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Dillingham senior Arriana Woods on why she runs cross-country

220916 Dillingham Cross Country team. 2022.
Cassie MacDonald
The Dillingham Cross Country team. 2022.

Dillingham will host a cross-country invitational on Saturday. The Bristol Bay Borough and Southwest Region School Districts are competing. KDLG caught up with senior Arriana Woods, 17, who is running in Saturday’s race. She talked about her experience running cross country over the past seven years.

The race will start and end in the Dillingham middle/high school parking lot. Athletic Director Cassie MacDonald said the city permitted the road crews to shut down the roads during the race as traffic comes in, but she asks that folks try to avoid these areas in town during the race.

September 17th, 2022
10:45 AM - National Anthem
11:00 AM - MS Girls Race
11:45 AM - MS Boys Race
12:30 PM - HS Girls Race
1:15 PM - HS Boys Race
After the race there will be awards

Izzy Ross: This weekend is the Dillingham Invitational. Go ahead and tell me why this competition is important.

Arriana Woods: It's important because it prepares us, and the teams that are in our region are coming, and so we'll get to see them and see the competition for regionals. We have traveled to ACS and Palmer and Soldotna. And they went to Aleknagik two weekends ago. So we've been competing for a while, but this will be a couple high schoolers first races and middle schoolers too. So we're excited.

Ross: How long is the race?

Woods: Five kilometers, which is 3.1 miles. And we run the seawall so we do two laps around the seawall.

Ross: Do you prefer longer races? Do you like doing things that are a little bit shorter

Woods: I like the shorter races because you could push your body a little harder. I mean, you push your body hard in longer races too, but not at a faster pace.

Ross: Cross-country seems like a very grueling sport. It's really about endurance. And it seems very mental — like it's a lot about the thought process as you're approaching the race because you have to kind of balance out how much energy you're expending. How do you do that? What does that process like for you?

Woods: I kind of have to prepare myself before the race. And to not start out too fast and to just remember to pace myself, and to use that endurance at the end of the race and to mentally push myself to go faster towards the end and not the start.

Ross: Are there any techniques or tricks that you use to to help yourself while you're running or before you're running to keep going and, as you just mentioned, make sure that you're not using up all your energy at the beginning or in the middle?

Woods: I like to sing songs as I run. It may seem weird, but there are a couple songs that I like to sing while I run.

Ross: Are there any songs or artists in particular that really get you going and really help you through the race?

Woods: Lecrae is one of them.

Ross: How long have you been running cross country?

Woods: I started my sixth grade year. And so I've been running since then, except my sophomore year, which I had to take off because of COVID.

Ross: I'm curious to hear why you got into cross-country and why you kept going with it for years, throughout your middle and high school career?

Woods: So as a sixth grader, I tried it out just as something new and to fit in, because Dillingham is a sporty town. And then throughout middle school, I had a couple troubles with injuries — my body was growing. And it did happen throughout high school. I did have a couple injuries that kept going since middle school. But why I keep doing it is to stay in shape for other sports. And just because it's so fun, and I enjoy it.

Ross: What other sports do you participate in?

Woods: Volleyball, basketball and Native Youth Olympics.

Ross: Are there any teams that you're watching out for during this weekend's invitational? Any runners in particular?

Woods: Naknek has a runner, Brooke Phelps. We're kind of close, similar in speed. Also, they're in our division for state. And so Port Alsworth is one. Newhalen is one, like Eileen Lester, she's one of the fast ones. Also Pagen Lester, who is only a freshman. So yeah, the freshmen are tough this year.

Ross: What are your hopes for the season for the team?

Woods: My hopes for the season are to beat our personal goals and to also get better as a team and to build each other up. I feel like that's really important for this season. There will be a couple of village travels that we're looking forward to.

Ross: You mentioned the seawall, how is the course here, the 5k in Dillingham?

Woods: It's kind of cruel in that it's sort of flat except for some steep areas. I feel like it goes flat and then that steep incline. So what we call it big monster and little monster.

Ross: For folks who are trying to picture the town, where is that?

Woods: We start here at the school, and then we go on the road by the senior center, and then by Togiak Wildlife Refuge. Then we go down by Icicle [Seafoods] and then we go the seawall and then we come up by those tan apartments by the Moravian Church, and then again by the Wildlife Refuge. We go down the hill by the baseball field, and up that little grassy hill, little monster. We do it again and finish at the school.

Ross: Arriana Woods, thank you so much for talking today.

Woods: You're welcome. No problem.

220916 cross country course.
Cassie MacDonald
The course for Dillingham's cross country invitational on Sept. 17, 2022.

Get in touch with the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.