The most important thing Kodiak High cross country coach Ashley Mortenson has learned during this strange COVID-19 season is to be flexible.
Plan A for this weekend — competing at the Region III Championships in Soldotna — was scratched by school admistrators because of travel concerns, so Mortenson has resorted to Plan B — a regional meet here on the island.
The 10 a.m. meet on Saturday at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park will feature only one team — the Kodiak Bears.
“It’s important, in a year like this, to have conversations with Plan B and Plan C, which is how we have been operating all along,” Mortenson said. “We reserved Abercrombie for this weekend because we knew there was a chance we weren’t going to regions. Regions was our first choice, racing at Abercrombie is our second choice, and we are moving forward with Plan B.”
That same day, Soldotna will be the lone 4A team running in the Region III Southern Division Championships on the Kenai Peninsula, while in the Mat-Su Valley Colony, Wasilla and Palmer will be competing in the Region III Northern Division.
That’s three meets in three different locations involving five Region III schools. So how will the Region III’s 10 state championship berths be divided?
According to Mortenson, Kodiak and Soldotna will each be awarded four berths — two each for the boys and girls — and the schools in the Mat-Su will fill out the remainder of the slots.
This, of course, is all contingent on Kodiak being able to travel to the state meet on Oct. 10 in Anchorage.
“Plans for the state championship meet have not been officially canceled,” Mortenson said.
The state meet will look different than in past seasons. The Alaska School Activities Association has trimmed the number of participants in the 4A races — boys and girls — to 38 entries, and no team titles will be at stake. Usually, the top 15 finishers at the Region III Championships qualify for state.
“In a year where not much has been standard, it’s OK that this is completely different, too,” Mortenson said.
Saturday’s race at The Fort will help decide Kodiak’s state championship-bound runners. However, Mortenson said other factors would go into the decision. Fortunately for the coaching staff, the same runners have emerged on top of the results after nearly each time trial this season — Naomi Griffin and Kalaini Gilbert for the girls and Christian Harver and Micah Fields for the boys.
Those four were at the top of last Saturday’s 5-kilometer race at Bear Valley Golf Course. Griffin topped the girls’ field with a time of 21 minutes, 25.5 seconds, while Gilbert was 17.5 seconds back. Harver edged Fields by .3 seconds in the boys’ race.
Mortenson said the silver lining from this unique season is that her team has bonded through the unusual circumstances they were dealt to the runners because of the pandemic. The school district has not allowed fall sports teams to travel since the season started in August.
“I was concerned that the lack of travel would result in a lack of bonding amongst our teammates because we weren’t having overnight trips or ferry trips, and I just haven’t seen that at all. Instead, we have seen a team with great unity and great encouragement,” Mortenson said.
Instead, it has been a season of self-improvement, with runners aiming for personal times at The Fort or Bear Valley. That bodes well for a team that is only graduating four runners — Harver, Jackson Roberts, Jerron Bruce and Emily Lorring. Mortenson feels for the coaches who have senior-laden rosters.
“They are grieving the loss of a final season, where so many of our team members are young ,and we are already talking about the excitement of a potential real normal season next year,” the coach said.
Bear Valley Golf Course
Time Trial No. 2
1. Christian Harver, 17 minutes, 29.1 seconds; 2. Micah Fields, 17:29.4; 3. Jackson Roberts, 18:14.2; 4. Elias Litzow, 18:20.5; 5. David Castro, 18:28.7; 6. Elmar Barroga, 18:39.4; 7. Isaiah Panthin, 18:43.6; 8. Bengt Anderson, 18:46.9; 9. Nicholas Hecht, 18:49.5; 10. Jerron Bruce, 19:15.1; 11. Tyler Holforty, 19:26.3; 12. Jacob Sarnowski, 19:31.2; 13. Benjamin Powers, 19:40.6; 14. Simon Grimes, 20:09.1; 15. Makoto Seto, 20:36.2; 16. Theron Glover, 23:06.3; 17. Richmon Incognito, 23:21.8; 18. Noah Schrof, 23:24.4; 19. Tristan Creelman, 25:55.2; 20. Jed Overbeek, 27:10.7.
1. Naomi Griffin, 21:25.5; 2. Kailani Gilbert, 21:43.0; 3. Cassidy Foster, 23:01.3; 4. Abigail Harver, 24:10.6; 5. Hannah Asbury, 24:23.4; 6. Hannah McCarthy, 25:27.3; 7. Leah Winegeart, 25:49.2; 8. Alyssa Prevatt, 26:21.0; 9. Elizabeth Parnell, 26:22.2; 10. Allison Smith, 26:24.8; 11. Esther Overbeek, 28:32.1; 12. Sara Scott, 28:46.4.
1. Miles Grimes, 13:33; 2. Gabriel Koehler, 13:43; 3. John Powers, 13:44; 4. Devin Sharrat, 14:46; 5. Paxson Williams, 15:31; 6. Joseph Dube, 15:55; 7. Cooper Smith, 15:55; 8. Zeke Saltonstall, 16:55; 9. Luke Lester, 16:58; 10. Stokely Williams, 17:28; 11. Landon Alford, 17:46; 12. John Elliott, 17:46; 13. Maddox Deemer, 17:47; 14. Evan Wadle, 18:21; 15. Daniel Dorado, 18:38; 16. Marek Wyszkowski, 18:39; 17. Frank Dorner, 19:42; 18. Weston Roberts, 19:46; 19. William Powers, 20:39; 20. Jeremiah Panthin, 20:49; 21. Taiyuo Seto, 20:55; 22. Collin Gibbs, 22:40; 23. Caedmon Bushell, 26:00; 24. Max Sanford, 29:17; 25. Austin Blondin, 29:20; 26. Owen Harris, 29:49.
1. Ayla Baker, 14:56; 2. Haiden Holforty, 15:29; 3. Falyn Costello, 15:44; 4. Maggie Hubert, 16:27; 5. Madeline Hershberg, 16:29; 6. Payton Callahan, 17:25; 7. Melia Gilbert, 17:40; 8. Grace McSparron, 19:03; 9. Sofia Wood, 19:04; 10. Kylie Holforty, 19:06; 11. Coral Ann Klemzak, 19:57; 12. Emmaline Bushell, 20:17; 13. LeElla Caskey, 20:37; 14. Gabriella Deleon, 22:26; 15. Katy Reiser, 23:33; 16. Tristan Webb, 23:53; 17. Tatiana Otto, 25:21; 18. Hailey Waterebury, 29:55; 19. Sophia Howell, 30:12.