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Bethel’s Peters and Hooper Bay’s Lake take top 10 at Alaska Cross-Country Championships

Bethel Regional High School (BRHS) junior Ned Peters and Hooper Bay senior Latrell Lake were the region’s top racers at the Alaska Student Athletic Association's State Cross-Country Tournament, held on Saturday, Oct. 7 in Palmer.

The two racers cracked the top 10 in their respective divisions.

Peters' 5K time of 17 minutes and 35 seconds was good for ninth place in the medium-size school, Division II championship meet. His placing is the third best finish in recorded BRHS history going back to 2001.

For much of the race, Peters was well behind several racers he would need to pass, but he said that patience was part of the strategy.

“I've noticed that a lot of times I kind of started too fast, so I was trying to start a little bit slower. And it seemed to work out because a lot of people who started in front of me gassed out a little bit,” Peters said.

During the race, coaches and teammates ran shortcuts through the looping course, giving him updates to let him know how many racers he’d need to pass to make the top 10. One by one, he picked them off.

“I was just trying to tell myself that I've been training for it over the summer and the whole season that I could do it,” Peters said.  

And he kept checking the stopwatch on his wrist.

Bethel Regional High School Head Cross-Country Coach Paul Saltzman said that most runners go by feeling, but not Peters.

“He's a numbers guy. He knows where he needs to be at one, two, three, four [thousand meters] to hit his times, and he works on them in practice. We do lots of intervals in trainings and practice to get that. It's all about teaching them what does it feel like to run at this pace, and he's super focused on it. I think that's what makes the difference,” Saltzman said.

More numbers were on the minds of his individual runners.

“Ned's goal was to place top 10; he took ninth. Jackson's goal was to place top 15, and he did that as well. So they both ran some of the fastest times that ran this year, if not the fastest," Saltzman said.

Salztman is referring to freshman Jackson Iverson of BRHS. His time of 17 minutes, 55 seconds was the fastest freshman time in the state for Division II.

“I felt very fast today. This race, a lot of people start off very fast, and I started off very fast, but I kept that speed and I ended up [getting a personal record] by 15 seconds,” Iverson said.

While Iverson has several years left to compete, the tournament was the last chance for Hooper Bay senior Latrell Lake to reach his goal in the small school, Division III championship meet. The senior finished 11th last year as a junior.

“I wanted top 10. That’s all I wanted. I wasn’t gonna get another chance at it, so I ran with all I had,” Lake said. 

Running the course in 19 minutes, 7 seconds, Lake took 10th place exactly.

In the girls' small school division, Kiley Hayden from the upper Kuskokwim community of Sleetmute was the fastest from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region with a time of 24 minutes, 31 seconds. It was good for 16th place.

Not far behind was Abby Mael, a junior from Chefornak who finished in 18th place. She said that the race was the hardest competition she’d ever faced.

“I felt so tired. I felt like giving up, but I didn’t. I heard the crowd, and they were going, 'Go go go Abby!'” Mael said.

Mael said that now she knows what to expect for next year.

Shane has been serving as General Manager since 2016. He joined KYUK as a journalist before he was promoted to radio director. He coaches several youth sports teams and enjoys hunting and fishing for his family and friends.