A thesaurus is needed when picking an adjective to describe the Kodiak High School boys’ 15 consecutive Region III cross country titles.
Remarkable. Monumental. Impressive. Exceptional. Incredible.
In the words of Geoffrey Chaucer, all good things must come to an end — yes, Soldotna football eventually will lose a game — and on Saturday at the Region III Cross Country Championships in Palmer, Kodiak’s superb streak ended.
The Bears’ finished fourth, which closed the book on their 15 years of excellence on the trails. What a run — one for the history books.
“You knew it had to end sooner or later,” longtime Kodiak coach Marcus Dunbar said. “I would have liked to gone through this year keeping it alive, but you definitely can’t win them all, and we definitely did not have all our people perform the way we needed to.”
The numbers speak for themselves:
•52 runners were involved in the streak that went from 2002 to 2016.
• The average margin of victory was 21.5 points.
• The biggest margin of victory was 50 points in 2011.
• The smallest margin of victory was three points in 2013 (freshman Keith Osowski saved the streak with an out-of-know-where sixth-place finish).
• There were only four single-digit victories.
• There were seven four-time participants in Osowski, Jack Hannah, Levi Thomet, Cole Christiansen, Trevor Dunbar, Miles Dunbar and Steven Gauna. (Marcus Dunbar held Levi Fried held out of his sophomore race because of in injury, so some also include him).
• Six sets of brothers — Keith and James Osowski, Miles and Trevor Dunbar, Lucas and Levi Fried, Jack and Clayton Hannah, Sam and Jake Salus, and Hayden and Jordan Foster — were part of the streak.
Gauna, who ran in college at Jamestown University in South Dakota and University of Alaska Anchorage, was on the first four teams.
“Those first four years we didn’t have any freak runners; Trevor was a freak, but he was a freshman,” Gauna said. “All of us were just having a lot of fun doing it every time.”
A year after Gauna graduated, Kodiak’s string of 11 individual champions started. Trevor won from 2006 to 2008, and was followed by Dylan Anthony (2009), James Osowski (2010), Cole Christiansen (2011), Levi Thomet (2012-2014), Michael Parnell (2015) and Keith Osowski (2016).
That run also came to an end on Saturday when Wasilla’s Hunter Hayes crossed the line first. Kodiak’s top finisher was Brenden Thompson in third.
“His goal was ambitious. He wanted to keep the title streak alive, and he went for it,” Marcus Dunbar said. “He went out conservative and worked his way up to where he was in position.”
By finishing fourth, this is the first time since 1998 the boys are not sending a full team — seven runners — to the state championships, which is this Saturday at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
Thompson, Braxton Gruner (eighth place) and Paul Winegeart (13th), along with Carly Glover (ninth in the girls race) and Maddie Christiansen (13th) will represent Kodiak at state.
For Marcus Dunbar, Saturday will be his final cross country race as Kodiak’s coach, as he is retiring at the end of the track and field season in the spring.
He believes the next coach will start a new streak. A new chapter in Kodiak running.
“We have not seen the end of the Bears yet,” Dunbar said.
In cross country a team is comprised of seven runners, so I trimmed the 52 runners involved in the streak to seven.
Coming up with just seven runners was difficult, as I left off a few regional champions. I only looked at Region III Championship results to arrive at my starting seven.
Here is Kodiak’s Dream Team:
This was an obvious choice. Dunbar dominated the Region III Championship race from 2006 to 2008. He finished third as a freshman, behind Palmer’s Jake Parisien and Gauna.
An interesting correlation between Dunbar and Thomet is that their Region III resumes look the same.
Thomet won from 2012 to 2014 and finished third as a freshman in 2011. He placed behind Christiansen and Palmer’s Mason Minturn.
Pena started his high school career on the back end of the junior varsity squad, but by the end he became a significant piece to the Bears’ success.
Pena was on three regional-winning squads. He placed 21st as a sophomore in 2004, fifth as a junior and second as a senior.
Anthony was not known as a talker, but was a fierce competitor on the trails.
He won the 2009 race as a senior, while also logging a fifth in 2007 and a third in 2008.
Running on teams with Pena, Trevor Dunbar and Anthony, Salus was often overlooked. However, he would have been a No. 1 runner for any other school.
Salus placed seventh as a sophomore in 2006, third in 2007 and was runner-up in 2008.
Christiansen could have been a three-time winner if not for James Osowski and Levi Thomet.
Christiansen’s 2011 win was sandwiched between a pair of runner-up finishes.
As a freshman, Osowski saved the streak with a sixth-place finish (Kodiak only beat Colony by three points that year). He went on to finish fourth in 204, second in 2015 and first in 2016.
Amazingly, Osowski, Trevor Dunbar and Levi Thomet are the only runners to record four top-10 finishes.