Members of the Nanooks cross-country team have repeatedly broken personal records and run seasonal best times at various cross-country meets this season. Last weekend, the team traveled to Bethel to compete for a spot in the ASAA Cross-Country State Championships.
On Saturday (Sep. 31), high school cross-country teams from Northwest Alaska gathered at ‘The Pit’ in Bethel to compete in the annual 3A Big West Meet. Dozens of students from Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue, and Barrow gathered at the race course to represent their schools. The top eight from each division would advance to compete in the State Championships.
Nome-Beltz cross-country coach Ryan Fox said the team has been preparing for races since the season began in late July.
“We literally trained in either windy, rainy, or both conditions every single day.”
During practices, he said the team would run on different terrains to prepare them for different race courses. The Pit racecourse is known to be difficult because it contains sand and hills. Fox said the team knew what they were getting into and trained accordingly.
“Just this past Tuesday, we did a hard workout on the sand. We did a two mile timed trial on the sand back at the end of August. So the kids got super familiar with running on sand. And it showed.”
Six students are advancing to compete in ASAA State Championships on Saturday (Oct. 7).
The Lady Nanooks came in first and second place. The first place finisher was AwaLuk Nichols (11), with Lauren Kingstrom (11) trailing just two seconds behind her placing second. Due to not having a full team, the Ladies competed as individuals. Kotzebue and Barrow tied at 45 points each, but Kotzebue prevailed in a tie breaker. Bethel Regional earned 33 points.
The Beltz-Boyz earned half of the qualifying spots in their category. Orson Hoogendorn (11) finished in first place, Benjamin Milton (10) in fourth place, Son Erickson (12) in seventh place, and Deacon Callahan (12) in eighth place. The Beltz-Boys team earned 30 points, Kotzebue garnered 76 points, Bethel Regional earned 27 points, and Barrow acquired 102 points.
Fox said he’s seen a boom of growth and appreciation towards the sport over the last couple months.
“All our runners, middle and high school, pretty much consistently improved throughout the season. They showed up and they worked hard. And you know, other than cross country skiing, we’re the only sport that trains outside. That adds a whole nother element of just being hardcore and being resilient.”
Fox said that some of his students have already begun wrestling while finishing up the cross-country season. He encourages kids to join a sport, and said he is fortunate to have running in his life.
“In Nome, the opportunities are growing. I just would super encourage kids to take advantage of that, because that’s the kind of stuff that pulls you away from the bad stuff.”
The six students will advance to compete in the State Championships in Palmer on Saturday. Bethel boys and girls teams took overall first place and will move on to compete as a team at the Championships.
Photo at top: Lady Nanooks pose for a photo after their race on the windy Saturday afternoon (Photo by Ryan Fox)