mangaccat, Paxton Mertl, Sasha Morrison, Emerson Newell, Ames Patterson, John Polasky, Jimena Ramirez, Elias Schane, Kate Schwarting, Emilia Shelton-Walker, Kate Stickel and Meade Suewing.
TMHS Freshmen - Darian Alvarado, Miezen Deraimer, Piper Blackgoat Diehl, Nani Frommherz, Malcolm Fuette, Emma Johnson, Daniel Jurgens, Della Mearig, Calvin Ricter, Raiden Smith, Randi Stichert, Anberlin Tingey, Meliame Tupou and Koby Yturbe.
Above - The Thunder Mountain High School cross-country running team warm up on Falcons Field. TMHS and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé host the Sayeik Invitational on Saturday. (Klas Stolpe/KINY)