Cross country team of students sitting on ground outside facing the coach who is standing.

The Nome-Beltz High School Cross Country Team attended its first two meets Aug. 20-21. Friday Aug 20’s meet, the ACS-Nome-Seward Tri Meet took place at Bartlett Trails in Anchorage. Saturday, August 21, the Ted McKenney Invitational took place at the Tsalteshi Trails by Skyview Middle School in Soldotna.

Nome-Beltz Cross Country Coach, Jeff Collins said their first meet was an “entirely new experience” for almost the whole team. The team, Collins said, has a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Because COVID-19 restrictions prevented travel last year, the start of this season was the first time many athletes ever got a chance to run in a competitive environment. It was an important learning opportunity for his novice team, Collins said.

 “I told them I was going to feed them to the wolves and we’re going to go straight to Anchorage the first meet of the season and we’re going to take it as a learning opportunity. And that’s exactly what they did. They showed up at the race. Everything from teaching them basics on how to start a race, connect their bibs, tie their shoes, we got down how a race is conducted,” Collins said.

 The meet allowed the team to see where they needed to improve the most, Collins said.

 “The first thing they said at the end of the race was, one of my team captains looked at me and said: we need to do more hills,” Collins said.

At Saturday’s meet, The Nome-Beltz girls went first, running in the Women’s 5,000 Meters Varsity Race at 1:30. Three athletes participated. Freshman AwaLuk Nichols ran the fastest time of the Nome-Beltz girls, clocking in at 23 minutes and 48 seconds, her personal record. Collins had words of praise for Nichols’ performance.

 “She’s aggressive and she’s really competitive. She threw herself right in the mix. One of my favorite things about her is she will push to the limit. And she did at the Tsalteshi Trails meet,” Collins said.

 Senior Della Medlin ran a time of 25 minutes and 41 seconds, while Junior Natallie Tobuk ran the race in 27 minutes and four seconds.

The six boys from Nome-Beltz ran the 5,000 Meters Varsity Race later that day. Of the male Nome-Beltz athletes, sophomore Son Erikson ran the fastest time of 19 minutes and 52 seconds. 

With the loss of Tobin Hobbs last year, who graduated, Son stepped into the leader role. He took the reins on the team, and he’s really moved up,” Collins said.

Freshmen Orson Hoogendorn ran the second fastest Nome-Beltz time at 19 minutes and 59 seconds. Sophomore Deacon Callahan clocked the race at 20 minutes and 42 seconds. Sophomore Jon Smith ran the race in 20 minutes and 50 seconds. Sophomore Hayden Leeper’s time was 21 minutes and 21 seconds, while Junior Tristen Hobbs finished in 21 minutes and 49 seconds.

Coming up this Saturday, Nome-Beltz cross country will attend the Teller Invite at James C Isabell School. The following Saturday will see Nome’s own Classic Invitational Meet.

Image at Top: NBHS Cross Country Coach Jeff Collins and his young team chat before a practice. Photo Courtesy of Rosa Wright (2020).