Runners on Petersburg’s High School cross country team gather under a rainbow at Sandy Beach at the end of a practice run. (Photo courtesy of Debby Eddy)

Petersburg High School fall sports are happening this year in modified ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic restricting student contact. One sport that is holding nearly normal practices is cross country. As KFSK’s Angela Denning reports, Petersburg’s cross country team participated in its first ever virtual meet with other schools around Southeast Alaska.

Cross country is a non-contact sport that happens outside so many high schools have gone ahead with their seasons in a near-normal way.

“This is the sport to be in this year for sure,” said Debby Eddy, Petersburg’s Assistant Coach.

She says practices have been like other years except for daily screenings and temperature checks. “Once we get all the screening done it always feels pretty normal,” she said.

The student athletes run various trails each day building up their mileage for the season.

Eddy says cross country meets are a different story. Petersburg participated in its first virtual meet August 22 hosted by Juneau-Douglas High School. Other Southeast schools participating included Thunder Mountain, Sitka, Ketchikan, Mt. Edgecumbe, and Metlakatla. All the teams timed their own 5K races at home and then shared them. Eddy says the schools used a formula to come up with the results that included variables like the runner’s times from previous years.

“No system is perfect but in this sense it was better than nothing,” she said. “So, it was a great opportunity for the kids to see kind of where they lined up with people in Southeast so far.”

Petersburg High School’s 2020 cross country team gets ready to start its first virtual meet, Aug. 22. (Photo courtesy of Debby Eddy)

The meet’s results showed Juneau-Douglas boys finishing first place and taking six of the top 10 spots. The Ketchikan boys took second place and Sitka third. Petersburg’s Uriah Lucas took third place individually with a time of 17 minutes and 20 seconds. Juneau-Douglas also took first place for the girls, taking eight of the top ten spots. Sitka girls took second and Ketchikan third. Petersburg and Metlakatla are in smaller school divisions but the meet was open to all school sizes.

There may or may not be traveling to in-person meets this year for high schools. That will depend on the current COVID-19 situation in the home town and where the team will be heading. But Eddy says that Petersburg is keeping the calendar as is for now, including hosting a regional track meet at the end of September.

“That will be an exciting thing if that can happen for us,” she said.

Possible scenarios include each team running the race course separately to keep contact numbers low.

“It’s definitely not going to look the same,” Eddy said. “The athletic directors and such are all talking about this. We’ve been at the Petersburg meets where there’s over 100 kids racing. We may have to change our course because the distance, the width of the course, has to be at least six feet so that’s a new rule that’s begun. So, yeah, things are definitely going to look different if we race with other communities.”

Overall, Petersburg’s team is smaller this year and they’re pretty young, says Eddy.  But she says they are working hard every day at practice.

“They’ve just got such good resilience,” Eddy said. “I mean, they’re able to just adapt to whatever, I’m just super impressed. I feel they would love to race, they would love to travel and do that fun stuff that we do but in the midst of all that, they’re making the best of it. I’m very proud of them.”

Other sports like swim, volleyball, and wrestling will start up next month for Petersburg High School. The school district’s Athletics Director Jaime Cabral said, in an email, that practices for those sports will operate very differently than previous years. The teams will be following mitigation plans for each sport and location. Each team will have a meeting prior to the start to go over all the protocols that are in place as well as screening requirements and limitations on numbers. 

PHS swim practices will begin on September 2nd with two days of open swim practice prior to that.

PHS volleyball begins September 9th with open gyms beginning September 1. There is a parent meeting about volleyball via RingCentral August 31 at 6:30pm.

PHS wrestling has a tentative start date of September 26 however the state is looking at moving that season later. 

Mitkof Middle School cross country begins Aug. 28 at 5:15pm.