The Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe high school cross-country running teams will hit the trails this weekend when they host their only home meet of the season.
The Wolves and Braves will be joined by several other Southeast Conference (Region V) teams for the Sitka Invitational on Saturday (Aug. 29), which starts and ends at the Sitka Sound Science Center and features a course through the totem trails at Sitka National Historical Park. The girls start at 8:30 a.m., with the boys’ race at 9:15 a.m.
The defending region champion Sitka boys finished fifth at state in 2014, and have two former individual region champions on the roster. Colin Baciocco won the 2014 region title, while 2013 region champ David Wilcox returns to the team after missing last year with injury. Other returners from last year’s state team include senior Jordan Zellhuber and juniors Caleb Suarez and Connor Buxton. Neil Little, a transfer from Haines, is another runner in contention for a top position on the squad. There are 27 boys competing for the seven varsity spots.
The Sitka girls, who finished fourth in the region meet last year and didn’t qualify for state, have a small squad this year with only seven runners. Seniors Hailey Denkinger and Kelcie VonScheerschmidt are expected to provide leadership, with Ali Venneburg and Ayla McNeilly expected to be contenders.
Mount Edgecumbe High School coach Josh Arnold says he’s still getting to know his team, since he just met arriving students this week. Although his Region V champion girls team took fifth in state last year, they’ve been hard-hit by graduation and transfers. The Mount Edgecumbe boys took third in the region last year, but only sent one runner to state instead of the whole team.
The cross country teams have a short season, with the region meet Sept. 26 at Sandy Beach in Douglas, followed by the state meet Oct. 3 at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. The top three teams and any individual in the top 15 not on one of the top teams at the region meet qualify for state.