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By JOE JUDD
Daily News Sports Editor
The Ketchikan High School cross country team will begin its season in just over a couple of weeks when it travels to Alaska’s capital to compete in the season’s first official race, which will be hosted by Juneau-Douglas High School on Aug. 26.
In the meantime, Kayhi’s runners have taken to the track at Esther Shea Field or, like on Thursday afternoon, have run along the many paths surrounding Ward Lake.
Kayhi head coach Leigh Woodward sat down with the Daily News after her team’s most recent practice on Thursday evening at Ward Lake to discuss her enjoyment of running, coaching cross country and her thoughts on another season of Southeast Alaska cross country competition.
This season will see the Kings compete in a total of six events, with the region tournament at Ward Lake scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 23.
The state cross country meet will be held one week later in Bartlett.
Ketchikan Daily News: The new season is just around the corner and you’ve been conditioning quite a bit. What’s it been like being back with the team?
Leigh Woodward: I run with the kids pretty much all summer and we really start at the end of May, but it is awesome having the whole team out because there’s usually 10 or fewer (kids) at summer practices.
KDN: How do you like your team’s chances going into this year?
LW: It looks good; we have a good-looking team this year. There’s a couple of new freshmen who are impressing me with their work ethic and their speed and, of course, we have a lot of people who are coming back who were dedicated this summer and put in the miles. A couple of kids did high-altitude running camps.
KDN: From a coaching standpoint, what are you hoping to accomplish with each subsequent practice?
LW: Usually I have the training program in like eight-or nine-day cycles and so I try to work in three or four quality workouts in those cycles. The rest (of the practices) are just getting in miles.
KDN: What is your favorite aspect of coaching cross country?
LW: As a coach, this is probably one of the only activities you can kind of just go out and do with the kids; you can’t really do that when you’re the soccer coach or the basketball coach. You get to know the kids a lot differently when you’re running miles with them and you’re suffering right alongside them.
KDN: Could you describe how it feels to see these kids come up as freshmen and progress on into their final year running for Kayhi?
LW: As a classroom teacher, I maybe just have them for a semester or two semesters, but I really like being able to see them grow in their running, or just in their maturity or academics.
KDN: How much significance do running and cross country have in your life?
LW: I enjoy running and I really enjoy being a part of coaching Kayhi Cross Country, but it’s just a part of (my life).
KDN: Is there really such a thing as what is called a “runner’s high,” and if so, what is it like?
LW: I think so. It might be that moment where you’re not in pain anymore and you’re hitting your strides out there on the trail. You’re just heavy. It’s sunny or maybe it’s rainy and misty but you’re just content and you feel good.