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Haines boys runners qualify for state

 


A combination of veterans and new recruits “toughed it out,” Saturday as the Haines High School boys’ cross-country team earned its first trip to state since Chandler Kemp ran for the team five years ago.

The boys clinched third place at Saturday’s regional championship meet in Juneau.

Haines topped fourth-place Craig by a scant three points with boosts from team rookies sophomore Keegan Sundberg, who finished only four seconds behind team leader Corey Piper, and freshman Neil Little, who finished three places ahead of Craig’s fourth runner.

Senior Patrick Henderson placed third for the Bears and classmate Chris Olsen was fifth. The sum of the places of a team’s first five runners is used to determine a team score in cross-country.

“I wasn’t surprised,” said coach Liam Cassidy. “I was really happy the boys were able to pull it off. Corey and Patrick were sick of fourth place. I know I was. The seniors really wanted to go to state. You could tell.”

The Panthers edged the Haines boys for third last year, and the Wrangell Wolves beat them to the third spot in 2010.

Saturday’s race wasn’t easy. A new, more difficult trail at Sandy Beach pushed times of top runners back about a half minute, Cassidy said. “They knew even if they weren’t having their best race they could, they needed every place they could and had to run like a team.”

Sundberg, a competitive swimmer who was running in only his third cross-country race, showed he was ready for a leading role on the team, finishing 13th of 75 runners.

Sundberg said he was just trying to keep up with Piper. “I was going as hard as I could… I guess I’m just in good cardiovascular shape.”

Little passed a Craig runner late in the race, a critical move, Cassidy said. “In a race like that it’s obvious every point counted for a lot. The freshman made a big move to help his team get to state.”

Piper, who has qualified for state twice previously as an individual runner, said he felt sluggish Saturday, but is glad to have company at the state meet. “I’m pretty happy for, in my senior year, to go with the team.”

At state, the boys will run a winding loop course in northwest Anchorage, a classic, dirt and grass course, coach Cassidy said. “We’ll try to prepare like any other race. We’ll rest a couple days, but we’ll get back into it. In a nine-and-a-half week season, I don’t know if it makes too much sense to taper off (workouts). They’re still building strength.”

Mount Edgecumbe won the boys’ race, followed by Sitka.

The Haines girls finished fourth in the region, behind winner Mount Edgecumbe, Sitka and Petersburg.

The girls had previously beat Sitka but the Wolves had been running without Sidney Riggs, who won the regional meet last year. Riggs finished 12th, Saturday, a critical performance as third-place Peterburg was only three points behind.

As in recent races, the girls ran in packs, but the packs weren’t far enough forward to run a qualifying performance. Sophomore Zayla Asquith-Heinz again led the girls, finishing third overall in the field of 55 runners and qualifying for state as an individual by being among the race’s first 15 finishers.

Asquith-Heinz ran an “intelligent, hard-working” race, Cassidy said. “Zayla stays within herself and gets stronger over the course of the race,” he said.

Asquith-Heinz also qualified for state last year. Senior Tia Heywood had her best race of the season, finishing fourth overall for the Haines girls, Cassidy said.

Team finishes for the girls included Asquith Heinz, (3rd, 21:51), Jess Giddings (23rd, 24:34), junior Libby Jacobson (27th, 24:53), Heywood (29th, 25:21), junior Serena Badgley (30th, 25:21), sophomore Jennie Humphrey (35th, 26:32), and sophomore Natalia Taylor (36th, 26:41).

Boys finishes included senior Piper (12th,18:39), Sundberg (13th,18:43), Henderson (19th, 19:02), Little (25th, 19:36), Olsen (30th, 19:43), junior Kai Sato-Franks (40th, 20:09), and senior Brandon Bachman (47th, 21:19).