Kodiak boys go for No. 11

Kodiak’s Julian McCarthy, left, Levi Thomet and Cole Christiansen run together during a high school cross country meet against Grace Christian Friday at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park.(Derek Clarkston photo)

Winning isn’t getting old for Kodiak cross country coach Marcus Dunbar.

After claiming 10 consecutive Region III boys titles, Dunbar still gets excited when talking about the streak.

“It is always fun. It is always a big day for us,” he said.

“The longer the streak gets, the bigger deal it gets. Ten was a big one, and now that we got that, we don’t want to let up. Nobody wants to be on the team that ended the streak.”

Kodiak goes for its 11th straight boys title Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School at the Region III Championships.

The meet was supposed to be in Seward, but persistent rain and flooding forced the move to Skyview.

With the top two runners in the state, senior Cole Christiansen and sophomore Levi Thomet, the odds are good that Kodiak will extend its decade-long streak.

The only question: Who will win Kodiak’s seventh straight boys individual title?

Christiansen, last year’s Region III boys champion, has four wins this season — three on his home course at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park.

Thomet, last year’s third-place finisher, has five wins this season, including victories at the Bartlett relays and the Skyview and Palmer invitationals.

“Cole is a senior, it would be nice to see him get a win, but he already got one as a junior, so I wouldn’t feel bad for him if he didn’t ... I know they both want to win really bad — they will be racing.”

They will not be racing the entire 5 kilometers, though.

“They will run the first half of the race conservative and then they will lay it all out in the second half,” Dunbar said. “We want them to have their ultimate race at state.”

The state meet is Sept. 29 in Anchorage, and Dunbar said no team has ever fielded the top two finishers at state.

The top three teams in Saturday’s race advance to the state meet. Any runner in the top 15 who does not advance with a team also earns a state berth.

Kodiak might be without No. 3 runner sophomore Levi Fried, who is healing from an injury. Fried finished seventh at last year’s region meet.

Dunbar said he will determine today if Fried runs in Saturday’s race.

On Wednesday, Dunbar was leaning on saving his runner for the state meet.

“I think he has one good race in him for sure, whether or not he has two is a little bit like rolling the dice — a gamble,” Dunbar said.

“I think we can get through the region meet without him, that is why I would consider it.”

Kodiak’s girls will also be down a runner in Marley Wilkins, who is out of state for family reasons.

“She will be missed, but if there was any team that we have had that could absorb somebody being gone its this team,” Dunbar said.

Without Wilkins, the Bears’ No. 3 runner, Kodiak will be in a fight for a top-three finish.

Wasilla, the defending region and state champions, is favored to win, while Kodiak, Colony and Soldotna will tussle for the final two spots.

Kodiak’s girls have a string of eight consecutive state appearances on the line, a streak Dunbar hopes doesn’t end on Saturday.

“The girls really need to rise to the occasion,” Dunbar said. “We really need solid performances.”

Juniors Adriane Horn and Leah Cawthorn lead Kodiak, followed by seniors Sarah Ng, McKenzie Barnett and Shannon Armstrong, junior Tiffany Bolyard and freshman Zoe Bigley.

Horn finished seventh at last year’s region meet, while Cawthorn was 15th.

“I think the girls team is as strong and deep as they have ever been since I have been coaching,” Dunbar said. “We are in a region that is real tough.”

Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at sports@kodiak

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