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Cross Country: Chugiak’s Fields leads Mustangs to perfect score at Big 8 Invite, South’s Flagstad celebrates first win and team victory; UAA splits wins with UAF

by | Aug 27, 2023 | Cover Story, Cross Country Running, Prep Spotlight, Running

Chugiak’s Alliyah Fields. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

On a day where inclement weather raged at Kincaid Park, Chugiak’s Alliyah Fields and South Anchorage’s Vebjørn Flagstad stormed to victory at the Big 8 Invite, leading the Mustangs and Wolverines to team titles in dominant fashion.

Fields steadily pulled ahead of the field over the 5-kilometer race to finish in 19 minutes, 58 seconds, while Flagstad’s decisive move mid-race led him to victory in 16:44.

The Mustang stampede commanded the charge from gun to tape, stringing out in pairs along the course, but never straying too far from each other.

“We have so much confidence in our team,” said Fields. “Before the race goes off we always tell each other to stick together.”

Fields, a junior who placed sixth at the Ted McKenney Invite last weekend, stuck with senior teammate Skyler Belmear until the halfway point where she began to pull away en route to her inaugural eclipse of the 20-minute barrier.

Belmear gave chase, keeping her eye on Fields through the sideways rain, finishing just ten seconds back in 20:08.

Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Placing third and fourth were sophomores Hannah Bodkin (20:12) and Hannah Shaha (20:14), who were quickly joined by senior Emily Moore (20:23) to sweep the top five spots, achieving a perfect team score of 15 points — 43 points ahead of South.

“These girls are so awesome,” said Coach Brian Kruchoski. “They do what they’re supposed to do, and with these conditions, you never know what’s going to happen but they pulled through.

After graduating standouts Campbell Peterson and Addison Capozzi, the team learned to rebound, gaining confidence in their training and one another.

“We try to keep consistent with our practices,” said Coach Brian Kruchoski. “Just encouraging them and giving them the confidence — knowing that they can do it.”

With seven runners inside the top 11 and collecting their second consecutive team title of the season, the Mustangs are primed to keep the momentum going as the two-time defending state champions.

On the boys side, the race proved slightly more spontaneous with Flagstad making a mid-race decision to pull away from teammate Blaise Boyer and West’s Blake Hanley.

South Anchorage’s Vebjørn Flagstad. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

The trio broke away from the field early on before Flagstad increased the pace and never looked back.

“Mid-race, I felt like the pace was a little too easy,” said Flagstad. “So I just took that opportunity and ran away with it, and it worked out.”

Flagstad made his first career win look effortless, running to a personal best and breaking 17 minutes for the first time. And while the weather was some of the toughest Flagstad has raced in, he still managed to stay ‘in the zone.’

Boyer took runner-up (17:00), helping South to a 1-2 finish, while Hanley finished just two seconds back in third (17:02). Dimond’s Jarrett Jackson placed fourth (17:23), followed by Chugiak’s Owen Hayes (17:26).

One week after taking runner-up at the Ted McKenney Invite, the Wolverines put five runners in the top 20 to secure the team title, accruing 49 points — 22 points ahead of West Anchorage.

The Wolverines placed runner-up at last year’s state championships and will look to better their performance as they boast a multifaceted team hungry for hardware.

Find full results here.

Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Shortly after the prep athletes tore through the course, the collegiate races commenced with a showdown between UAA and UAF.

Due to the weather conditions, both races were shortened to the 5-kilometer distance as downed trees complicated the extended loops.

UAF’s Rosie Fordham of Australia sped to victory in 18 minutes, 10 seconds, while UAA’s Cole Nash of Colorado cruised to the win in 15:05.

Fordham led the Nanooks to a 1-2-3 sweep with Fairbanks’ Kendall Kramer (18:14) and Naomi Bailey (18:17) and put five runners — including Anchorage’s Delainey Zock (19:33) — in the top seven.

UAF secured the team title with 18 points, 21 points ahead of UAA.

Soldotna’s Jordan Strausbaugh (19:43) finished as UAA’s second runner placing sixth overall, while Haines’ Avery Williamson (20:24) placed eighth in her collegiate cross country debut. Palmer’s Sofija Spaić finished 10th (20:40) and Fairbanks’ Isabel Baesman placed 13th (23:44) in her first collegiate race.

Fairbanks’ own Kendall Kramer and Naomi Bailey of UAF placed second and third overall. Photo courtesy UAF Nanooks

On the men’s side, the Seawolves scored 17 points, putting five runners in the top six to seal the team title by 21 points.

“It was great to get the team back in action,” said head coach Ryan McWilliams in a press release. “Tough day today with some crazy weather conditions, but the team handled them well. We are excited to have started the season.”

Juneau’s Finn Morley placed ninth (17:17), followed by Palmer’s Ryan Owens (17:52), Juneau’s Kona Atkins (17:57) and Fairbanks’ Josh Baurick (18:54). Morley made his debut for the Nanooks, after transferring from Vassar College, while Atkins completed his first collegiate race.

UAA and UAF will go head-to-head again on Sept. 9 in Fairbanks.

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