The Skagway Panthers Cross Country team. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Brady)

The Skagway Panthers Cross Country team. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Brady)

The Skagway Boys’ cross country team is heading to the State competition this weekend after a strong showing at last weekend’s regional meet in Sitka.

Skagway beat out larger schools like Petersburg and Wrangell for a third place victory at the Region V Cross Country meet in Sitka. The Panthers placed third in a competition with 11 small schools. Sitka was first and Mount Edgecumbe was second. Those two schools are 3A, which means Skagway won the 1A/2A division.

Senior Ethan Goebel came in third out of 74 runners on the 5K course, with a time of 16:54. He says the six-person team has had the State competition on its mind from the beginning.

“I think since the first race, I think we got third the first race and it just made us train harder…knowing that all of us could make it, instead just two or three of us,” Goebel said.

Sophomore Danny Brady was the second-fastest Skagway runner. He ranked ninth at Regionals, with a time of 18:00. He remembers advice coach Erik Wortman gave the team at a previous meet.

“Before the Juneau race, our coach Mr. Wortman said ‘if it sucks, run harder, just keep running hard.’ And that was kind of our mentality throughout the year so that we could end up making State,” Brady said.

This is Wortman’s second year coaching cross country. He says all six team members ran a personal best in Sitka. He says he’s looking forward to more ‘breakout performances’ at the Anchorage competition.

“I think the boys are still really finding a cohesiveness that’s allowing them to really find success on the course,” Wortman said. “This next week in Anchorage it’ll be a great opportunity for them to see all the work they put in throughout the season but also maybe do something kind of special. There’s always an opportunity to break that barrier, how fast you thought you were.”

Wortman says the boys have figured out how to work as team in the individually-focused sport of cross country. It paid off. Instead of just the fastest runners qualifying for State, the whole team gets to go.

“I’m always impressed with Skagway and what we’re able to do here,” Wortman said. “I think in the last few years we’ve gotten a lot of attention for academics and what these students do academically, and I think this is just a unique demonstration of what these students can do physically when they put their mind to it. We’re a small school but a tenacious school. And a lot of running is just putting your head down and doing the work.”

In Haines, freshman runner Marirose Evenden is headed to State. Evenden placed eleventh at Regionals, with a personal record time of 22:45.

The Skagway Panthers and one Haines Glacier Bear will take on a hilly course in Anchorage this Saturday, Oct. 1.