A five-strong group of Ketchikan High School runners will be participating in the ASAA Cross Country Running State Championships this Saturday in Anchorage, led by Region V champion Mickey Lapinski.
The Kayhi senior will be joined by senior Kyle Congdon and freshman Casey Styles in the Division I boys race that’s scheduled to start at 12:45 p.m. at the Bartlett High School Trails.
Kayhi freshman Carol Frey and senior Paige Boehlert will be competing in the Division 1 girls race that’s set to start at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, also at Bartlett Trails.
The runners earned their state championship berths this past weekend during the Region V Cross Country Championships on their (weather revised) home course at Ward Lake.
Lapinski dominated the Division I (4A) boys race, crossing the line in 16:49.74 and more than 40 seconds ahead of Juneau-Douglas High School’s Will Robinson. It was Lapinski’s best time for the 2021 season, and three seconds over his personal record of 16:46.
Lapinski, whose closest challengers in Region V this season have been Sitka High School’s Silas Demmert and Annan Wieland, will have a lot of competition in the Division I state championship race on Saturday. According to state 4A stats compiled by athletic.net, Lapinski’s season-best time is the 30th fastest statewide this year. The quickest mark of the 2021 season is a 16:05 belonging to David Sliwinski of Grace Christian.
“(Lapinski’s) going to get a run for his money,” Kayhi cross country head coach Katie Sivertsen said Thursday. “... His (personal record) is actually 16:46, so if he were to replicate that, he would be sitting at about 25th or 26th. Still, top 30, though, that’s awesome. That’s a really big deal.”
This past Sunday, Lapinski, who said he appreciates racing with runners who can push each other competitively, was looking forward to being in the field.
“There’s a wide variety of runners with different times going to state, and there will be some (who are a) good margin slower than me, and there will be some with a good margin faster than me,” he said. “But I'll definitely be sticking with some people in the race and getting pushed by them.”
Kyle Congdon, the other Kayhi senior boy set to run in the state meet, posted a personal record of 17:56.02 while finishing seventh in this past weekend’s Region V championship.
Congdon is new to Ketchikan this school year, having attended Kasaan High School and run with the Thorne Bay cross country team this past year, according to Sivertsen. He’s shown steady improvement in times during each race so far in 2020, dropping from 19:13.07 at the Wrangell Invitational on Sept. 11 to his sub-18 minute time on Oct. 2 at Ward Lake.
Styles, too, has shown steady improvement in his first year as a Kayhi King, going from a season opening 20:20 to a PR of 18:20 at the Capital City Invitational on Sept. 25 in Juneau. He posted an 18:22.51 in the Region V race.
Carol Frey’s time of 21:41.86 in the Region V girls Division I race on Oct. 2 was a razor-thin PR over her previous best of 21.41.9 from the Sitka Invitational on Sept. 18. After starting the season with two races above the 22-minute mark, the freshman runner’s times have been less than two seconds apart in the next three races.
Paige Boehlert, a four-year veteran of Kayhi cross country, opened her 2021 season with a pair of 22-minute races before setting her PR of 21:42 at the Capital City Invitational on Sept.. 25. She qualified for the state meet with a time of 21:51.9 this past Saturday.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s state championship races, Sivertsen noted that the Bartlett Trails course is different than the mostly flat courses in Southeast Alaska that have sections of gravel and regular road surfaces.
“The big challenge for kids is that these are true cross country trails — so they're not gravel, and they're not paved,” Sivertsen said. “They are grassy trails, and they can be pretty slick with fallen leaves. ... So that'll be a big difference for us. This is like the rest of the world runs cross country. Golf courses and things like that — just rolling, grassy hills.”
Not all of Kayhi’s runners even have the type of spiked racing shoes that are optimal for a course like Bartlett Trails.
“Most of our athletes have spikes but not everybody does, so we're going to do a little curbside pick-up at the local Anchorage running store to get a couple of those kids outfitted, because it’s a safety thing — not as a competition thing, but as a safety thing.”
Lapinski, who had run on the Bartlett trails course as a sophomore, said on Sunday that the course has a reputation of being a bit slower because of the factors that Sivertsen noted later (there was even snow on the Bartlett Trails this past weekend).
Sivertsen acknowledged that observation.
“He's right on, absolutely,” Sivertsen said. “They'll be a little bit slower; we don’t necessarily expect to see some PRs, but, you know, especially with our freshman, you never know, they can do cool things. Could we get a course PR for Mickey? He’s the only athlete on our whole team whose done this (course) before, so he could absolutely get a course PR.”
Sivertsen herself was looking forward to making the trip in her second year as head coach of the Kayhi team, and glad to be accompanied by Kayhi co-coach Lucy Ortiz, who brings previous coaching experience with the Unalaska runners at Bartlett Trails.
“I’m really excited to get to go, and get to coach kids through this,” she said. “... It’s my first time going to the big show. I can’t wait.”
For Division III — which includes 1A and 2A schools — all members of the top three teams and the top 15 finishers in the Region V championships this past weekend qualify to participate in the ASAA Cross Country Running State Championships.
The top three girls teams from the Region V race were Haines (27 points); Klawock (61 points) and Petersburg (70 points).
Members of the Klawock team are Kenai Holien (6th place, 20:02); Lexi Johnson (8th, 20:35); Kyla Jones (9th, 20:43); Isabelle Hoppe (21st, 25:02) and Hailey Hedges (25th, 30:51).
Ariel Godinez-Long of Haines won the Division III girls Region V Championship race at Ward Lake with a time of 17:59.32.
On the Region V boys side of Division III, the top three teams were Haines (37) points, Petersburg (45 points) and Craig (67 points).
Members of the Craig team include Rogan Hanson (3rd place, 17:53); Daniel Aspery (10th, 18:32); Keegan Hanson (16th, 19:10); Sam Bass (22nd, 20:02); Colin Rice (26th, 20:55); and Tanner Smith (51st, 28:04.49).
Marley Kness of Klawock was among the top 15 finishers (9th place) with a time of 18:15.07.