This past weekend marked the end of the season for cross-country student runners from around Western Alaska. A total of 22 athletes represented the Bering Strait, Nome, and Kotzebue school districts at the 1A/2A/3A State Championships in Anchorage on Saturday.
In a boys 5-kilometer race with almost 150 runners, two Nome seniors placed in the top 50: Harrison Moore and Jamie Yi finished within one second of each other, in just over 18 minutes. In the girls’ race, Nome’s Starr Erikson had the top time out of the Western Alaska athletes. Erikson’s teammates Mary Fiskeaux and Mallory Conger finished behind her. Each broke 25 minutes for the 5K.
Nome Co-Head Coach Aaron Blankenship says he’s proud of his team’s accomplishments:
“They really hit good times, really pushed themselves. A lot of PR’s were made, and those personal records are big, especially ones at state, because the state course is not easy. Bartlett High School has a very hilly course, and it was kind of rainy, so there was mud left over from the day before. So the fact that our teams could have so many personal records shows just how much they’ve grown this season alone.”
Other athletes competing from the region included St. Michael’s Patricia Washington, White Mountain’s Felicia Ione and Anjoli Agloinga, Shishmaref’s Edward Kokeok, Unalakleet’s Joey Kniseley, and Elim’s Jacob Brouilette.
Whatever the results, Blankenship says the meet was a time to enjoy one last race:
“It’s very much a celebration for them, because as athletes, one thing they truly love is good competition. And they get a lot of great competition from the other people at state, and so that’s a celebration for them: they get to celebrate themselves as runners.”
The Nanooks coach says the trip was equal parts competition and team building:
“It’s very much a retreat that our students get to go on, and I wanted to really encourage them to make those memories that, when they think back to the time they’re in cross-country, they’ll remember, ‘Oh yeah, that one year we were at state, and we got to watch a movie and then dye Coach Blankenship’s hair.’ Those are the memories that they’re going to remember.”
For the seniors, these may not be their last memories of high-school running. Blankenship says he’s hoping to start a track-and-field team in Nome in the spring. Until then, some of the athletes may compete in wrestling or basketball this winter, or cheer on their Lady Nanooks volleyball team, which heads to Utqiagvik this weekend.
Image at top: A fun memory from earlier in the season: The Nome cross-country team heads to Elim on a Bering Air plane. (Photo: Devin Tatro, 2017, used with permission.)