ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaskans will be competing in the 2019 US Cross Country Junior Nationals to bring home the Alaska Cup in the coming week.
The event happens in different parts of the country every year, but rotates between Fairbanks and Anchorage every five years. So, once a decade around 400 junior athletes hit the Kincaid Park Trails to prove their cross country meddle.
Junior Nationals draws athletes, coaches and spectators from ten different divisions across the country -- that's around 1,000 people who during their time in Anchorage eat at local restaurants, stay at hotels, and experience the thrills of winter tourism events in Alaska.
Joey Caterinichio says it’s an important event putting Anchorage in the national spotlight -- and pouring money into the city.
"It's great for winter tourism, it's great for bringing a spotlight on our event," Caterinichio said.
Caterinichio estimates at least half a million dollars pumps into the local economy every ten years that Anchorage hosts the event.
"And then local businesses absolutely benefit from having the influx of all these people coming in,” Caterinichio said. “On spring break, mind you. It's nice to have people coming to Alaska versus everybody exiting."
The event is made possible by volunteers and community sponsorship. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz made a special appearance at Sunday’s opening ceremony to help prepare the athletes for the trials to come.
"This is the sort of thing that we here in Anchorage want to be able to do on a regular basis, and it depends on the goodwill of the competitors and the people organizing it,” Berkowitz said. “So remember this: This is a great place, have a great time, you are in the great land."
All teams will be competing both individually, and collectively for the coveted Alaska Cup, which has been in New England's hands since 2013.
Channel 2 spoke with one athlete who traveled from Vermont, 16-year old Gavin Blauch, about his reservations taking on Alaskans in their own territory.
"I think it's going to be tough, but I think New England can bring home the Alaska Cup again this year," Blauch said.
Races start Monday and run throughout the week. Spectators are welcome, but remember the courses will be closed. For event information visit this link.