Katilyn Surdyk, above, and Rori Leaverton, below, finish strong at the State Cross Country meet in Anchorage. MD

Surdyk charges to region win
Alumni, friends show up at State to support SHS runners

By MOLLY DISCHNER

ANCHORAGE – Despite difficulties, Skagway’s runners put up a strong showing at the 2010 state cross country competition, including a top-10 finish in the small schools race by SE champion Kaitlyn Surdyk.
Skagway didn’t field a full team at state this year. A fourth place finish at the SE Region championships, held in Sitka on Sept. 25, meant that just the runners who finished in the top 15 at the regional meet were able to compete at state.
Senior Surdyk qualified after winning the 1A-2A-3A regional meet (see page 1 photo caption), and junior Rori Leaverton got a personal record and 11th place, also good enough for state.
The duo didn’t post personal records at state, but Coach Kent Fielding said they performed well.
Despite a light breeze and mostly-sunny sky, the state race was fraught with difficulties for both runners. Although both Surdyk and Leaverton had gone to State last year, that competition was in Palmer. This year, the race was held on the trails at Anchorage’s Bartlett High School. That was a tough course they had never run before, Fielding said. And they had illness and injury to contend with – a cold for Surdyk, a sore foot for Leaverton.
At the two kilometer mark, less than nine minutes after the girls started running, an announcer said Surdyk was in fourth place. Ahead of her was the two-time returning champion, Kenny Lake’s Kailey Wilson, and two runners from Anchorage’s Grace Christian School. Unfortunately, Surdyk had a cold and couldn’t keep up her pace. By the time the pack had reached the four kilometer mark, Surdyk had fallen behind. When she sprinted into the finish, she was in ninth place.
Surdyk’s last cross country race (she said she doesn’t plan to compete in college) was her first one using the spiked running shoes that are meant to provide extra traction. Surdyk tried wearing spikes after hearing that the course was particularly muddy and hilly. Afterwards, she said they probably didn’t help that much. “That was my last use for these spikes,” she said afterward while putting on a pair of flat running shoes.
For her first race on that course and in spikes, Surdyk said it was an okay run. “I’m a little disappointed with how it finished…but it still worked out,” she said.
Surdyk finished with a time of 21:03, less than a minute slower than her time from regionals. She was the only runner from region five to finish in the top ten, maintaining her top ranking in the area.
The race wasn’t any easier on Leaverton. She finished just a few minutes behind, in 24:21. Leaverton placed 57th, putting her right in the middle of the pack. The small schools race included 107 girls.
Leaverton has been running with a sore foot for the last few weeks, and the pain didn’t diminish for state. By the time she finished running, her pain was visible. She crossed the finished line strong, but was carried out of the finishing chute and missed the awards ceremony because she was at the hospital getting an x-ray.
“She ran well as far as being able to run on it,” Fielding said.
Mickey Wilson, a former Skagway runner who now runs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, joked that Leaverton had taken his place. “Same foot and everything,” he said, referring to his injury at state the year before.
Wilson was just one of many former Skagway runners who showed up to support the girls. About a dozen Skagwegians showed up to cheer for them. Fielding said the former runners helped counterbalance the new venue. “It’s almost like a home meet,” he said.
Although the end of the race marked the end of Surdyk’s cross country career, she’ll have another chance to run track this spring. Leaverton, just a junior, will have another shot at state next year. And it was also the beginning of volleyball season.
“We have a match on Thursday,” Surdyk said, already ready for the next sport to begin.