Cordova Chronicles: Coast Guard to the rescue

CHS freshman Floyd Witsoe approaches the finish line to come in first in the Oct. 3 cross country meet between CHS and the USCG. Photo by Susan Harding/for The Cordova Times

Over the years, we have come to appreciate all the U.S. Coast Guard has done for this community.

Their motto is “Semper Paratus,” which means “always ready,” and they and their families are there to help and support Cordova in so many ways.

Sometimes, that help comes in rather unique fashion. Many Cordovans don’t know, or may have forgotten, the time back in 1989 when ferry service was canceled prior to a crucial road trip for the red-hot Cordova High basketball teams, and it was none other than the USCG buoy tender Sweetbrier that hauled them to Valdez.

Longtime Wolverine Coaches Bob Lenz and Virginia Anderson and their squads made that the trip. Both are now retired, Lenz, in his original hometown of Melba, Idaho; Anderson right here in Cordova.

“Talk about memorable,” Lenz said. “How many high school kids can say they traveled to a basketball tournament on a Coast Guard ship?”

Lenz also remembers how well they were treated on the seven-hour crossing to Valdez.

“They vacated their mess hall areas for us to stay in during the trip, and even fixed us a nice lunch,” he said.

So, flash forward to 2020, and once again it’s the Coast Guard to the rescue, this time for a different sport, cross country running.

With no travel possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, the crew of the USCG Cutter Sycamore came up with a team to race against the CHS squad on Oct. 3. The meet began at 11 a.m. at the Skater’s Cabin on Power Creek Road, and covered a distance of 5 kilometers, which is 3.1 miles.

The weather was ideal for running — cool and damp, with not much wind. Both teams posted very good times. CHS freshman Floyd Witsoe finished first in 20 minutes and 54 seconds, followed by MaxImo Diaz of the USCG at 22:50 and CHS freshmen Jacob Hamberger at 23:50.

Prior to the start of their Oct. 3 cross country meet, Cordova High School and U.S. Coast Guard runners line up, wearing masks and socially distancing. Photo by Susan Harding/for The Cordova Times

The race was co-ed, and the top female finisher was CHS junior Amee Hamberger in 27:25.

Former CHS basketball standout Donald Ladd, CHS ’98, now stationed here on the Sycamore, finished 8th with a very respectable time of 30:03.

At the completion of the race, medals were presented to the top three finishers. Additionally, the USCG presented sweatshirts, T-shirts or long sleeve shirts, bearing their service logo, to the high school runners.

“The weather was remarkable, and the race was great,” CHS Activities Director Kayti Ammerman said. “It was a beautiful and proud day to be a Wolverine.”

“The cross-country team had so many challenges this season, but like true Wolverines they welcomed them with determination, showing up to practice and giving it their all each and every day,” Ammerman said. “This race truly gave our team a moment to shine, and we are beyond appreciative of the Coast Guard for all of their support.”

Cordova Jr./Sr. High Cross-Country Coach Jeff Hamburger came up with the idea for the meet, as there were no virtual/online races for CHS this year.

And, once again, it was the Coast Guard to the rescue.

Complete Race Times

1st Floyd Witsoe 20:54— CHS

2nd Maximo Diaz 22:50—USCG

3rd Jacob Hamberger 23:50— CHS

4th Ryan Foust 26:52—USCG

5th Amee Hamberger 27:25— CHS

6th David Fish 28:50—USCG

7th Bryanna Baccayrivera 29:45—USCG

8th Donald Ladd 30:03—USCG

9th Ella Fish 32:20—USCG

10th Lehi Fish 38:07—CHS

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes.