The Bering Strait School District (BSSD) will be sending two male and two female high school runners to the state competition in Anchorage this coming Saturday, October 10th.

Despite regional travel restrictions and no in-person meets, 12 out of BSSD’s 15 schools have participated in the 2020 Cross Country season thus far.

BSSD State Qualifier Kanayaq Ivanoff of Unalakleet (Photo by Kris Busk)

BSSD’s Activities Specialist, Brendan Ellis, suggested that the district adopt a virtual mode of competition in order to keep this season alive.

“So the idea came from just my own experience as a runner. Just looking through the running community, there’s been virtual races popping up since March and April, so I’ve taken part in my own and kinda got the idea from that. I pitched it to all the coaches at the beginning of the year and they said, ‘That’s a great idea.’”

– Brendan Ellis

Virtual races allow individual BSSD cross country teams to run safely in their own communities and track their times using virtual running tools like Strava. However, the virtual races did pose some challenges for Ellis.

“The biggest thing we were trying to make fair was everyone trying to find a flat course that they could run in their own communities.”

– Brendan Ellis

After each virtual race, coaches submit their runners’ times to Ellis who compiles them all together for one race weekend. With no travel or multi-team meets allowed this season, Ellis found other ways to make the virtual competition feel special for BSSD cross country runners.

“I got awards for each weekend for the different categories, and then, each kid participating earned cross country gear. Since we weren’t doing travel this year, we just wanted somehow to make it special for the kids.”

Brendan Ellis
BSSD State Qualifier Alaina Pete of Brevig Mission (Photo by Cory Kralovetz)

The 2020 season officially wrapped up with the regional race this past weekend. During the regional race, all BSSD runners participated in a variety of divisions, but the primary focus was on high schoolers.

At the regional race this past weekend, the competing BSSD schools included Brevig Mission, Gambell, Golovin (Martin L. Olson), Koyuk-Malimiut, Savoonga (Hogarth Kingeekuk), Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, St. Michael (Anthony Andrews), Unalakleet (Frank A. Degnan), Elim, and White Mountain.

The state qualifiers chosen to represent BSSD at the championship meet are Kanayaq Ivanoff from Unalakleet, Caelin Kingeekuk from Savoonga, Alaina Pete from Brevig Mission, and Patricia Washington from St. Michael.

BSSD State Qualifier Patricia Washington of St. Michael (Photo by Brian Walston)

Nome-Beltz High School Cross Country is also sending their top four runners to the state meet this upcoming weekend. Coach Jeff Collins says the state qualifiers from NBHS are Son Erikson, Tobin Hobbs, Claire Fry, and Natallie Tobuk.

The state championship, hosted by Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) and Bartlett High School, will be held this Saturday at Kincaid Park Trails in Anchorage.

Image at top: Savoonga Cross Country’s State qualifier Caelin Kingeeluk running in his community. Photo by Christina Brancaleone (used with permission)