Runners representing the Mirror Lake Middle School Coyotes cross country team took several top honorszat the All-Schools Championship held on Oct. 11 at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.
The combined team of sixth and seventh-grade boys as a well as the stand-alone grade team of eighth-grade boys won first place overall. Four eighth grade Coyotes guys placed in the top five taking first, second, fourth and fifth places. The combined team of sixth and seventh-grade girls earned second place with the stand-alone grade team of eighth-grade girls earning fourth place overall.
MLMS Coach Jerry Sather was beaming with pride as his runner racked up appearance after appearance in the winner’s line-up.
“The Coyote running team finished its season off in its usual style of drama and speed,” Sather said, noting that the team won the overall championship by a narrow, six-point margin over Romig Middle School, which took second place overall. “The eighth-grade boys finished off the season in the dominating fashion they started it with.”
Michael Earnhart took first, Grant Jones was a close second, Owen Lewis came in fourth place and Jacob Lestina crossed in fifth place giving the Wolves eighth grade boys a nearly clean sweep of the top five placings and a secure overall victory.
“That amazing performance helped cap off a spectacular season for the entire Coyote running team,” Sather said.
This season was Earnhart’s first as a Coyote.
The secret to his success is two-fold.
“I’ve learned to finish a race harder than ever before because you never know who is behind you,” Earnhart said. The second key ingredient for Earnhart is also the most challenging, “Sprinting the last part of the race even if I know no one is close to me.”
He looks forward to longer distances next year at the high school level.
Sydney Tusten, currently a seventh-grade student and a member of the second place girls sixth/seventh combined team said after her finish at the Oct. 11 all-schools race, she looks forward to getting back on the trails as a team next fall.
She will move up to the stand-alone eighth-grade team and takes this year’s lessons with her.
“One way I improved this season was running hills and learning new techniques,” Tusten said.
The top four finishers for the Coyotes in the girls sixth/seventh team were Sophia Dedmore, Sophia Green, Bethany Stockburger and Sydney Tusten. They finished in the top 11 out of 172 runners in that race.
Stockburger, a seventh grader, said running has made her a better person and bolstered her confidence.
“When we won our first race of the season, I knew we could go all the way to the championship,” she said.
The combined team of sixth/seventh-grade boys won first overall by placing four runners in the top ten: Porter Blei, Henry Mitchner, Andre Lemaire and Brandon Davis.
The mental side of running is hugely important to Blei’s success, he said.
“Running is a very mental sport,” he said. “Just to deal with the pain and finish each day I had a meet on a high note and know I can go home knowing I gave it my all. Quitting is not an answer and running has taught me to finish my work in school and out.”
For Mitchner, keeping pace on the hills was his most significant challenge of the season.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I improved over the season by working hard in practice and building my endurance,” he said.
In the eighth-grade girl’s division, Jordan Hales of the Lady Coyotes leads the way with Hannah Sitz, Addison Strempka, and Sierra Merrit following.
Hales said the Oct. 11 race was her best ever. She was aiming to make the top 15 but happily finished in eighth place with her teammates right behind her in places ninth through 11.
“In seventh grade, I really did not know how to pace myself,” Hales said. “This year I learned to be a better pacer and to push myself past previous limits.”
She too looks forward to high school’s longer distances as well as training alongside more experienced upperclassmen.