KETCHIKAN, Alaska — A black bear disrupted a girls’ race at the Region V Cross Country meet in Ketchikan, forcing most of the field to re-run the course.
Thorne Bay’s Taylee Nyquest led the first heat of runners on the course at Ward Lake on Saturday as her mom and coach, Sheila Nyquest, cheered her on. As Taylee Nyquest passed, she yelled to her mom, “There’s a black bear!”
Thorne Bay Principal Rob O’Neal and some coaches stopped the rest of the girls before the two-mile mark of the 3.1-mile race, KRBD reported.
But Nyquest kept running after the bear disappeared into the forest. She was the only one to do so.
“I was just running and the bear was coming up from the water, and I didn’t want to keep going,” she said. “So it climbed up into the tree, and I yelled back and waited and it went into the forest on the other side so I just kept going.”
She said she was less concerned with the bear than with her time. Top runners at the meet qualify for state.
“To be honest, what was going through my head when I had to stop was, ‘What could have my time been if I didn’t have to stop?’” she said.
Some of the other runners weren’t happy about having to take to the course again. Madison James from Metlakatla High School said there have been bears at other races before “but they’ve never been actually on the course to the point where we had to stop the race.”
Sheila Nyquest said she tries to prepare her five-person team for encounters with wildlife, telling them to make a lot of noise. Her team often runs on rural logging roads.
Despite Saturday’s disruption, Taylee Nyquest qualified for the state meet. While she was disappointed her time was about a minute slower than usual, she tried to keep a positive attitude.
“In practice we always say, ‘Run like there’s a bear chasing you.’ I was like, well, perfect opportunity!”