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Western Alaska Student Runners Head to State

Boys from across Western Alaska took off from the finish line at the Bering Strait School District Cross-Country Championships (Photo courtesy of Brendan Ellis, 2017)
Boys from across Western Alaska took off from the finish line at the Bering Strait School District Cross-Country Championships (Photo courtesy of Brendan Ellis, 2017)

After regional championships this past Saturday, athletes from across the region will head to the state cross-country running competition in Anchorage this weekend.

The Nome Nanooks took on the Kotzebue Huskies and Bethel Warriors at the Big West Conference Cross-Country Meet in Kotzebue. Nome’s girls team took first place overall, qualifying all seven runners for state, including Ava Earthman, Starr Erikson, Mary Fiskeaux, Mallory Conger, Daynon Medlin, Alicyn Bahnke and Katelyn Tocktoo.

In the boys’ race, Nome’s Harrison Moore, Aaron Rose, Jamie Yi, Tobin Hobbs and Aaron Motis all qualified for the state meet. Also among the top-15 qualifiers were Kotzebue’s Samuel Lazarus, Peter Nelson, Eli Atkins and Billy Nelson.

Nome co-head coach Aaron Blankenship says there was more competition in the air than at past meets.

“At regionals, there’s something on the line. Kids want to go to state, they want to go race in those environments, they want to have a mini vacation to Anchorage. There’s a lot that they really want to do, and so, they race as hard as they possibly can.”

Devin Tatro, the other co-head coach, says a positive attitude also helped propel her girls to victory:

“Members of the girls team woke up on Saturday morning, and immediately, there were all these positive words towards each other: ‘We’re going to do great today. I feel confident in myself today. I believe in you.’ I heard that through breakfast, I heard that through their warm-ups. They just couldn’t go wrong.”

Across the Arctic Circle, in Unalakleet, teams from the Bering Strait School District competed at their own Bering Strait Regional Championship.

St. Michael’s Patricia Washington, and White Mountain’s Felicia Ione and Anjoli Agloinga, qualified for state with the top three times. On the boys’ side, three different schools took the qualifying spots: Shishmaref’s Edward Kokeok, Unalakleet’s Joey Kniseley, and Elim’s Jacob Brouilette will all head to state.

For those not qualifying, it was their last race of the year. White Mountain coach Katya Wassillie says the meet was a great cap to the season for her team.

“Having this kind of positive experience, having this recognition for their accomplishments, really helps these students define themselves as runners, as athletes, so it’s a big deal for them, and hopefully, it’ll push them through next season.”

There was also a new award this year: the Exemplary Sportsmanship Award, presented to Savoonga’s Miriam Kulowiyi and Miesha Niksik. Jeff Erickson, the BSSD Student Activities Director, says he wanted to emphasize the positive with the award:

“You tend to hear more about the bad things that are happening. So this year, we decided to try to start focusing on and try to get people to look for kids who are showing good character, and showing sportsmanship during matches, or afterwards. If we’re going to really rationalize that high school activities have value, then that’s what it should be doing: teaching good character and making good decisions.”

The Alaska Cross-Country Running State Championships will take place this Saturday at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.

Image at top: Boys from across Western Alaska take off from the finish line at the Bering Strait School District Cross-Country Championships. Photo courtesy of Brendan Ellis, 2017.

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