BSSD runners qualify for state on tough White Mountain course
The heavy dose of rain that fell in the hours leading up to Saturday’s Bering Strait Conference Region 1 Cross Country Running Championships caused the event in White Mountain to resemble a triathlon as much as a running race. After dashing though the village, climbing a mountain, and nearly having to swim through the muddy higher elevation trails, six athletes had certainly earned their tickets for a trip south next weekend to attend the state meet at Bartlett High School.
The winner of the high school boys race was not a surprise, as Unalakleet senior Jayden Wilson completed the 5-kilometer course in 20 minutes, 12 seconds. He was over a minute faster that second place finisher junior Josh Prentice of White Mountain (21:13). Third place was captured by Elim sophomore Jacob Brouillette, who put in a time of 21:29.
The pre-race favorite in the high school girls division delivered as well. Despite the sloppy conditions, sophomore EJ Rochon of Unalakleet posted a time of 23:36, and built at two-minute cushion over sophomore LouAnn Niksik of Saint Michael (25:36). White Mountain junior Anjoli Agloinga nearly outlasted Niksik and finished in third place with at time of 25:45.
The top three runners in each Bering Strait School District division qualified for the 123A ASAA State Cross Country Running Championships on October 1. This represents an increase of two over BSSD qualification numbers in 2015.
In recent years Region 1, which has Barrow and Unalaska as its extremes, was split into three subregions for cross country running: North, Central and South. Due to cost cutting changes implemented by Region 1 during the off season, true subregional qualification races were eliminated. They were replaced by a predetermined number of guaranteed spots being granted to each conference, or district, for the state meet. The North Slope Conference, which includes Barrow, and the Northwest Arctic Conference, which includes Kotzebue, each received seven spots apiece.
Nome is Region 1 North’s only single-site district. It could use up to six, non-guaranteed state slots if athletes met established Region 1 time criteria. To qualify for the race at Bartlett, Nome-Beltz boys were required to run a 5-kilometer race in under 20 minutes. The limbo bar was set at 27 minutes for the Nome girls. Region 1 South member Unalaska, being the only other single-site district in the region, used the same standard.
One person disappointed with the termination of a regional qualification race was Jayden Wilson. He had steadily climbed the regional ranks each of his high school years. He placed third at the 2015 race, after finishing seventh as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore. One of Wilson’s running goals this season was to contend for the 2016 Region 1 North title.
Wilson said he was pleased with his efforts in White Mountain on Saturday, but it was not the way he had hoped to end the regular season. “I won’t be seeing Wilson [Hoogendorn, Nome’s top runner in 2016] until state,” he said. To motivate himself during the BSSD qualifier, he kept the thought of racing Hoogendorn in his mind.
Rochon, who took fourth in the 2015 Region 1 North qualification meet, was also denied the opportunity to display her skills on the regional stage. When asked about how she prepared herself for a big competition like this year’s BSSD Conference qualifier she replied, “It’s really hard because I have nobody to really push me. I was always running with Starr [Erikson of Nome, who finished in 5th place in 2015] so [during today’s race] I didn't know whether to speed up or slow down.”
While Wilson and Rochon both have experience at the next level, the remainder of the BSSD crew will be state competition first-timers. “I’m excited to go,” said Prentice. To help get a better understanding of what next weekend will be like he consulted with Jayden Wilson. “He told me how to prepare myself and be ready mentally and physically,” said Prentice.
Some of the BSSD state qualifiers surprised themselves. Niksik was the district’s sixth faster runner at the 2015 Region 1 North meet. “I thought I was going to do bad, but I did pretty good,” she said after the Saturday’s race. “I sprinted the whole way. And when I got to the end I sprinted faster.”
Prior to the race start, Agloinga wasn’t sure she would be headed to Anchorage next weekend. The White Mountain runner was pleased with the progress she made since the 26:24 time she posted on a much drier, faster, and easier course in Nome two weeks ago. Agloinga was enthusiastic about the upcoming state meet, and explained her improvement by saying, “I don’t really believe it. I’m really excited. I mostly trained the course and did a lot of hill sprints.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was turned in by Brouillette, who placed 64th at the 2015 qualifier, and was only the 26th fastest BSSD male runner that day. On his pre-race mental preparation Brouillette said, “I wasn’t thinking I wanted to get top three. I was thinking it’s me versus me,” he said. “I’m trying to be better myself.”