Young runners prep for season at Salmon Lake Running Camp
A group of seventeen young runners were treated to a unique training experience last weekend when they attended the second annual Salmon Lake Running Camp. The camp is the creation of Nome-Beltz cross country running coach Jeff Collins, now in his ninth season at the helm of the Nanooks team.
The camp took place at the Boy Scouts’ Camp Bronson on the east end of Salmon Lake and was attended by fifteen students from Nome and two from other parts of the state. All but two of the runners were in high school.
The schedule of events included a short practice and rowdy game of capture the flag on Friday. Saturday featured a four-hour mountain run into the Kigluaik Mountain range as well as a soak in the Pilgrim Hot Springs. Before heading back to Nome on Sunday, campers participated in a 1.6-mile time trial.
“It’s designed to expose the kids to a different type of running: mountain running,” said Collins after the time trial. “There are no trails. It requires a lot more technical skills.”
Wilson Hoogendorn, the group’s lone senior and boys team captain enjoyed his stay in the country. “You come out here in front of this lake with a bunch of your friends, and run around and you get hard core,” he said. “It makes running in town easier.”
Collins uses the camp to build community within his squad. “One of the things I’ve noticed with great teams is that they have great camaraderie. We want to start building that culture as well,” he said. “They spend two or three days out here and you can see the dynamics of the team change entirely. For the first two weeks of the season everyone is still in their own cliques, where they feel comfortable. After this, when they spend more time with each other, it builds cohesiveness.”
“There was a lot team bonding,” said sophomore and girls team captain Starr Erikson. “(The camp) helps you get closer to your teammates.”
Another one of Collins goals for the year is to prep his charges for the new Region 1 state qualification process. Due to decreasing sports budgets in Western Alaska, the days of regional qualification meets are now gone. Instead, school districts will be assigned a certain number of qualifying spots.
“Nome, based on its past success was given six qualifying spots for boys, and six qualifying spots for girls,” said Collins. This turns out to be a rather high number when compared to neighboring, multi-school districts. The Northwest Arctic Borough School District, which includes Kotzebue and 10 surrounding villages, was given seven each for boys and girls. The Bering Strait School District, which is based in Unalakleet, and includes 15 schools, will get three for each gender.