By CRAIG GIAMMONA
Courtesy Daily Sitka Sentinel
The Mt. Edgecumbe Braves and Lady Braves are both headed to the state 3A cross country championships in Anchorage.
The MEHS boys and girls each finished second at the Region V meet Sept. 24 in Ketchikan to punch their respective tickets to the state meet. It was the first time in coach Josh Arnold's 8-year tenure that both teams have qualified for state. The MEHS boys will be at state for the fourth straight year, while the girls team will head north for the first time in at least the last 8 years.
"We had a fantastic weekend," Arnold said.
Crystal McNeilly, a sophomore from Pilot Station, led the Lady Braves with a third-place finish, finishing in a time of 21:16. Scarlett Beaver and Deidre Creed, a pair of sophomores from Kotzebue, also cracked the top 15 for the Lady Braves, who scored 55 points to take second. The Sitka High Lady Wolves won the meet with 34 points, while Craig (73), Haines (87), Wrangell (125) and Klawock (139) rounded out the field.
Beaver was 8th in a time of 22:10, while Creed took 13th in 22:29. Brandi Hale, a senior from Hooper Bay (19th, 23:00), and Felisha Orsborn, a sophomore from Anchorage (25th, 23:36), completed Edgecumbe's top five.
Sarah Freese (27th, 23:40) and Clara McConnell (33rd, 25:01) were also in the race for Edgecumbe. Freese is a junior from Fairbanks, while McConnell is a senior from Kotzebue.
The Lady Braves opened the season with a last-place finish at a meet in Juneau. But they steadily improved over the course of the month-long season and had their best race with the money on the line. The same could be said of the Braves, who also improved markedly and ended up as the second-place team in Southeast.
“We’ve learned that we need to set this up to have our best race at regions,” Arnold said, adding: “We slowly worked our way up the ladder. They ran their best race and they gave themselves an opportunity to win... My hats off to Sitka, they deserved to win. (But) It’s really good to go to state with both teams.”
The Braves were led by Daniel Adams, a junior from Platinum who took seventh in a time of 18:12. The Braves entered the race needing to beat Craig, Wrangell and Haines to earn a state berth and they did just that. The Braves had 93 points for second place, while Craig (110), Haines (110), Wrangell (142), Yakutat (151), Petersburg (184), Skagway (221), Klawock (221), Metlakatla (244) and Thorne Bay (246) rounding out the boys field. The Sitka High Wolves won with 35 points.
Arnold credited Kendrick Hautala (25th, 19:25), the team’s fourth finisher, with setting the tone for the Braves.
“You never know who your fourth and fifth runners are going to be,” Arnold said of the senior from Kwethluk. “He just poured it on... He puts it all on the table. We needed that this weekend.”
After Adams, Justin Andrew, a senior from Kwethluk, was the next finisher for the Braves. He Finished 13th in a time of 18:23. Cody Sherman (20th, 18:56), Gregory Vance (28th, 19:36), Michael Matthew (32nd, 19:45) and Kenneth Jackson (35th, 19:49) completed the Edgecumbe varsity roster at the Region V meet.Arnold said he believes his runners can have an even better race Oct. 1 at Bartlett if they keep their focus.