Alaska State Preview 4A

         The first state cross country championship for the season will be run in Alaska on the Palmer course this weekend & it should prove quite interesting.    The favorite for the girls’ individual  race has to be Leah Francis of Juneau-Douglas.   She won the title last year  as well  as the Adidas Classic (record time) in Portland, Oregon.    With the exception of the Palmer Invitational, which was run in the muck  she has dominated every event in which she has been entered.  In the Palmer meet she lost a shoe, which accounts for her  finish, and  unless that happens again her regional time  (18:16 by far the best in the state) suggests another victory.    She also won the Juneau Invitational earlier.  Last year she was 17th in the Footlocker Western Regional.    The one  lingering  question is  a possible hip problem.

       There are a  fair number of runners, who could defeat her on an off day, however, & Crystal Pitney of West Valley (Fairbanks)  would seem to be the most likely.    The WV flash was 2nd in the state in ’04 & state champion in ’05 & then placed 5th last year.   She was also 27th at the Footlocker Western Regional last year.   This year she won the Palmer Invitational, West Valley Invitational & Delta Junction Invitational along with the Region 6  championship.    Letitia  Luck of West Anchorage is another with strong credentials including the Region 4 title.   She was also  2nd in the Skyview Invitational &  6th at Palmer.    Shoshana Keegan was only 4th in Region 4 but she placed  2nd at Palmer & was 3rd at Skyview.   Beyond this she has a history of running well at State as evidenced by scoring   three consecutive 2nd place finishes.   She was  also 3rd at the Skyview Invitational.    Kayla Teslow missed a number of early meets  but was 7th at State last year.   She had an off day at Regional & was  only 12th at Palmer but she should now be rounding back into  competitive strength. .  

       Ivy O’ Connor of Skyview is an intriguing runner having placed 3rd at Palmer, although she was only  3rd in her Region.   Abby Reed of Kodiak  is another   very capable runner & placed 7th at Palmer and was 9th  at Skyview.   Marissa Rorabaugh of West Valley is another, who missed some meets, but since her return she took 2nd in her Region.    Jaime Bronga  of East Anchorage won the Skyview Invitational & was 2nd in Region 4.   Others to consider are Kendra Nelson of Wasilla, who placed 2nd in the Su Valley Invitational, plus Kirsten  Jorgenson of Juneau Douglas who was 5th at Palmer.   Heather Edic took 2nd at the Delta Invitational while  Abby Reed of Kodiak was  2nd at Colony & 7th at Palmer.

     If the individual race appears to have a clear-cut leader the team battle should be quite  tight &  will likely be between  three teams.     When one looks at the times that have been turned in there does not appear  to be much difference between Juneau Douglas &  West Anchorage.   That said West Valley is  probably  just  behind,  if that.    At the Palmer Invitational  West Anchorage earned a narrow  six point victory  over Juneau Douglas on a day when  Francis fell &  finished well off her usual placement.    With a much better placement at State Juneau would seem to  have a slight advantage.   They also appear to be a little stronger in their later  finishers but anything can happen.   With the absence of the Dimond Lynx Invitational this year the Palmer meet  was probably the best preview for State.   Still perennial power West Valley has to be considered.   They placed 3rd at Palmer only 16 points from the leader.   They also have proven runners who are  very capable of stepping  up on the big day.      Behind the big three  should be Wasilla & South Anchorage who had the same number of points at Palmer.  

      Trevor Dunbar of Kodiak, only a junior, is the defending State Champion & will be very hard to beat.   He is undefeated this year & has faced every major runner in the state who might challenge him already this year.   His major  victory was at Palmer but he also won at Skyview, Colony & Delta Junction.   He has  far & away the best time coming into the meet &, of course, won his Regional.    In point of  fact his only  real challenge  this year has come from the elements, for he  fell into the water at Palmer causing his shorts to lower.  Baring interference again from Mother Nature he should  repeat as champ.

       If he is to be challenged it would most likely come from one of three competitors.   Jake Parsien of Palmer placed 2nd at Palmer & Regional & was 3rd at Skyview.   Aaron Fletcher of South Anchorage  finished 2nd at State last year.   There has  been no drop-off for him this year as he has placed 3rd at Palmer.  Werner Hoefler of West Valley placed 4th at Palmer  &  finished first at  both the West Valley Invitational & at Region 6.   Others to consider are Silas & Cole  Talbot of Service, Hunter Brown of Juneau Douglas & Sam  Salus of Kodiak,

        Early in the season it appeared that Colony might challenge defending champion Kodiak especially after  Grace Christian upset Dunbar at  the Skyview Invitational.   It was a shocker  since Dunbar had not lost a meet since placing 2nd at State in 2005.   They had even traveled  to Oregon last year to defeat highly  rated Jesuit & Central Catholic of the Portland, Oregon  area.   Kodiak has since regrouped & easily won its Regional Meet  defeating Palmer & Colony.   Palmer is led  by Jake Parsien while  Colony is led by  Mason  Wick.    Service, led by the Talbots,  &  South Anchorage, led by Fletcher, are the most likely  challengers but no team has the depth that Kodiak has & they have the  defending champion.    Juneau Douglas & West Valley, which both won their Regionals, also must be considered but again depth is a question.

       Defending  1-3A champion Michael Miller  of Anchorage Christian School  is probably the 2nd best runner in the State with all divisions considered & he  coasted to victory at his Regional.  Only Dunbar has defeated him this year & Dunbar will be in another race.   In the same division  Rubye Foldager of  Seward is the defending champion & she  looks to repeat as well.   Grace Christian is the defending 3A champion & they upset Kodiak Palmer as previously mentioned.  They, however, nearly fell to Anchorage Christian School in the Regional & this race should be  very interesting.       Seward is the defending  3A champion &  has to be favored after their Regional victory.