Who is the last student from Port Lions School to qualify for the small-school state cross country championships?
Give yourself a pat on the back if you answered Chandra Christiansen. No biggie if you didn’t, it was a few years ago and memories tend to fade in time.
In 2014, as a freshman and only girl running for tiny Port Lions School, Christiansen qualified for the small-school state championships and finished 104th in the 5-kilometer race at Bartlett High School with a time of 27 minutes, 22.9 seconds.
“I was almost last place, but I have learned from it,” Christiansen said.
That trip to state changed the path of her high school career. She traveled and hung out with Kodiak’s cross country team, which was competing in the large-school state championship meet — that was the year Kodiak’s Levi Thomet concluded his storied prep career with a third straight win in the boys’ 4A race.
Watching an elite program impacted Christiansen, who lived only a short plane ride from Kodiak city.
“I met the Kodiak team and they were inspiring,” she said.
A year later she found herself wearing the gold and blue singlet for the Kodiak Bears.
She went from running around the village of Port Lions — two laps around the town was 10 miles Christiansen said — to being known as the girl from Port Lions.
Christiansen is now a senior at Kodiak High School and will make her final appearance on her home course at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park today against East Anchorage, Grace Christian and Anchorage Christian.
She is the lone senior on the girls’ squad that has aspirations of qualifying for the large-school state championship meet for the first time since 2011. The top three teams at next week’s Region III Championships qualify for state.
“We are going to have to work hard; I know that we have the potential to do it,” Christiansen said.
Christiansen spent her first two years in Kodiak running on the junior varsity cross country team. This year, she is a key cog of the varsity team. She was the Bears’ fourth runner at last week’s Wasilla Invitational.
She is coming off a historic track and field season where she was a member of the 1,600-meter relay team that set a school record (4:12.09) and won a state title, the program’s first in that event.
As Kodiak’s top sprinter, she covered her 400 leg in 63 seconds.
“Her effort that she puts out in cross country pays off for her to be able to do that,” Kodiak coach Marcus Dunbar said. “A lot of 100 people don’t want to run the 400, and she asked to be on that team.”
Christiansen said this cross country season hasn’t lived up to her expectations and is hoping to turn things around in the final few weeks. Dunbar, though, is pleased with her efforts on the trails.
“For a sprinter, she is doing a pretty good job. She was never a natural distance runner; she has to work hard for it and she does work hard to get the results she does,” he said.
Growing up in Port Lions, Christiansen mimicked the running of Port Lions product Katie Strong, who ran at Lewis and Clark State College (Idaho) and competed in a pair of NAIA National Championships.
She is hoping to follow Strong’s path to college and run at the next level. She said she is pursuing colleges in Oregon.
“I like pushing myself to the limit ... and feeling accomplished afterwards,” Christiansen said.
Kodiak hosts large-school East Anchorage and small-schools Anchorage Christian and Grace Christian today at the Fort. The girls race begins at 5 p.m., followed by the boys at 5:45 p.m.
In terms of runners, this will be the largest meet at the Fort that Dunbar can remember.
ACS possess one of the top boys runners in the state in Blake Bennett. He has the potential to post a top 10 all-time performance at Abercrombie.
“Hopefully we will get everyone through this injury free, because next week at regions is what we really want,” Dunbar said. “It would be nice to pick up a win, but both teams have their work cut out for them.”