Unalaska's cross country team left Thursday for the state competition in Anchorage.
Senior Captain Henry Simmonds said the Raiders are hoping to make a run at their first title after breaking personal records throughout the regular season.
"Lately, we've seen a lot of progress," said Simmonds. "All of us are getting PRs — season PRs, career PRs — every weekend. It's been phenomenal for us."
The Raider boys qualified for state as a full team, which includes Simmonds, Blaine Henning, Mike Pereat, Jonathane Pereat, Herwin Riodil, Eldred Paradeza, and Kc Balbarino. On the girls' side, Marina Jones qualified as an individual runner.
Simmonds said Unalaska's small program is expected to benefit from a recent structural change at the competition.
"They've changed up how we race for state," he said. "It used to be 1A, 2A, and 3A schools run together — and then 4A schools by themselves. But this year, it's just 1A and 2A schools together, so that really opens up more opportunity for smaller schools like us to actually win state."
While the Raiders have high hopes, Simmonds said they'll need to stay focused and run well to improve on their best-ever finish at fifth place — especially against some tough competitors from Southeast Alaska.
"We still have to push hard," he said. "It's going to be really close."
The state contest is Saturday, Oct. 5 at Anchorage's Bartlett High School. The boys run first at 10 a.m., followed by the girls at 10:45 a.m.
Meanwhile, Coach David Gibson said the Raiders recognized the team's four seniors — Maverick Castillo, Michael Pereat, Halle Savage, and Henry Simmonds — during their final home race last weekend.
At the high school level, they also named Henning, Pereat, and Simmonds as the boys' top finishers and Marina Jones and Savage as the girls' top finishers. At the junior high level, those honors went to Kaitlyn Gilman, Clayton McCracken, Nic Kitsyuk, Sophitia LaVoy, Izabella Lopez, and Alan Munoz.