By Craig Giammona
Courtesy Daily Sitka Sentinel
The Mt. Edgecumbe Braves and Lady Braves cross country teams showed signs of improvement at a meet in Wrangell Sept. 3.
After a tough opening race that was held just a few days after Edgecumbe students came to campus on Japonski Island, the Braves and Lady Braves showed some of the potential that has coach Josh Arnold excited about the prospect of sending both MEHS teams to state for the first time in his tenure.
The Lady Braves finished in fifth place at the regional meet Sept. 3, but were third among 3A teams. The Braves, meanwhile, were ninth in a field of 13, but finished fourth among 3A teams.
Juneau-Douglas easily won the boys and girls races, with the Sitka High boys and girls finishing second and the Ketchikan boys and girls each taking third.
The Lady Braves competed without Deirdre Creed, a sophomore and one of the Lady Braves' top returning runners. Still, they got a boost from Crystal McNeilly, a sophomore from Pilot Station who was making her MEHS debut. McNeilly was 8th overall and fourth among 3A runners with a time of 22:40. Not to mention that Arnold said he crossed the line with "too much in the tank." Arnold said it was McNeilly's first official 5K race, and that the young runner could be a force once she gets some more experience.
Scarlett Beaver, a sophomore from Kotzebue, was 21st overall, finishing in 24:22. Other MEHS girls finishers: Jillian Shade (25th, 24:49), Sarah Freese (37th, 25:44), Felisha Orsborn (42nd, 26:24), Clara McConnell (47th, 27:29) and RaeAnn Patkotak (52nd, 29:10).
Brandi Hale, a senior captain from Hooper Bay who is expected to be part of the top seven, also did run in Wrangell.
Arnold's girls scored 117 points, but the meet included runners from Ketchikan and Juneau-Douglas. The MEHS coach also compiled 3A scores, which showed the Lady Braves in third place with 66 points. Sitka led the way with 49 and Haines had 61. To Arnold, it was another sign his team can compete with the top 3A teams in the region.
“A lot will change between now and Ketchikan,” Arnold said, referring to the Region V meet, scheduled for Sept. 24 at Kayhi. “It was encouraging to see a girls team that was competitive at this level. The girls team is showing that with hard work and dedication they can be right there.”
Arnold was encouraged by how his runners, both boys and girls, performed in Wrangell, but said his squad’s focus is on the Region V meet.
“We’re coming up out of the basement,” he said. “I know our best race is going to be in Ketchikan.”
Justin Andrew, a senior from Kwethluk, led the Braves in Wrangell, taking 34th place in a time of 20:09. After Andrew, the Braves’ varsity included: Cody Sherman (28th, 20:23), Rudy Waska (46th, 20:49), Michael Matthew (55th, 21:34), Nicholas Bouker (64th, 22:20), Nelson Kanuk (67th, 22:27) and Joseph Friday (82nd, 24:13).
The Braves finished fourth among 3A teams in the official standings at the Wrangell meet, but Arnold's tally, which took out the 4A runners, put the Braves in third by a single point, narrowly edging Wrangell.
The Braves and Lady Braves were scheduled to run Sept. 10 in Haines.