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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
Ruby McCue made it a point to keep Anneliese Hiatt in her sight during the Region V championship high school cross country meet on Sept. 28.
With a chance to repeat as a state qualifier, McCue tracking Hiatt — Ketchikan High School’s girls’ leading runner — was a good way to measure where McCue was in the race’s placement.
And that worked — at least until the second loop around Sitka’s course.
“I lost her on the second loop around,” McCue said. “But I still managed to stay with a couple (Juneau-Douglas) girls. They were amazing, and they actually really pushed me.”
A top-12 finish was needed to qualify for state — a new rule this season, instead of a top-10 finish in previous years. And McCue made it, just in the nick of time.
“We were just battling it out the whole time,” McCue said. “And I was like, ‘I will not be 13th. I’m one spot away. No, I refuse.’”
The Juneau-Douglas High School girls’ team made it, as did McCue. She finished 12th in the girls’ Region V race; Hiatt finished eighth. And along with Brent Capps and Mickey Lapinski, they will represent the First City in the big city this weekend.
All four qualified for the state cross country meet at Bartlett High School in Anchorage on Saturday morning. Both Hiatt and Lapinski are first-timers. McCue and Capps competed in the state competition last year.
Bartlett’s course is basically full of ski hills — a constant up and down.
“The state course is hard. … It’s awful,” McCue said. “I’m excited to attend, just not race it.”
Capps was so excited to advance for the second time that he followed Cole Sprout on social media. Sprout is the country’s fastest high school boys’ runner, who resides in Colorado. And the duo messaged each other.
“His PR is like 14:16,” Capps said. “My goal is like sub 15 (minutes) when I’m a senior.”
Capps, McCue and Lapinski are all sophomores. Hiatt is a freshman.
“I think one of the most exciting things about this group is how young they are,” Ketchikan head coach Leigh Woodward said. “These guys should hopefully go back again next year. So this will be learning. This will be ‘let’s see what state’s all about.’”
For the past week, the squad has been running Salvage Trail to prepare for the state meet course near Bartlett High School. Although not a constant up and down, like ski hills, Woodward said it’s as close as Ketchikan has.
“(It’s) the trail most like the course,” she said.
Minus the moose droppings, of course.
“It smells awful, almost worse than dead fish,” McCue said.
Used to the smell of dead fish, smells don’t bother Hiatt.
“At the start, you smell it,” she said. “But after the first few minutes you stop noticing it.”
Ketchikan gets plenty of practice running by dead fish at Ward Lake. And the smell was poignant during the Ketchikan Invitational on Sept. 21.
That meet also was a chance for Ketchikan to size itself up next to its regional competition, as nearly the entire region competed in the Ketchikan Invitational at Ward Lake.
“It’s basically a free regions meet because it’s the same teams,” Lapinski said. “And I placed well here. So I was expecting to go (to state). My race (in Sitka) went better than I thought. I got a PR.”
Lapinski finished sixth during Ketchikan’s home meet, in 17:16, and finished sixth in 17:01 at the Region V meet.
All four Ketchikan runners hit a new personal record in Sitka.
Hiatt’s time was 20:29; McCue finished in 21:14. And Capps finished just a few steps ahead of Lapinski, in 17:00.
They’ll hope to carry that momentum into the state meet.
But afterward, regardless of where Ketchikan places in the race, the foursome will enjoy life in the big city — even if it is just for one weekend.
“After the race we go to the trampoline park,” McCue said. “It sounds crazy, but we still have energy for the trampoline park. ... We go out to dinner to Moose’s Tooth (Pizzeria). We go to Skinny Raven and purchase new spikes. ... And then we shop around. It’s small traditions, but it means a lot to us.”