Boys cross country team wins state title in Anchorage

In a relatively short season, the Wrangell High School boys cross country team went from training to champions.

The team won the Division III state title last Saturday at the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Cross Country Running Championships in Anchorage, making it the first in the program's history.

Assistant coach Mason Villarma predicted the runners had the potential to make history for the school after only a couple of meets earlier in the season. That prediction came true with the team coming in first place in the small schools division.

"I'm so proud of all these young men," Villarma said. "Through their hard work, grit and discipline, they made history by bringing home Wrangell's first cross country state championship. It's also the first state title for any sports (program) since 1995, I believe."

Sophomore Daniel Harrison led his team as he has done through the past several meets, keeping in stride with the two top runners from Petersburg and Haines. Villarma described Harrison's running as "tactical" in his approach.

"Over the last two kilometers, Harrison broke loose and gapped the rest of the field to win his first individual 2A state title," Villarma said.

Harrison finished in first place out of 82 runners with an overall time of 17:29.1 and an average pace of 5:38 per mile. He beat out junior Daniel Aspery of Petersburg and senior Luke Davis of Haines for the title.

"It's super fun," Harrison told the Anchorage Daily News after the race. "I love these guys. Last year was a little bit rough for us but this year we got a new assistant coach, Mason Villarma. He ran at Gonzaga and so he got us trained really well. We just hammered it out. It turned out great for us. We have a really strong crew and it's tons of fun with these guys."

Five of Wrangell's seven runners finished in the top 10 in the division. Senior Devlyn Campbell finished fourth with a time of 17:57.7. Senior Ethan Blatchley finished sixth with a time of 18:15.2. Freshman Boomchain Loucks finished seventh at 18:20.8, and senior Elias Decker finished eighth at 18:27.9. Freshman Ian Nelson finished 14th with a time of 19:13.5, and senior Randy Churchill finished 23rd at 19:54.3.

As a team, Wrangell finished in first place with an average time of 18:06.2 and a total time of 90:30.7, scoring 22 points. The boys beat out Haines, which had an average time of 19:01.4, a total time of 95:06.9 and a score of 39 points. Third place went to Unalaska with an average time of 20:58.1, a total time of 104:50.3 and 88 points.

"The team was a class act and represented their community well," Villarma said. "I'm hopeful the program will continue to build into a perennial powerhouse. I'd love to see a women's team represent Wrangell at state next year as well."


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