August 29, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 34

Bear runners led by seniors

Haines High School’s senior-laden cross-country squads will host their first meet of the season at Dalton City on Saturday, Sept. 7.

“About half of them are seniors, so they’re very experienced and great motivators for the younger athletes and really helpful in leading the workouts,” said first-year coach Tara Bicknell.

The season also includes meets in Wrangell and Juneau, followed by the Sept. 28 regional competition in Sitka and the Oct. 5 state championships in Anchorage.

“I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the kids to see what they were doing last year, watching them to see how much experience they have, and learning how much they’ve been training up until the beginning of the season,” Bicknell said. “We started out with a lot of long, slow runs to unite the team and get training on the same page.”

The Glacier Bear boys last year qualified for state as a team, finishing 10th out of a dozen small schools. Haines trailed Mount Edgecumbe and Sitka among Southeast small schools competing at state. Four of the Glacier Bears’ seven runners at state have since graduated – Corey Piper, Chris Olsen, Patrick Henderson and Brandon Bachman.

The girls return their top runner from 2012, Zayla Asquith-Heinz, who was the team’s lone state qualifier as a sophomore. She placed 32nd of 112 runners with a time of 22:33. Asquith-Heinz also ran at state as a freshman and said the squad is a bit short on newcomers this season. “It always seems like we have no freshmen. It seems like we’re not going to have a team, but we always end up having one.”

Senior Serena Badgley said during her time as a cross-country runner in Haines, she “can see everyone’s just getting stronger.”

“As a team, I just want everyone to be able to get a lot out of the season, as in building their strength and confidence,” she said. “It’s a good sport for learning about yourself and learning about your teammates.”

Around 20 students have showed up for practices this season, which started Aug. 5 under the direction of Bicknell, who stepped in for former coach Liam Cassidy. Lilly Boron is assistant coach.

“Every person in this town counts for something, and if there’s a job to be filled, someone in the community needs to step up and do it,” Bicknell said. “It’s a long-lost interest of mine, long-distance running. Endurance sports, in general, have really good benefits that last your whole lifetime, and this is the age where people get into it, so I just wanted to share that with people.”

Bicknell was a high school and college runner in Texas, and has completed four marathons.

“Cross country is a great sport for students, because it teaches them self-reliance and endurance,” she said. “The benefits are far more than physical.”

Practices have focused on interval, speed work and weight training, Bicknell said, with her blue heeler, Sobo, occasionally joining the group. “She’s a cow dog, and now she finally has a cow herd.”

The girls’ cross-country race in Haines on Sept. 7 is scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m., and the boys’ race is set for 2:30 p.m.

Senior Zeke Frank said he’s aiming to be among the top Glacier Bear runners who will represent the school at the regional competition in Sitka. The season-opening Haines meet will provide a little extra motivation, he said. “I’m a people person. I like when people cheer for me.”

Volunteers are needed to assist at the start and finish, and with timing and monitoring the course. Contact the school at 766-6700 to sign up.