Runners with Craig and Klawock at the start line during the Region V, Division 3 cross country meet at Green’s Camp near Petersburg. The two teams raced together because they had been practicing together this season. (Photo by Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Petersburg High School hosted the Region V, Division 3 cross country meet this past weekend. 1 and 2A teams from around Southeast came to Petersburg to run a course at the southern end of Mitkof Island. As KFSK’s Angela Denning reports, the event decided who qualifies for the state meet this coming weekend. However, Petersburg and most other regional teams won’t be going to State anyway.

The cross country teams did not race together at Petersburg’s regional meet. Instead, they took turns running the same race course on Friday and Saturday at Green’s Camp about 30 miles south of town. They arrived to Mitkof Island by boat and plane and went directly to the course without stopping in town.

Teams participating in-person included Wrangell, Craig, Klawock, Gustavus, and Hoonah.

Petersburg’s Assistant Coach Debby Eddy says while it was sad that the runners could not race at the same time, they were still happy for the opportunity to be on the same course.

“Every team that came was so gracious and thankful for being able to race,” she said. “It was fun to see those kids making the best of not a very ideal situation.”

Haines and Metlakatla ran courses at home and shared their results.

Petersburg High School cross country team near the race course at the Region V, Division 3 cross country meet at Green’s Camp near Petersburg. (Photo by Debby Eddy)

Overall, there were 45 runners in the boys division and 25 in the girls division. Haines took first place for both the boys and girls. The Petersburg boys took second place as did the Wrangell girls. Petersburg’s girls did not have enough runners to score as a team.

The Petersburg boys were last year’s regional champions. Head Coach Tommy Thompson said the team lost this year by only three points.

“It’s the equivalent of having seven runners lose the whole race by about 15 seconds is what it ended up being,” Thompson said. “So, even though it was virtual, and we didn’t know all the scores until Saturday afternoon and even Sunday afternoon, it was extremely tight and in my mind it was an exciting race to watch.”

Petersburg boys took the top two spots individually in the meet. Junior Uriah Lucas took first with a time of 17 minutes, 23 seconds. Junior Michael Durkin finished in second place with a time of 17 minutes 44 seconds. Runners from Haines took third and fourth places and runners from Wrangell took 5th and 6th.

Thompson says Lucas and Durkin both had strong runs.

“Uriah, he’s won every race he’s raced this year against Division 3 and it think he’s been right in there with all the Division 1 and Division 2 races he’s had this year,” Thompson said. “Michael Durkin, he ran almost a 30 second PR, he just was flying around the course and it looked effortless. Michael, he had the run of his life, I don’t think he’s every run that fast in a 5K anywhere even if he was being chased by a bear, it was a tremendous effort; he’s a tremendous athlete.”

PHS junior Uriah Lucas ran to a championship finish in the Region V, Division 3 cross country meet at Green’s Camp near Petersburg. (Photo by Ashley Lohr)

Other Petersburg finishers included Valon Weathers in 13th place, Rylan Smith in 17th, Kieran Cabral in 18th place, Chase Lister finished 20th, and Wyatt Litster 24th.

Senior Julian Cumps did not run.

On the girls’ side, sophomore DD (Deirdre) Toyomura led Petersburg in 17th place with a time of 23 minutes, 59 seconds. Sophomore Alexus Sakamoto Quezon finished 14th at 24 minutes, 2 seconds, senior Lydia Martin took 20th place and Kinley Lister finished 23rd.

Debby Eddy says the girls’ team had some struggles this year. They didn’t have the five runners needed to compete as a team. Still, she says, the group remained positive.

“Oh my gosh they are so good to each other,” Eddy said. “Such a wonderful group of girls. Like Alexus, for example, didn’t have the race she wanted because she had an ankle thing going on but even though that was a hard thing, she was so thankful for the other girls being able to do their race. Actually, Alexus had a sign on her back—she’s always telling DD to stick with her—and so she made a sign that said, ‘Chase Me DD, You Can Do It’. You know, and DD was right behind her the whole time. So, they’re just really a great group of girls to work with.”

PHS sophomore Alexus Sakamoto Quezon wore a sign on her back to encourage fellow teammate DD Toyomura. (Photo by Debby Eddy)

The top 14 runners from each division qualify to compete at the state meet. Even though Haines won the regional titles, they couldn’t qualify because they were not in-person at Regions. Several Petersburg runners qualified however, none of them will be participating at the state meet. The local school district made the decision on Monday not to travel to Anchorage based on a COVID outbreak that’s happening there.

“Just because the Anchorage condition–they’re in what I think is considered to be a ‘red state’–and they don’t want anybody going up there and getting sick,” Thompson said.

Thompson says many other Division 3 teams in the state have also made the decision not to participate including almost all of the teams from Southeast. Klawock was still deciding as of Monday.

“The risk of going up there and bringing it back to our small community or getting our kids infected and getting them sick, it’s not worth the risk to go up there especially when some of the best runners–I’d say most of the best runners from the State of Alaska–won’t be there for the Division 3,” he said.

Overall, the regional meet was a three-day event and required lots of volunteers. Both Thompson and Eddy say they are very appreciative of everyone who helped. Eddy says there were some highlights for the coaches too.

“It was kind of neat as a coach to be able to be there for each team,” Eddy said. “You know, usually we kind of get there, we get the race done, and we’re working on our kids. But our kids would come and race, then the next team came in, they got to race. We got to really connect with the other runners too, which I thought was pretty special.”

Most of Petersburg’s cross country runners can return to the sport next year. Julian Cumps and Lydia Martin were the only seniors on the team this year.