The 2012 Skagway team: front row (from left) - Sahara Kilic, Rebecca Hollander, and Al Weber; back row - Colton Belisle, Trevor Cox, Zack Wassman, Jake Grieser, Airk Cochran, Nick Ackerman, and coach Kent Fielding. Right, Cochran trains on the Dyea Road. Jeff Brady

Cross Country 2012: Panther boys strive to contend

By JEFF BRADY
One could sense the burning in their legs as they climbed hills and ran the curves of the Dyea Road during a workout this week, but the kids on the Skagway High cross country team were “working it.”
The cross country season begins this weekend with the team’s first meet in Sitka, and veteran coach Kent Fielding is exited about his team’s chances.
Just putting together a team of any kind with less than 15 kids in grades 9-12 will be a challenge for any activity this year. Fielding has the minimum five kids needed for a boys’ team to score points in meets.
“The good news is that we have a full team: Airk Cochran, Zack Wassman, Trevor Cox, Nick Ackerman and Jake Grieser,” Fielding said. “Nick and Trevor have looked strong early on, but Airk and Zack have injuries. Still, with only 13 students in the school, getting five to commit to cross country is outstanding. If I can get Airk and Zack healed by regionals we could be okay.”
Cochran, a senior, and Wassman, a junior, were outstanding track stars last spring, winning or finishing second in races. Cochran was the long distance specialist, and Wassman excelled in sprints.
“Airk looked extremely strong this summer and was putting in 45-mile weeks, training with Quinn Weber,” Fielding added. “Airk could be an easy top ten and more - even with his injury (a strained MCL). We just have to see. I told him just to go out and do what he could and not worry about the things he can't control.”
Wassman has a strained Achilles heel and will not be traveling with the team this weekend, but his coach hopes he will come back strong.
“He is a great sprinter, but in cross country he'll need to sustain an even pace (5:40ish per mile) to qualify for State,” Fielding said. “He has the ability. Right now he needs the training and desire.”
Fielding noted the Ackerman and Cox have looked good in practice, and Grieser is getting there.
Also on the team is the only female high school runner, Alexandra Weber, and junior high runners Colton Belisle (a strong hill runner for an eighth grader), Rebecca Hollander and Sahara Kilic. Those J-high runners will get to compete at Skagway’s home meet and also in Juneau next month.
It’s Skagway’s turn to host a meet this year. After Sitka, the team’s next test is at home on Friday, Sept. 7. The girls’ race will start at 2:30 p.m., followed by the boys’ race at 3:30 p.m.
The course is the same as the last time it was held here three years ago, Fielding said, allowing for a quick turnaround for teams arriving on the afternoon ferry.
The course starts at the Gold Rush Cemetery, runs down Alaska Street to the airport, over the footbridge to Yakutania Point, and then up Yakutania Hill toward the old rifle range and onto Dyea Road, and finishes at the Skagway Lookout.

Seven local teams so far in Klondike Road Relay

The 30th running of the Klondike Trail of ’98 International Road Relay will feature at least seven Skagway teams when the starting whistle blows from a WP&YR steam engine on the evening of Sept. 7.
Teams will start at half-hour intervals beginning at 6 p.m. local time. The last teams usually leave at 11 p.m.
As of the morning of Aug. 22, six running teams and one walking team had signed up from Skagway.
Running in the mixed division will be two veteran teams, the WP&YR Highballers and Skagway Brewing Co., along with newcomer Beach Combing 4 Lumber. The corporate division will see teams from Alaska Excursions, Duff’s Backcountry Outfitters, and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
The only walking team from Skagway signed up so far is the Viking Hooligans, captained by Marlene McCluskey. It will feature her cousins visiting from Sweden. They will start from Carcross at 4 a.m. Pacific time on Saturday morning.
Teams should take note that Montana Manor on the highway in Carcross has been closed since the end of June, so don’t plan on filling up there, or finding a coffee or a restroom. But there are new outhouses up the road at the desert.
Spectators may gather on Broadway for the Friday night start and follow the race at www.klondikeroadrelay.com . Teams begin arriving in Whitehorse, 110 miles away, early Saturday afternoon. – JB

CUP STAYS IN CANADA – “We regretfully have to award you the Whi-Sky Cup – again,” announced Skagway captain Mitch Snyder, as he presented it to Whitehorse captain Gary Acorn, left, for the 18th time in the 23 years of the golfing event. Acorn, as usual, was humble in victory. “This event is all about the friendship,” he said, after winning by a match score of 18 to 8. Right, Jed Greenstreet tees off for the USA. – 'Guvna' Brady