The Kenai Central girls cross-country team will be looking to turn the effects of "trickle-down speed" into its first Region III title since 2001 this Saturday in Palmer.
Varsity races start at 11:15 a.m.
Kenai Central freshman Allie Ostrander has taken the state by storm this year, winning all of her races by a healthy margin. She is the favorite to win the region girls title.
Ostrander also has had an effect on her team. Bailey Beeson has improved trying to keep up with Ostrander, and Hope Steffensen, Taylor Ostrander, Noelle Schmitter-Schrier, Carolyn Kiefer and Bev Schindler have followed suit.
"It just has been really neat to watch their times get better," Kenai coach D'Anna Gibson said of her team. "They're all rising to the next level."
The challenge now for the Kards is to take the region crown from defending champion Wasilla.
On the boys side, Gibson said Kodiak is the favorite to retain the region title. Gibson is looking for her team to make a return trip to state by finishing in the top four, but expects stiff competition from the Bears, Wasilla, Palmer and Skyview. She said Colony also is a threat.
"It could be anybody, but our boys can do that and make it to state," Gibson said. "That's what we are shooting for."
Fox Michaud has led the way for the Kardinals, with freshmen brothers Jordan and Jonah Theisen providing a big boost by chasing after Michaud all year. Evan Atchley, Nate Mole, Andrew Mole and Alex Springer round out a deep team.
Skyview coach Ted McKenney said that if his boys team is healthy, it will be right in the thick of the race to secure a state slot.
"The competition in our region is the toughest in the state," McKenney said. "It will be between Kenai, Kodiak, Palmer, Wasilla, Colony and us. It's hard to get one of those top-four spaces. Everything will have to come together for us."
Micah Hilbish will look to build off his borough title of a week ago. Sam Janorschke was second in that race. The two runners who were sick for boroughs were Bud Sparks and Matt Bullerdick. Brenner Musgrave rounds out the scoring runners.
On the girls side, Skyview's Hannah Hutchison just missed the top-15 finish required for a state berth last season. McKenney said the competition has gotten even better this season.
"She'll have to run the race of her life to get in, but we'll try," McKenney said.
Soldotna coach Dan Harbison said the region is too deep on the girls and boys sides for either of his teams to qualify.
On the girls side, Harbison said Bree Mucha is looking to get in the top 10 and qualify for state for the fourth straight year. The coach also said Danielle McCormick is a good bet to qualify.
Harbison also said Dillon Jensen could qualify on the boys side if he has an extremely good run.
The Homer girls will be led by Cassidy Soistman and Pam Jantzi, who finished ninth and 10th, respectively, at boroughs. On the boys side, Dan Adickes paced Homer by taking fifth.
In the Class 1-2-3A portion of the Region III meet, Seward is seeking return trips to state on the boys and girls side. Grace is the favorite to retain the girls and boys titles.
On the girls side, Seward coach Dan Marshall said Grace Chrisitian is the heavy favorite.
"They are far and above anybody else in the state," Marshall said. "They'd be competitive in 4A."
Marshall said there still is plenty his rebuilt girls team can accomplish.
"Our girls have progressed leaps and bounds," Marshall said. "We're real confident we can make it to state and we have a shot at second place."
The coach said Laura Dyer, Alice Pfeffenberger and Isabel Barnwell all have a shot at the top 10. He said the other scoring runners should be Meg Berry and Josephine Braun.
Marshall said the Grace boys are not as untouchable as the Grace girls.
"They are as solid as they come, but they're not out of reach," he said.
Marshall said Miles Knotek has a shot at the individual title if he runs a smart first mile. The others in the top four for Seward are Matthew Moore, Michael Marshall and Jacob Marshall. Dan Marshall said the fifth slot will go to Tannen Berry, Brandon Moore or Dylan Gillespie.
"We're coming to the only two meets of the season that matter to us - regions and state," Marshall said. "Regions matter only in that you get to state."
Nikiski also will be competing in the Class 1-2-3A race. Ty Shoemaker, Daniel Ribbens and Michael Hollinger ran for the Bulldogs last week at boroughs.
The Nikolaevsk cross-country team will represent the Kenai Peninsula at the Region II meet at Susitna Valley.
The Warriors won the Region II boys title last year, but do not have enough runners this season for a team.
Coach Steve Klaich said Blake Klaich will be in the running for the individual title, while Eric Mametieff should get in the top 10 and qualify for state.
Nikolaevsk will bring its first girls team to the region meet, as well. Both Nianiella Dorvall and Kilina Klaich have a shot to become the first Warriors girls runner to qualify for state.