By TOM HESSE
Sentinel Staff Writer
Mt. Edgecumbe and Sitka finished first and second at the Region V high school cross country championships at Juneau over the weekend, earning both teams a trip to Anchorage for the state competition.
The Mt. Edgecumbe girls team – led by Crystal McNeilly, who finished fourth overall – beat out Sitka by 14 points for first place. On the boys side, the competition for first place was a little closer. Sitka had the best individual finish – a second place finish by Darin Davis – but Mt. Edgecumbe still took first place by four points, thanks in large part to four top-20 finishers.
“I knew our girls won. There was an awful lot of cardinal and gold coming across the line at the front of the pack,” said Mt. Edgecumbe coach Josh Arnold. “The boys race was a whole different story. It was like watching a rainbow cross the finish line with all the different team colors. I had no idea who was going to be the top team.”
Cole Johnson led the Braves with a fifth-place finish in 18:23.53, 12.49 seconds behind Davis’ 18:11.04 finish in the 5K race.
Craig’s William Brand won the race in 17:42.04.
“Darin Davis ran a phenomenal race. It’s been fun watching him run the last couple of years. None of our athletes could keep up with him,” Arnold said.
The 14-17 spots were checkered with Mt. Edgecumbe and Sitka boys. Daniel Adams of Mt. Edgecumbe finished 14th (18:48.07) and Sitka’s Ryan Morse finished 15th (18:50.91). Jason Young of Mt. Edgecumbe (18:52.95) and Jamie Wladyka of Sitka (18:54.48) finished 16th and 17th respectively.
“I am very proud of each and every one of my runners. I firmly believe they ran to the best of their ability. The athletes are looking forward to the state tournament this coming weekend,” Sitka coach Shasta Smith said.
The Braves’ four other racers all finished in the top 35. Percy Lolnitz finished 20th (19:12.18), Vance Gregory finished 24th (19:34.39), Forrest Strick finished 32nd (19:52.03) and Kenny Jackson finished 34th (19:52.03).
Arnold said he felt confident about the Lady Braves’ chances to finish in front of the pack but was surprised to see Mt. Edgecumbe take first in both standings.
“I’d felt very confident in the girls all season and I knew that they had a pretty good chance to bring home a trophy, but the boys surprised me, in a good way,” Arnold said.
Ryan Apathy, Joey Inman, Jorge Bautista and Tevin Bayne rounded out Sitka’s finishers. Apathy finished 22nd (19:31.69), Inman 27th (19:39.52), Bautista 37th (20:05.71) and Bayne 45th (20:54.26).
In the girls 5K, McNeilly’s fourth place finish in 21:52.17 was over two minutes slower than the top time of 19:26.19, which was posted by Taylee Nyquest of Thorne Bay. Jennifer MacIntyre of Sitka came in fifth place about 20 seconds behind McNeilly (22:13.09).
Mt. Edgecumbe’s Scarlett Beaver finished eighth (22:41.54) and Jasmine Jemewouk closed out the top ten with a time of 23:22.78 for the Lady Braves.
Sitka’s Sidney Riggs (23:34.64), Hailey Denkinger (23:39.55) and Clare Jurczak (23:42.78) finished in the 12-14 spots. Kaycie Coleman rounded out Sitka’s finishers with her 33rd place finish in 26:05.62.
It was Riggs’ first race of the season. Riggs had battled an injury all season after a successful year last season. By running, Riggs enabled Sitka to field a girls team.
The rest of the Lady Braves all finished in the top 30. Sarah Freese (24:07.23) and Deirdre Creed (24:16.10) crossed the line back-to-back in the 18 and 19 spots. Shandel Pingayak (24:32.08) and Felisha Orsborn (25:10.9) rounded out the Cardinal and Gold with 22nd and 28th place finishes, respectively.
Arnold said his team finished the season with 54 runners – 14 traveled to the Region Championships – and all of them put in a full season’s worth of work in what is always a shortened season for Mt. Edgecumbe students.
“It’s the same story every year. We come in late and we’re behind but the kids show up and bust their butts everyday and by the end of the season they’re as good as anybody,” Arnold said.
The state cross country championships will take place in Anchorage this coming weekend. Arnold said the Mt. Edgecumbe squad will work harder at the beginning of the week than they have all season before tapering in Anchorage.
“Today (Monday) will be their toughest practice of the season,” Arnold said. “We go hard all season and this week isn’t going to be any different.”
2A/3A Girls - 1 Mt. Edgecumbe (47), 2 Sitka (61), 3 Petersburg (64), 4 Haines (92), 5 Klawock (114), 6 Wrangell (124).
2A/3A Boys - 1 Mt. Edgecumbe (55), 2 Sitka (59), 3 Haines (68), 4 Craig (71), 5 Yakutat (103), 6 Petersburg (138), 7 Angoon (222), 8 Hydaburg (237).