Featured, Seward Schools, Sports

Seward High Hosts Cross Country Meet

by Kelley Lane for Seward City News-
Ronn Hemstock, teacher and coach at Seward High School, arm lowered as the junior varsity boys begin their race. Photo: Kelley Lane.

The town of Seward played host to hundreds of runners this past summer, including the recent Lost Lake race, which took place on a course made muddy from Seward’s tremendous rainfall. On September 8, Seward once again played host to dozens of runners. This time high school cross country runners were in town to compete on the cross country course that weaves through the woods surrounding the Seward High School track. The field of runners included athletes from communities around the Kenai Peninsula, including Homer, Soldotna, Nikiski and Nikolaevsk. The day’s meet was the only one hosted by Seward this season.

It was my first time attending a cross country meet since I was a runner back in high school, way down in north Florida. I remember that running cross country took me to places within a few hours’ driving distance, but where I’d never been before. I got to see what the small towns around Florida’s panhandle looked like, and saw the economics of the various towns represented in the facilities that their schools were able to provide. In talking with a few of the varsity runners from Homer, more than three hours away, I learned that they had been excused from the full day of school in order to come to the meet in Seward. They rode a bus over together, and would be riding back together after the meet ended. “We miss A LOT of school for sports,” they said as a group. But while they are missing school, they are still learning. They are meeting their fellow residents of the Kenai Peninsula, and becoming familiar with what the towns and school look like. They are seeing the landscape firsthand and being out in the elements, while racing against the other schools.

The number of parents and community members present was impressive, especially for a town of Seward’s size. I spoke with members of Seward’s Mountain Trail running group, parents, and even a man who lives in Seward only part time, who came out to watch the running. Coach and teacher Ronn Hemstock wielded the starting gun for each race and wore a bright orange sleeve for visibility by the person in charge of starting the race clock. The enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself rooting for the runners, darting around to the various places to see the runners soar past. From the football field, runners could be seen charging up the incline. It was apparent who had trained for hills. Some runners were able to use the hill to their advantage, as I heard Hemstock encouraging the Seward runners to do.

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Emmalee Moore, a Senior and Varsity runner at Seward High School, after successfully finishing her fourth race of the cross country season.

Emmalee Moore, a Senior at Seward High School, said she had enjoyed the hilly course. She explained that the team had trained on the course. Earlier in the week they had run hill repeats on a steeper hill not included in the race course. Wednesday’s training had included 10 hill repeats at a sprint pace, with 5 minutes of rest and then 10 more repeats. Moore has lived in Seward since 4th grade, when her family relocated from Anchorage. She loves life in Seward, with its abundant outdoor activities, especially its hiking and running trails. Moore runs track in the spring, and to get ready for the season, she enjoys cross-country skiing, a common training technique of Alaskan runners. She finished with a time of 21:10.

Moore was full of energy following her race, glowing with that look of satisfaction that runners often get when they have completed their miles for the day. I asked her about how she’d prepared for the day’s race and she admitted that she hadn’t eaten or drank as much as she had hoped, but her finish time and appearance suggested that the cereal, bagel, goldfish and other foods had fueled her. It’s still early in the year, but Moore has already begun thinking about next year. She doesn’t know whether she’ll run competitively, but she would like to continue running, “because I like to do it.” She graciously allowed me to snap a few photos of her, and then she was off to join her teammates in cheering the varsity boys, as they finished their race.

Seward High Senior Ruby Lindquist led the varsity girls race, finishing amidst cheers, a smile on her face soon after crossing the finish line. There was a sense of camaraderie amongst the team members of the schools. As a tax paying Borough resident, I was grateful to see that our tax dollars are funding an energetic group of students, who are cheered by their community of fellow students and adults. It’s something so different about Alaska, the way that communities support and rally around the schools and the students within them. In a recent meeting I attended about the proposal to raise the sales tax cap, Seward residents spoke of their desire to provide additional funding to the Seward schools. The cross country meet was an excellent example of Seward people doing just that – coming out to cheer, to staff and purchase snacks at the snack shack, and to congratulate their athletes as they finished a race well run.

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