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Nanooks open cross country season with solid performance

Submitted by Tom Myrick
Phone: 907-474-6805

08/30/07

Alaska men's and women's cross country kick-started their 2007 season with an effective performance at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus trails. The Nanooks women recorded their first victory of the season, knocking off a competitive Hawaii Pacific by a 26-31 margin. Their event against Brigham Young University-Hawaii could not be scored, as only four Seasiders were able to finish the race. On the men's side, the Blue and Gold were edged by BYU-Hawaii by the slimmest of margins (28-29) and fell to Hawaii Pacific as well (26-32).

"I thought the team looked good," said head coach Scott Jerome. "We haven't really had any time trials or anything: we've just been doing paperwork basically since we got here. I have a good feeling about where our top five were, so it was a good way to start the season."

"The first race is always good to get the butterflies out," added sophomore Ray Sabo. "All of us ran a solid race. We challenged each other throughout the race, taking turns leading and forcing each other to go faster, so it was really good. We will strive to work together in the next races and push each other even more."

It was an encouraging start for the Nanooks women, as they showed the depth that will make them a tough team to beat this season. Despite running without Julia Coulter, who could not compete due to illness, Alaska had three runners in the top ten and five in the top twelve. Anna Coulter rode a late charge to land in second place overall, turning in a time of 24:49.4.

"I was really proud of Anna," said Jerome. "When I saw her go into Bicycle Bumps, she had a meter or so on the woman from Hawaii Pacific, but apparently she came out of it pretty far ahead. She really had a good race, so I was glad that she came out on top."

Graduate student Beth Zirbes and junior Elisabeth Habermann also cracked the top ten for the Nanooks, finishing in seventh and ninth place, respectively. Eleventh place finisher Krynn Finstad and freshman Nikkol Sipes, finishing 12th in her first race for the Blue and Gold, were also among the team's top five finishers.

"I was pretty nervous before the race: I didn't know if I started off too fast or too slow," said Sipes afterwards. "But I was really happy overall with how I ran. Everyone was really supportive. I just tried to stay up with the group, and catch those ladies up in front."

For the men, senior Vahur Teppan led the way for the Nanooks, finishing in sixth place overall and just over a minute behind BYU-Hawaii's runaway race winner, Kenneth Harper. Teppan actually went into the final kilometer lap around the potato field behind several other Nanooks runners, but came on strong at the end to emerge at the front of the pack.

"Vahur wasn't that type of runner last year," said Jerome. "Obviously he has trained really well this summer, and today he made the most of it. We know he's got speed, and so for the final 800 to 1000 meters, we know he has the anaerobic capacity to go fast. He really showed that at the end of the race."

The highest drama of the morning came in the battle for seventh place. Alaska's Sabo was involved in a neck-and-neck sprint to the finish with BYU-Hawaii's Jacob Valeriano. Valeriano was able to hold on, and Sabo had to settle for eighth place overall, finishing just four-tenths of a second behind the Seasider.

"I tried to get past the last guy there, but I guess he was a good sprinter as well," said Sabo.

Marius Korthauer also recorded a top-ten finish, finishing ninth with a time of 28:41.6. Freshman Zach McGill (11th) and senior Chris Eversman (12th) rounded out the top five for the Nanooks.

"I was really proud of Zach," said Jerome. "He's a freshman and he was up in our top five. That is really encouraging, because that is what we were looking for in recruiting: a freshman that could be in one of our top runners."

After getting the first competition of the season out of their system, Jerome and the rest of the Nanooks runners now eagerly set their sights on getting a second shot at BYU-Hawaii and HPU this weekend. "Saturday will be fun, it's billed as a 4K run, but its actually less: its about 3,870 meters," said Jerome. "So it's going to be a real fast event. It will be quick, and fun to watch."

The Nanooks will return to action Saturday, Sept. 1, at the cross country ski trails at Birch Hill. The men's race will start at 9 a.m., while the women will take the line at 9:30 a.m.