The Soldotna ski team had a lot to celebrate Saturday at the Region III cross-country skiing championships at Tsalteshi Trails.
Both boys and girls races were won by a SoHi skier, and the boys squad won the overall team title.
Bree Mucha from Soldotna continued the family dominance, winning both Friday and Saturday’s races by convincing margins to grab the individual title. Friday, Mucha won the five-kilometer freestyle by over a minute and a half. Saturday, she took the 7.5-kilometer classic race by over a minute and a half.
This is her second consecutive individual title, and it’s the sixth consecutive year a Mucha has won it. Her sister, Kailey, won the four previous years.
“It feels really good, it was actually surprising we were able to keep it up there,” Mucha said of the six-year run. “It’s exciting.”
Mucha attributed the top honors to consistently hard work in practice. Her goal for the state competition next week is a top-10 finish.
Soldotna finished sixth in the team standings on the girls side, while the Soldotna boys were able to pull of a victory with the help of Luke Michael, Dillon Jensen and Swedish exchange student Jonas Wikstrom.
Michael struggled through a poor performance Friday during the five-kilometer freestyle interval-start race, due to a broken ski.
“(Friday) I noticed during my race my ski was dragging, and afterwards, I discovered it was broken right at the toe area,” Michael said.
“It was probably due to a crash I had in the Homer Besh Cup race earlier in the year.”
Nevertheless, Michael returned Saturday to win the 10-kilometer classic race and finish fourth in the individual standings. Saturday, Michael finished in 30 minutes, 55 seconds, to top Palmer’s Schyler Knopp by four seconds.
“That was fun, it’s good to make a comeback after yesterday,” Michael said. “Coaches nailed the wax again, and I gave it all I could.”
Knopp was the overall boys individual champion.
“About a kilometer from the finish, Luke really turned it up on a hill, and I wasn’t ready for it,” Knopp said. “He’s quite a sprinter, he’s got quite the kick there, and I wasn’t able to hold it.”
Soldotna was able to stay consistent, with Wikstrom pulling off the victory in Friday’s race, and Dillon Jensen finished fourth both days, which resulted in a runner-up position in the individual overall standings. Friday, Wikstrom finished at 14:26 to beat Homer’s Andre Lovett by four seconds.
Many teams were able to find the right wax combination Saturday, after a handful of races earlier in the season that threw the coaches for a loop due to inconsistent weather conditions.
“Grip was really good,” Mucha said. “It cooled down, so we got good kick. Last weekend it was too hot, but today was perfect.”
Teammate Sadie Fox, who finished fifth on Saturday, echoed Mucha’s words.
“Waxing was good, perfect glide, perfect kick,” Fox said. “It was just hard for me, it was really hard to breathe.”
Homer was leading the team standings on the girls side after Friday’s races, but a strong performance by the Grace Christian girls team on Saturday dropped Homer to second in the overall team standings. Grace had three girls in the top four positions.
Homer coach Jan Spurkland took the blame for the team performance, saying that the squad missed on the right wax setup.
“I got to take the heat for this, because the boys kind of got shortchanged today,” Spurkland said.
The Homer boys dropped three positions Saturday to finish fifth in the overall team standings.
Marie Schmidt finished seventh Saturday to lead the Homer girls, and her teammate Kaya Morelli described the conditions as difficult.
“The waxing was hard to do, there wasn’t much kick, so it was frustrating on uphills,” Morelli said.
“Coach has been really great, he’s been here all our four years, and he’s really helped us progress.”
Spurkland was able stay positive in light of the waxing gaffe.
“Both boys and girls yesterday skiied to their potential, and they’ve done a great job overall,” Spurkland said. “They’ve been working hard all season long, and they wanted to show it in their efforts today.”
Looking ahead to the state competition, Spurkland is hoping for a top performance.
“It’s hard to say who’s going to beat the other,” Spurkland said. “I mean, look at yesterday’s results, the top six boys teams all finished within three minutes of each other.
“It’s going to be either Colony, Soldotna, Palmer, or us. One of those groups is going to finish in the top five at state.”
The Kenai Central girls took third in the team race, led by Taylor Ostrander, who finished ninth in the two-day overall times. The Kardinals boys were fourth, led by Travis Cooper’s eighth-place finish in the two-day times.
Soldotna coach Dan Harbison said the hard work from the volunteers is what made this event possible, and would like to send a thank you to anyone involved.
Region III cross-country skiing championships
Friday and Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
Team times: 1. Grace, 3:06:54. 2. Homer, 3:11:14. 3. Kenai, 3:16:24. 4. Palmer, 3:21:40. 5. Colony, 3:21:59. 6. SoHi, 3:25:29. 7. Skyview, 3:38:54.
Friday’s 5-kilometer skate interval
1. Bree Mucha, Soldotna, 15:43. 2. Anna Trujillo, Grace, 17:16. 3. Kaya Morelli, Homer, 17:16. 4. Marie Schmidt, Homer, 17:22. 5. Elle Arnold, Grace, 17:36. 6. Mady Gerard, Homer, 17:42. 7. Claire Trujillo, Grace, 17:47. 8. Emily Merioles, Valdez, 17:52. 9. Sadie Fox, Soldotna, 17:53. 10. Brittney Anderson, Colony, 18:01.
Saturday’s 7.5-kilometer classic mass start
1. Bree Mucha, Soldotna, 25:57. 2. Anna Trujillo, Grace, 27:37. 3. Claire Trujillo, Grace, 28:35. 4. Elle Arnold, Grace, 28:37. 5. Sadie Fox, Soldotna, 29:19. 6. Taylor Ostrander, Kenai, 29:21. 7. Marie Schmidt, Homer, 29:23. 8. Olivia Pfeifer, Kenai, 29:58. 9. Mady Gerard, Homer, 30:00. 10. Hannah Smith, Palmer, 30:01.
Girls two-day totals
1. Bree Mucha, Soldotna, 41:40. 2. Anna Trujillo, Grace, 44:53. 3. Elle Arnold, Grace, 46:13. 4. Claire Trujillo, Grace, 46:22. 5. Marie Schmidt, Homer, 46:46. 6. Sadie Fox, Soldotna, 47:12. 7. Mady Gerard, Homer, 47:42. 8. Kaya Morelli, 48:00. 9. Taylor Ostrander, Kenai, 48:03. 10. Emily Merioles, Valdez, 48:13.
Other peninsula skiers
12. Cassidy Soistman, Homer, 48:45. 15. Olivia Fair, Kenai, 49:16. 16. Olivia Pfeifer, 49:22. 19. Mika Morton, Skyview, 50:10. 20. Kirsten Nyquist, Kenai, 50:26. 21. Alex Bergholtz, Kenai, 50:49. 27. Alaine Miller, Homer, 52:01. 31. Eve Ferguson, Kenai, 53:08. 32. Chelsea Winter, Skyview, 53:22. 34. Emily Schmidt, Homer, 54:31. 37. Mary Valenzuela, Soldotna, 55:34. 39. Brittany Hollers, Skyview, 57:21. 40. Casey Neill, Skyview, 57:59. 42. Maykayla George, Kenai, 58:42. 43. Katie Schmidt, Homer, 59:32. 44. Madison Nelson, Soldotna, 1:02:08. 46. Xochi Harbison, Soldotna, 1:03:01. 47. Michela Gioachini, Soldotna, 1:06:51. 48. Rachael Ross, Soldotna, 1:09:31. 49. Allison Farrington, Skyview, 1:10:24.
Team times: 1. SoHi, 3:09:01. 2. Colony, 3:12:26, 3. Palmer, 3:12:39. 4. Kenai, 3:19:34. 5. Homer, 3:20:31. 6. Grace, 3:21:54. 7. Valdez, 3:31:08. 8. Skyview, 3:31:34. 9. Wasilla, 3:47:55.
Friday’s 5-kilometer skate interval
1. Jonas Wickstrom, Soldotna, 14:26. 2. Andre Lovett, Homer 14:31. 3. Schyler Knopp, Palmer, 14:38. 4. Dillon Jensen, Soldotna, 14:42. 5. Daniel Serventi, Grace, 14:48. 6. Abe Meyerhofer, Colony, 14:49. 7. John Snelders, Valdez, 14:56. 8. Parker Sorenson, Homer, 14:58. 9. Aube Strickland, Palmer, 15:05. 10. Brian Rowe, Homer, 15:06.
Saturday’s 10-kilometer classic mass start
1. Luke Michael, Soldotna, 30:55. 2. Schyler Knopp, Palmer, 30:59. 3. Abe Meyerhofer, Colony, 31:02. 4. Dillon Jensen, Soldotna, 31:10. 5. Daniel Serventi, Grace, 32:09. 6. Aube Strickland, Palmer, 32:18. 7. Travis Cooper, Kenai, 32:19. 8. Jonas Wickstrom, Soldotna, 32:45. 9. Luke McLaughlin, Grace, 32:54. 10. Brandon Schafer, Colony, 33:01.
Boys two-day totals
1. Schyler Knopp, Palmer, 45:37. 2. Dillon Jensen, Soldotna, 45:52. 3. Abe Meyerhofer, Colony, 45:52. 4. Luke Michael, Soldotna, 46:26. 5. Daniel Serventi, Grace, 46:57. 6. Jonas Wickstrom, Soldotna, 47:12. 7. Aube Strickland, Palmer, 47:23. 8. Travis Cooper, Kenai, 47:35. 9. Luke McLaughlin, Grace, 48:14. 10. Andre Lovett, Homer, 48:17.
Other peninsula skiers
12. Tyler Cooper, Kenai, 48:27. 14. Brian Rowe, Homer, 48:47. 16. Colton Diehl, Soldotna, 49:30. 21. Parker Sorenson, Homer, 50:09. 28. Kade Cooper, Skyview, 51:12. 29. Bud Sparks, Skyview, 51:19. 30. Joe Bressler, Kenai, 51:40. 31. Fox Michaud, Kenai, 51:59. 33. Olen Danielson, Kenai, 52:15. 34. Joey Bishop, Skyview, 52:30. 35. Jordan Theisen, Kenai, 53:17. 37. Kyle Wentz, Homer, 53:49. 38. Jang Kim, Soldotna, 53:55. 40. Ghen Sasakura, Homer, 54:31. 43. Dan Adickes, Homer, 56:03. 44. Tanner Best, Soldotna, 56:08. 45. Vegard Unhjem, Homer, 56:23. 47. Sky Schlung, Skyview, 57:08. 48. Kyle North, Soldotna, 57:37. 49. Jake Gilman, Kenai, 58:04. 52. Benjamin Sibley, Skyview, 1:00:16.