Not only is the season starting to change from fall to winter already, but we have left Cross Country season and NYO has officially started up. I've helped coach NYO a little in Toksook Bay and I also participated in Cross Country practices, but this is the first year that I attempted to take on a team sport souly on my own. I jumped right into to X-C practice right off the bat from the beginning of school and got a surprisingly high number of kids show up. EEK School only has 91 students this year, so to get 14 of those students showing up to the first week of practice was very positive for me. Participants definitely came and went, but by the end of the season I still had 9 original runners, 2 highschool and 7 junior high, that were attending practices regularly.
Our season ended last weekend with our participation in the Bethel Regional X-C invitational. There were 17 different schools attending the meet, the largest attendance coming from Bethel Regional High School, who had approximately 24 runners and Nome, AK who brought 17 runners. Most of the other schools that are in this district brought 10 or fewer runners, some as little as 5 runners. EEK brought 8 runners that were very new to the sport but worked hard and competed well. We didn't place very high in any of the races, but we did finish each of our races and we didn't come in last place, although it was close sometimes. One of our junior high runners got tripped up at the start of the race, coming off the line dead last, but she fought and climbed her way past 22 other girls in the 30 runner field to end in 8th place. It was outstanding effort and I have great expectations of her in the future years of X-Country. The Bethel course was created in a giant sand pit that zigzagged its way around the perimeter up and down steep hills for about one and a half miles. Junior high runners did one lap and high school runners did two laps. The winning time for the high school boys, 19 min. 28 sec., came from a Chevak runner who ran very strategically and intelligently to clinch the victory. All of the races were very exciting to watch.
Part of the highlight of the trip for EEK, besides the actual race, was spending the night at Bethel's Regional High School with the other 150 runners from around the district. Energy was high the night before the race. The trip home was quite the opposite. Just about all the runners were dozing off during the 20 minute flight back to EEK on the "not so smooth" plane ride from Bethel. Turbulence wasn't a factor in keeping them awake. They were exhausted!
And a great compliment to me came from several of the runners expressing their anticipation for next year's season of X-country.