After just two meets, the Panthers cross-country team is performing better than expected and beating personal records.
Most recently, the team competed in the Haines Invitational on Sept. 5. The boys qualified for team scoring with five runners, finishing fifth behind Juneau-Douglas, Thunder Mountain, Mt. Edgecumbe and Haines.

Coach Erik Wortman said the runners are coming out with significantly better times than last season.

Al Weber finished second in the small schools division by just four seconds, with a time of 23:23.5. She placed tenth overall.

Hailey Jensen came in fifth in small schools and 15th overall at 24:27. Madison Cox finished eighth in small schools and 25th overall at 25:55, and Kara Whitehead finished 16th in small schools and 47th overall at 33:20.

Danny Brady took fourth place in the boys small school division and 15th overall at 19:16.2. Colton Belisle followed at 21:19.7, taking 11th in small schools and 37th overall.

Steaven McKnight finished 15th in small schools and 46th overall at 21:54.9, and Micah Cook finished 16th in small schools and 53rd overall at 22:29.5. C.J. Dormido finished 18th in small schools and 60th overall at 24:28.7.

Wortman said the students showed really big gains from their first meet in Sitka on Aug. 29.

“To see big gains over the course of a short week is really impressive,” he said.

[quote_right]“To see big gains over the course of a short week is really impressive,” he said. [/quote_right]

During the Sitka Invitational, Weber placed fourth in the small schools division and 14th overall at 22:56. Hailey Jensen placed 16th in small schools and 33rd overall at 24:33.

Danny Brady placed 11th in small schools and 25th overall at 19:20. Wyatt Belisle placed 19th in small schools and 47th overall at 20:22. Steaven McKnight finished at 21:24 and Micah Cook finished at 22:18.

Brady said he felt that he did very well for his first high school run.

“In the second one I think I improved in stamina and speed, but I think I can still keep improving,” he said.

Photo by Jeff Brady Al Weber works hard to get up the final hill behind the fairgrounds.

Photo by Jeff Brady
Al Weber works hard to get up the final hill behind the fairgrounds.

Weber, the team’s only senior, said she has also improved, shaving four minutes off her time since she started during her freshman year.

“I think we’ve got a really consistent pace throughout,” Wortman said. “Students are trying to find their finish and what it fees like to run a consistent race and really gain those few extra spots at the end.”

The junior high team will compete in an intramural race in Skagway on Sept. 16.

The high school team will compete in Ketchikan on Sept. 19 and at regionals in Juneau on Sept. 26.

Until then, Wortman said the team will continue to develop their techniques on the course as well as team strategy.

“I think that there is a huge improvement over last season,” Wortman said. “The amount of effort that people are willing to put in and the gains they are getting back. I think it comes with maturity and a willingness to push your body and compete.”