1-2-3A: Miller wins boys title; Seward girls, Grace boys win team crowns.

PALMER -- Nychele Fischetti ran with a pained expression, struggling with something, physical or mental, despite the fact that she was well ahead midway through Saturday's Class 1-2-3A girls state cross-country running race on Palmer High's Michael Janecek Running Trails.

Fischetti ends Foldagers' reign as top girl

 

From left, Bethel's Jessica Klejka, Eielson's Tymber Williams and Su Valley's Kristjana Timmers compete in the girls 1-2-3A state championship cross-country race Sept. 29, 2007.

 

 

There was nothing physically wrong with the Anchorage Christian Schools senior. But mentally, she was a wreck.

She'd been in this position before, only to have victory snatched by one of the Foldager twins, Rubye and Denali of Seward, winners of the past three individual state titles.

But as Fischetti ran on through the golden, birch-lined trails on a perfect fall day, with throngs of people cheering her on, her lead grew. And as she ran down the straightaway on Machetanz Field and crossed the finish line, her expression changed from pain, to relief, to elation.

She won the 5-kilometer race in 19 minutes, 16.99 seconds, 10 seconds ahead of second-place finisher J.J. Lende of Haines. It was her first state title. She finished second to Rubye last year.

This feels kind of surreal, Fischetti said, taking a break from numerous well wishers offering hugs and congratulations. Even during the race I was thinking, 'Oh man, I'm not gonna do it.'

She had good reason for doubt. Fischetti beat the Foldagers on the same course three weeks ago at the Palmer Invitational, but last week, Rubye passed her to win the Region III title at Colony High.

For four years, Nychele has done just awesome, and then regions and state come up, and me or Denali get right on her tail and one of us always passes her, said Rubye, the defending girls champ who also won her freshman year. If anyone deserved it, it was her.

The reign of Foldager wins -- Denali won as a sophomore -- is over. But neither sister was shedding any tears. In fact, both were beaming because they led a young Seward squad to a second straight team title.

All five of Seward's scoring runners finished in the top 20 as the Seahawks totaled 45 points, well ahead of second-place Grace Christian (73) and Haines (79).

That's what I wanted more, Rubye said. To show these girls that you can win with such a young team.

Rubye finished third, Denali fifth, Allison Barnwell sixth, Mackenzie Barnwell 14th and Kristina Atherton 19th. Rubye and Denali are the only seniors of that bunch. Allison Barnwell is a sophomore, while Mackenzie Barnwell and Atherton are freshmen.

Rubye said she and Denali had doubts at the beginning of this season if they'd be able to repeat as team champs.

They're all so young, we (didn't) want to scare them, Rubye said. They understand this is a team, and you gotta hurt to win, and they definitely did.

Denali said she and Rubye picked which runners would compete at the regional meet, which locks in who competes at state.

I was captain, and this is my team because I picked it, Denali said. I really wanted to prove to everyone that we could do good. It's a better feeling that my team came here and did well.

In the boys 1-2-3A race, ACS junior Michael Miller repeated as champion, leading from start to finish, clocking 16:27.36.

Last year's runner-up, Chandler Kemp of Haines, chased Miller and seemed to be gaining midway through the race. But Miller pulled further ahead on the final lap. Mike Stuart of Heritage Christian came in second (16:33.15), while Kemp was third (16:43.30).

Grace Christian's Leif Karlberg finished fourth to lead a pack of Grizzlies in the top 15 en route to a second straight team championship with 45 points.

That pack-running mentality has served Grace Christian well, with team victories this season at the Skyview and Colony Invitationals. Runners stick together, pushing and motivating each other.

One thing I know, I was working my butt off for my teammates, and they were working their butts off for me, Karlberg said. Our team has a special, special bond. Most of our guys returned from last year. No one wants to let anyone down.