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Photo by M. Scott Moon
Soldotna’s Luke Michael competes to a first-place finish in the 10-kilometer classic race during last weekend’s Region III cross-country ski championships at Tsalteshi Trails.

Peninsula skiers set for state

Posted: February 23, 2012 - 12:19am  |  Updated: February 23, 2012 - 12:22am

Local skiers will be looking to end the high school ski season on a high note today, Friday, and Saturday at the State meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.
That’s the scene where the top talent in the state will be set loose for three days of intense competition, which features some of the top prep skiers in the nation.
With powerhouse schools, such as South Anchorage, Service, and Chugiak competing, Kenai Peninsula skiers will be hard-pressed to find their way into the win column.
However, that has not changed the optimistic attitudes of the teams.
“We want to have our best performances of the year, and see where that puts us,” Soldotna coach Dan Harbison said.
Two-time Region III champion Bree Mucha is Soldotna’s top prospect and she is looking to finish in the top 10 in individual rankings.
“I think Bree will have great races up there,” Harbison said. “She’s kind of battling the edge of a cold right now, but I think she’ll be ready by Thursday.”
Harbison stated that the boys team will have a realistic shot of capturing a top-eight team placement, after winning the Region III title last week, led by Luke Michael.
“Luke is feeling good, so hopefully he’ll have good races all around,” Harbison said.
Last weekend, during the first day of regional competition, Michael suffered a poor finish due to a broken ski.
“It’ll be nice for him to be top 10, and we’ll be checking his skis before he goes out,” Harbison said, laughing.
Soldotna’s boys team will look to improve upon its 13th-place showing last year, and will consist of Michael, Dillon Jensen, Jonas Wikstrom, Colton Diehl, Jang Kim, Tanner Best and Kyle North, while the girls squad will be Mucha, Sadie Fox, Mary Valenzuela, Xochi Harbison, Madison Nelson, Michela Gioachini and Rachael Ross.
Kenai coach D’Anna Gibson said the mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen will be a preview of next season.
“We have a few freshman going, so we’ll see where they finish so we can figure out how good they’ll be in years to come,” Gibson said.
“As far as team goes, we like to focus on where we are in our own region,” Gibson said. “For the girls we’re going to see if we can get a little closer to Grace and Homer, and for the boys we’d like to see them beat Homer again.”
Gibson is letting the teams make their own goals, depending on what the situation is.
“One year the boys wanted to beat SoHi, and they did it. Last year the girls wanted to finish sixth and they did it, so seeing that is such a great experience,” she said.
The Kenai boys team will be Travis Cooper, Tyler Cooper, Olen Danielson, Joe Bressler, Fox Michaud and Jordan Theisen. The Kenai girls will feature Taylor Ostrander, Olivia Pfeifer, Olivia Fair, Kirsten Nyquist, Alex Bergholtz and Eve Ferguson. Gibson said Nyquist has a slight cold, but should be ready by race day.
The Homer squad that has looked much improved this season is ready for state, according to head coach Jan Spurkland.
“It’s hard to say where we’re going to finish,” Spurkland said after last Saturday’s race. “There were four schools within one minute of each other (last week), even in our own region it’s so packed, you can go either fourth or first. Schools like Soldotna, Colony and Palmer are going to be fighting for a top-five spot at state.”
Homer’s boys team came away with a seventh-place finish in last year’s state competition, and so Spurkland said the boys should be strong.
Homer will be bringing a boys team of Brian Rowe, Andre Lovett, Parker Sorenson, Kyle Wentz, Ghen Sasakura, Vegard Unhjem and Dan Adickes, while the girls team will consist of Marie Schmidt, Mady Gerard, Cassidy Soistman, Kaya Morelli, Alaine Miller, Emily Schmidt and Katie Schmidt.
Skyview coach Kent Peterson said the team will be looking to improve on what it accomplished last week at the regional meet.
“We’ve been resting and recovering this week, and doing some speed work, and today we skied the course, which looks like it is going to be a lot of fun,” Peterson said. “The courses are similar throughout the three days, and are appropriately challenging, and we’ve broken the course down in pieces, which will hopefully be good for the underclassmen to learn.
“It’ll be a good taste of that next level of competition.”
Peterson will be bringing Mika Morton, Chelsea Winter, Brittany Hollers and Casey Neill for the girls team, and will field a boys squad with Bud Sparks, Kade Cooper, Joey Bishop and Benjamin Sibley.
“We’ll finish pretty similar to where we finished in regions, so we’ll be comparing ourselves to our regional performance,” Peterson said.
Seward head coach Marc Swanson said the Seahawks boys team will be Miles Knotek, Nick Zweifel, Jerry Swanson and Jacob Marshall. The Seward girls will feature Lindsey Kromrey, Maggie Herbert, Laura Dyer and Brooke Estes.
Today’s races will be in the freestyle, interval start format, with girls racing a distance of five kilometers, and boys 7.5K. Friday’s races will feature mass starts in the classic style, as girls will race 7.5K and the boys will race 10K.  
The competition ends Saturday with mixed-style relay races, as girls will each ski 3K, and boys will ski 5K. Each school’s relay team will feature four athletes, with the first two legs skiing classic style, and the final two legs skiing freestyle.

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