If one was searching for two of the top prep cross-country runners in this country of some 315 million this weekend, a remote island in Alaska populated by 14,000 people would seem to be a poor place to start.
But there they will be Saturday, Kenai Central senior Allie Ostrander and Kodiak senior Levi Thomet, lacing up their running shoes at the Region III meet in Kodiak.
Ostrander will be searching for a clean sweep of the Region III titles for her career. According to records kept by Kodiak coach Marcus Dunbar, only Kristi Waythomas (then Klinnert) has swept all four region titles.
Ostrander also comes in with the top 5K time in the nation this season, according to athletic.net.
She is the second-ranked runner in the Saucony Flo50, compiled by the websites milesplit.com and flotrack.org, and also is ranked second on dyestat.com. The top-ranked runner, Hannah DeBalsi of Staples, Connecticut, has not yet run this season.
Thomet will be seeking his third Region III crown. His 5K time is tied for 37th on athletic.net, and he is ranked 14th in the Saucony Flo50 and 13th on dyestat.com.
Throw in the fact that Trevor Dunbar, the former Kodiak High School and University of Oregon standout who is the first Alaskan to break four minutes in the mile, will speak at the Friday prerace banquet, and it’s easy to see why running aficionados on “The Rock” are in for quite the treat.
“That’s very special to have that caliber of runners,” said Marcus Dunbar, who has been coaching at Kodiak since 1998. “We’re lucky if we have one runner ranked in the top 20 in the country.
“To have two running in the same meet is nice. It’s unprecedented.”
There has been talk of the Coast Guard shutting down Bear Valley Golf Course, where the meet will be held, but Dunbar said he is hopeful this will not be the last meet there.
“I think it could actually be quite epic,” said Teri Ostrander, the Kenai Central coach and Allie’s mother. “I don’t know that you see that caliber of runners in Alaska all the time.
“I think they will be ready to roar, both of them, and see what they can lay down. Maybe it is a time that stands forever.”
The meet being on a golf course calls to mind the fast Lower 48 cross-country meets, but Dunbar said the course is actually not that fast because it’s all on grass and while there are not steep hills, the course is never flat.
Of course, in addition to the performances of Thomet and Ostrander, there is much business to attend to with team and individuals chasing region titles and state berths.
In Class 4A girls, Soldotna and Colony are expected to battle for the team title.
“It’s up in the air, but we should be able to at least get second and move on to state,” SoHi coach Ted McKenney said.
The Stars will be led by Olivia Hutchings, whose 18:04 5K last Saturday on the Homer Spit shows how fast she is right now. That time is not on athletic.net, but it would make Hutchings the second-fastest runner in the state.
McKenney said Hutchings has been overshadowed by Ostrander, and rightfully so, but he remains proud of how much she has improved as a runner.
Daisy Nelson, Sadie Fox and Dani McCormick will have to come through for a region title, while Molly Erickson will be the all-important fifth runner.
Coach Ostrander also said a state berth is within reach for the Kards.
The team is led by seniors Ostrander and Alex Bergholtz, but an infusion of youth has the Kards improving rapidly.
Freshmen Riana Boonstra, Ithaca Bergholtz, Kasey Paxton and Addie Gibson have boosted the team, while sophomores Katie Cooper and Mackenzie Lindeman have taken about five minutes off their times from last year.
“All these kids have done fabulous things, and continue to do the summer training that is required,” coach Ostrander said.
In the Class 4A boys race, Thomet will lead a very good Kodiak team against Wasilla.
Ostrander would be glad to grab third and a state berth.
“I’m fine sliding into third and looking for a strong showing at state,” Ostrander said.
Senior brothers Jonah and Jordan Theisen will lead the Kards, while Travis Cooper also is one of the top runners in the state.
After that, it will be up to the likes of Ian Ashley, Karl Danielson, James Butler, Tristan Landry and Roy Taylor to score crucial team points.
McKenney said the SoHi boys have the tough task of being in a loaded region.
“The boys have improved greatly,” McKenney said. “I told them when they won in Homer three weeks ago, ‘Congratulations. Good improvement, but you’re still a minute behind the best runners in the region.’”
McKenney said Daniel Shuler, Levi Michael and Aaron Swedberg have a shot at making state as individuals, but it could take a time as low as 16 minutes, 30 seconds. Brenner Musgrave and Josh Shuler should round out the scoring runners.
In the Class 1-2-3A girls race, Homer will try and wrest the crown from Grace Christian, the six-time defending Class 1-2-3A state champs.
“I feel pretty good about the matchup going in,” Homer coach Bill Steyer said. “On paper, we’re a stronger team.”
Steyer said the Mariners are one of the top three or four teams in the state right now, regardless of classification.
Homer will be led by Megan Pitzman and Molly Mitchell, who will be in the thick of the race for the individual crown.
After that, Aurora Waclawski, Ziza Shemet Pitcher, Alex Mosley and Lauren Evarts add the depth that makes Homer so tough. And seventh runner Audrey Rosencrans has shown in JV races just how deep that depth runs.
Seward also will take a crack at a state berth, led by Ruby Lindquist and Brook Wedin. Steyer said both of those runners will be in the mix in the race for the individual title, as well.
In the Class 1-2-3A boys race, Steyer said his team has a strong shot at state, but he would really like to see the Mariners finish second. He said it will be tough to beat Seward or Grace, which has won eight straight Class 1-2-3A state titles, though.
Homer is still young, with top runners in freshman Jordan Beachy and sophomore Jared Brant.
After that, Jacob Davis, Brandon Beachy, Denver Waclawski, Jaime Rios and Elan Carroll will be counted on for team points.
Seward will be led by Hunter Kratz and Michael Marshall as the Seahawks try and knock off Grace for the region title.