A couple of years ago, Katie Sivertsen was in the middle of a training cycle for a marathon, and asked then-head coach of the Ketchikan High School cross country Leigh Woodward if she could keep pace with the Kayhi squad.
“I asked Leigh if I could join,” Sivertsen said. “... I wasn’t part of their training, specifically. But was just rabbiting around with them.”
That was her introduction to high school cross country in the First City. Fast forward two years later, and Sivertsen is now taking the head coaching reins from Woodward.
A longtime member of Ketchikan’s running community, Sivertsen was named head coach of the Kayhi cross country squad on Monday, after Woodward resigned from the position earlier this year.
“I’m super excited,” Sivertsen said. “I’ve never coached high school before, but I’ve done quite a bit of coaching at the elementary level, and a little bit at the middle school level. So I’m super excited. It’s going to be an adjustment, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Woodward, who coached the Kayhi squad for a decade — both in the assistant coach role and head coach — has accepted a teaching position at the American International School of Kuwait, along with her husband, Mark.
And Woodward knew just whom to contact after her and Mark made the decision to move official.
“She was somebody I let know right when I resigned,” Leigh Woodward said of Sivertsen. “Because I just thought with her, she’s helped us out before. And she’s in the running community ... and her husband, Leif, is a teacher at Kayhi.”
Sivertsen, who teaches physical education at Point Higgins Elementary School, used to coach the running club at Tongass School of Arts and Sciences. And some of those former fifth and sixth graders would now be juniors and seniors in high school.
“I should know some kids on the team,” she said. “It will be a total blast from the past for some of those kids, for sure.”
But regardless of the age group, Sivertsen is ready to hit the ground running.
“I absolutely love working with kids,” she said. “Most of my experience is with the younger age group. But something that I’m really looking forward to is working with kids who are a little bit more serious about the sport.
“... Coaching high school has always been something that I’m interested in doing,” she continued. “And I’m really looking forward to joining the Kayhi program.”
Both teaching and running have become second nature to Sivertsen, which should ease the transition.
“She’s a like-minded person,” Woodward said. “She is somebody who is interested in bettering the community. She’s personally interested in healthy activities, and she’s got a young family. It’s good. ... It’s good to hand it off to somebody like that.”
For the past few weeks, Sivertsen has been organizing the virtual Totem to Totem Half Marathon for the Ketchikan Running and Walking Club, which will be open from May 1 to May 25.
But first she’ll line up a Zoom meeting with Kayhi’s cross country squad.
“That will be a time when I can get some face time with the athletes, and hopefully answer some questions from parents,” Sivertsen said. “And who knows, I may have questions for the runners.
“And then, hopefully iron out some training because I sure hope those kids are out running right now,” she continued. “And if they’re not, I want them to be.”
Barely 24 hours after accepting the position, and her coach’s mentality is already in full swing.
Sivertsen is hoping her squad will join her for the virtual Totem to Totem race next month.
“I’m going to try to bring those two things together, for sure,” she said.