Brent Capps and Mickey Lapinski lead

Ketchikan High School senior Brent Capps, right, and senior Mickey Lapinski lead cross country runners on Saturday during the start of a boys' Region 4A/3A region meet at Ward Lake. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Ketchikan’s Mickey Lapinski earned the Region V 4A Boys Cross Country Championship title on Saturday at Ward Lake, besting his closest rival by more than 41 seconds on a course modified due to flooding.

Lapinski and four other Ketchikan High School runners — Kyle Congdon and Casey Styles on the boys’ side, and Carol Frey and Paige Boehlert on the girls side — now are scheduled to travel north for the 2021 ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Cross Country Running State Championships set for next Saturday at the Bartlett High School Trails in Anchorage.

While the Bartlett Trails had some snow on the ground Saturday for the Cook Inlet Conference cross country championships, Mother Nature also got involved in the Region V event.

Friday’s blustery weather resulted in some Southeast Alaska teams not making it into Ketchikan that day because of flight changes, resulting in Saturday’s race times being pushed back into the afternoon to give teams time to arrive and get to Ward Lake. Further adjustments were made, as well. The 3A championship races between Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe high schools were changed to take place Sunday in Sitka, and the Wrangell High School boys and girls teams ran at Ward Lake early Sunday morning.

Although the weather had improved substantially on Saturday morning after the previous day’s high winds, heavy rains and a thunderstorm, the skies had darkened, the temperatures had dropped below 45 degrees and a rain was falling by the time the 1A/2A boys race got underway before 1 p.m. A very light hail began to fall, and a single thunderclap rumbled through the sky.

The hail had stopped but the rain continued by the time the 1A/2A girls race got underway. A course miscue prompted officials to quickly revise the finish line location.

With the rain still coming down, the 4A boys teams of Kayhi, Juneau-Douglas High School and Thunder Mountain High School took to the starting line at the Ward Creek bridge.

Lapinski moved out to an early lead, trailed most closely by a trio of Crimson Bears. The Kayhi senior — who’s been running cross country since the seventh grade at Schoenbar Middle School — continued to widen the gap before crossing the finish line alone with a time of 16:49.74.

Juneau-Douglas’ Will Robinson placed second in 17:30.82, followed by another J-D runner — Eli Crupi coming in third at 17:32.00.

Kayhi senior Kyle Congdon finished seventh in 17:56.02. Casey Styles, a freshman King’s runner, placed 11th in 18:22.59. By placing among the top 12 finishers, Congdon and Styles earned spots in next week’s state championship race.

Brent Capps was the fourth finisher among Kayhi’s seven-strong team. Capps crossed the finish in 18:55.56 for 14th place, followed by Tosh Ratzat (19:59.94, 18th), Charles Thiede (21.22.83, 19th) and Clancy Thomas (26:37.29, 21st).

As a team, Kayhi placed second with 51 points. Juneau-Douglas placed first with 23 points, and Thunder Mountain finished third with 61 points.

In an interview Sunday, Lapinski was pleased overall with his championship race.

“It went great,” he said. “Even with the weather, I felt good.”

He had been hoping, however, to get a personal record in his final race on Kayhi’s home course. He’d set his current PR of 16:46 on the same course in 2020.

Missing a new PR by three seconds was “the only thing I can complain about,” Lapinski said. “I felt great during the race, and it turned out good, but just those three seconds would have been good to cut off.”

Without Sitka’s team in what would have been a single race with both 3A and 4A runners, Lapinski didn’t have a couple runners — especially Silas Demmert — who have been close competition in recent races to push him on Saturday.

Lapinski had bested Demmert in a couple of races, and Demmert and another Sitka runner placed ahead of Lapinski during the Sept. 25 race in Juneau.

Lapinski said that after he’d won a race in Sitka ahead of Demmert, Demmert thanked him afterward for Demmert’s achievement of a new personal record.

“Because even though he took second, he liked having the competition,” Lapinski said. “... He was trying to catch up to me and I'm trying to stay ahead of him, and that really pushed us to get better times. So, not having them run in our race in Ketchikan was disappointing because we have both pushed each other to do better.”

Kayhi cross-country co-coach Katie Sivertsen on Sunday agreed that having a close competitor can help.

“It's really tough to be that person all by yourself on the course,” Sivertsen said. “... That's a really difficult position to mentally stay engaged to push yourself. When you’re chasing someone down or you're running scared with someone behind, it's easy to really dial in and compete at a next level.

“But when you're running the way Mickey has historically, where you're just way ahead of the pack, it’s really difficult to push yourself,” Sivertsen continued. “That's something I give him a lot of credit for — he works hard regardless of the conditions. It’s been a treat to work with him the last couple of seasons and see that come out of him.”

On Saturday, the rain had diminished to a sprinkle by mid-afternoon as the 4A girls teams launched from the starting line.

Thunder Mountain’s Kiah Dihle, who had won the previous weekend’s Capital City Invitational race with a time of 19:07, built a solid lead over the first third of the course and didn’t give up much ground in earning first place and a state championship berth with a time of 18:51.39.

Dihle was followed across the finish line by two JDHS runners, Etta Eller in 19:18.44 and Annika Schwartz with 19:35.57.

Kayhi freshman Carol Frey was the first Lady King to finish the 4A race, coming in 10th place at 21:41.86. Paige Boehlert, a Kayhi senior, earned the 12th and final state championship berth with her 12th-place finish at 21:54.03.

Boehlert had set a PR the previous weekend in Juneau, with a 21:42, according to Sivertsen.

Frey and Boehlert have been “really consistent” this season, said Sivertsen. “They’ve been hanging in that high 21, low 22 range for most of the season.”

The third Kayhi team member across the line was Maggie Boehlert (22:57.68, 15th), followed by Clara Odden (23:06.26, 16th), Trisha Capps (23:20.20, 17th) and Aspen Bauer (24:53.63, 19th).

Ketchikan placed third in the team standings with 71 points. Juneau-Douglas finished first in the team standings with 20 points; Thunder Mountain placed third with 48 points.

Having placed first in the team standings, Juneau-Douglas will be sending full teams to the state championship meet. Ketchikan’s runners will be participating individually, said Sivertsen.

“We wont be competing as a team,” she said. ”(Kayhi’s runners will) be seeing how they stack up with the fastest kids in the state next weekend.”

In that regard, Lapinski said that there are a wide variety of runners who will be at the state meet, some who are a “good margin” faster than he, and some that are a good margin slower.

“I'll definitely be sticking with some people in the race and getting pushed by them,” he said.

Sivertsen, who’s now in her second year of coaching Kayhi’s cross country team, said that it will be her first coaching experience involving the Bartlett Trails course. She said Kayhi’s co-coach, Kayhi grad Lucy Ortiz, had coached Unalaska’s team there in 2019.

“Lucy has very recent experience,” Sivertsen said. “She's a wonderful coach. She’s been an awesome addition to our squad, in terms of just her running experience and her Kayhi experience. She's run collegiately, as well.  ... I'm so stoked to have her here.”

Sivertsen said that she’s “very proud” the Kayhi runners who participated in Saturday’s Region V championships, and the entire Ketchikan cross-country team. She cited the runners’ dedication in the wet and cold running conditions in Ketchikan. They didn’t skip a practice the entire season, even on the recent day of more than 4 inches of rain.

“I'm so impressed and so honored to be working with kids that are that flexible and that tough and that persevere through these garbage conditions,” she said. “It’s so impressive.”

4A GIRLS DIVISION

INDIVIDUAL

1) Kiah Dihle (Thunder Mountain), 18:51.39; 2) Etta Eller (Juneau-Douglas), 19:18.44; 3) Annika Schwartz (JDHS) 19:35.57; 4) Rayna Tuckwood  (JDHS), 19:50.20; 5) McKenna McNutt, 20:03.73; 6) Ella Goldstein (JDHS), 20:04.76; 7) Ida Meyer (JDHS), 20:10.10; 8) Trinity Jackson (JDHS), 20:25.40; 9) Grace Sikes (TMHS), 21:13.63; 10) Carol Frey (KAYHI), 21:41.86; 11) Abigail Booton (TMHS), 21.43.18; 12) Paige Boehlert (KAYHI), 21:54.03; 13) Mackenzie Olver (TMHS) 22:09.90; 14) Aliyah Overturf (TMHS), 22:30.02; 15) Maggie Boehlert (KAYHI) 22:57.68; 16) Clara Odden (KAYHI), 23:06.26; 17) Trisha Capps (KAYHI) 23:20.20; 18) Sophia Owen (TMHS) 23:49.86; 19) Aspen Bauer (KAYHI) 24:53.63.

TEAM

1) Juneau-Douglas — 20

2) Thunder Mountain — 48

3) Ketchikan — 71

4A BOYS DIVISION

INDIVIDUAL

1) Mickey Lapinski (KAYHI), 16:49.74; 2) Will Robinson (Juneau-Douglas), 17:30.82; 3) Eli Crupi (JDHS), 17:32.00; 4) Aubrey Hekkers (JDHS), 17:33.46; 5) Matthew Johns (Thunder Mountain), 17:34.76; 6) Samuel Holst (JDHS), 17:42.55; 7) Kyle Congdon (KAYHI) 17:56.02; 8) Martin Holst (JDHS), 17:56.83; 9) Tias Carney (JDHS), 18:04.11; 10) Edgar Vera Alvarado (JDHS), 18:05.25; 11) Casey Styles (KAYHI) 18:22.59; 12) Darin Tingey (TMHS), 18:31.27; 13) Justus Paden (TMHS), 18:54.35; 14) Brent Capps (KAYHI), 18:55.56; 15) Tommy Bowman (TMHS), 19:08.91; 16) Sage Janes (TMHS), 19:21.63; 17) Justin Scussel (TMHS), 19:59.30; 18) Tosh Ratzat (KAYHI, 19:59.94; 19) Charles Thiede (KAYHI), 21:22.83; 20) Quimm Quiroga (TMHS), 21:49.78; 21) Clancy Thomas (KAYHI), 26:37.29.

TEAM

1) Juneau-Douglas — 23

2) Ketchikan — 51

3) Thunder Mountain — 61