Nanook cross country girls earn perfect score at Nome Invite
In a sport where teams do not try to outscore their opponents with high numbers, the Nome-Beltz girls cross country squad proved on Saturday that less is more.
The Lady Nanooks received points for the top five spots at the annual Nome Classic Invitational Cross Country Running Meet. Their score of 15 represented the least amount of points possible.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been coaching that the girls team has gotten a perfect score,” said Nome-Beltz head coach Jeff Collins after the race. The Nanooks beat their rival Kotzebue Huskies 15-40.
Sophomore Starr Erikson extended her streak as the team’s top finisher to four as she posted a winning time of 22 minutes, 42 seconds on the five-kilometer course. Second place finisher junior Mary Fiskeaux started the season more than a minute behind Erikson, but has steadily narrowed the gap between the two for the past month. She crossed the line just three seconds behind her teammate.
The Nanooks third and fourth place runners were freshmen Mallory Conger and Ava Earthman. Their respective times of 24 min. 26 sec. and 24 min. 28 sec. were both personal records. “Daynon had the race of the decade,” said an exuberant Collins as he told about sophomore Daynon Medlin’s fifth-place finish. She cut over three minutes from her precious 2016 best mark with a time of 25 min. 12 sec.
“It’s a hard line,” said Collins in reference to the new single site, 27-minute time limit the Nome girls must attain for state qualification. He is pleased to be able to fill all six spots that have been allotted to the team. This insures the Lady Nanooks will be able to compete both as individuals and as a team at the state meet at Bartlett High School on October 1.
The Nanook boys were one place away from a perfect score of their own, claiming the top four spots in the varsity division. The fastest overall time of the day went to senior Wilson Hoogendorn at 18 min. 25 sec. Second place finisher junior Aaron Rose set his personal best mark by crossing the line just two seconds off the pace.
“Jamie (Yi) had a huge meet,” said Collins of the Nanooks junior who grabbed the third spot by posting a personal record time of 18 min. 36 sec. “It was the best race I have ever seen him run. To be that close behind Aaron and Wilson, he has never done that before.”
Nanook sophomore Ben Cross held off Kotzebue’s top runner Harry Baldwin for fourth place in a photo finish. The rivals put up times of 18 min. 48 sec. and 18 min. 49 sec.
The Nome boys are being held to a time criteria of 20 minutes in order to qualify for state. Collins says six runners have already broken that mark, which allows him to bring a full team of five, plus one alternate.
Junior Harrison Moore, who could not participate this weekend due to the flu, had attained the necessary qualification time during a previous meet. Freshman Matthew Nielson (19 min. 31 sec.) and senior Emelyne Hobbs (26 min. 26 sec.), both set personal records on Saturday and are currently the sixth runners on each of their respective teams. The two have qualified to attend the state meet as alternates.
“This week was a rough week,” said Collins about the intensity of the team’s practices. “It’s called ‘Hell Week’ for a reason.” The team had their furthest distance run, and took part in some of the hardest practices of the year. “The plan was to train though for our meet,” he said as he described the strategy of using the Nome event as a training day rather than a race day.
The Nome Classic Invitational started in the morning with a one-mile elementary school race for students through sixth grade. Thirty-seven runners entered the elementary race. Many of them have been participants in a program called Read-Run-Ready. Local distance runner Crystal Tobuk and a group of parent volunteers have been conducting the program for young athletes three days a week. They go over the basics of running, including sports nutrition, and have added a component where kids read for 30 minutes before they run. In an email interview, Tobuk said, “The goal every year is to show kids that reading, running is fun and are great tools they can use to help them succeed in whatever they decide to do in life.”
The event concluded in the early afternoon with a race that was open the community. Students from Nome Public Schools, Kotzebue, White Mountain, Elim, Savoonga and Teller were in attendance.