Most skiers know the drill of racing and pre-race preparation. Get to the trails, hit the warm-up loop, wax their skis, test their grip, and be at the start line at the appropriate time.
Well, Friday’s Kenai Klassic featured a little bit of a twist — the waxing is done during the race.
Held at the north trail head of Tsalteshi Trails, the race started with skiers — four every 60 seconds — scrambling to a wax table, feverishly applying kick wax, putting their skis on and taking off for one three-kilometer loop of classic skiing on the Wolverine Trail. Then it gets even more interesting. The racers enter a change zone to adorn a new pair of skis, prepared for skate skiing. As soon as they are strapped into their new pair of skis, another three-kilometer loop awaits them.
“I just kind of slapped wax on and went, I didn’t even cork it in or anything,” Seward senior Laura Dyer said. “It’s a rush and it’s stressful, but it’s fun because it’s different and it’s a change.”
Dyer finished third in the girls junior varsity race with a time of 27 minutes, 15 seconds, just 32 seconds behind the winning time in that race.
Although the race format was a rare change from routine, Friday wasn’t the first time the system has been used. Some of the upperclassmen recall a race two years ago on the Kenai Golf Course that challenged racers to find the right wax setup while on the clock.
“It’s kind of a rush, but it’s kind of fun,” said Grace Christian senior Ali Noble. “It’s crazy because you’re trying to figure out how much wax to put on there based on how many hills there are, so I was just trying to get some on my skis, but they were a little wet so it wouldn’t go on. I just put what I could on and decided to just go because it wasn’t working.”
Noble finished 1:32 behind Dyer in fifth place.
The girls varsity race turned out to be a contest between the Trujillo sisters from Grace, as Claire Trujillo beat Anna by 9.9 seconds in a time of 21:33.
Skyview’s Casey Neill had a pleasant showing in third place, 2:07 behind the winner, and Aspen Daigle from Homer was two seconds behind Neill in fourth.
In the boys varsity race, it was Sky Schlung from Skyview skiing the fastest time of the day in 18:40, but the Kenai boys team had a few tricks up its sleeve that resulted in them taking the overall team title.
Instead of wasting precious seconds applying wax and later swapping out skis, most of the Kenai boys team opted to grind out the first classic loop of the race on unwaxed skis, which then allowed them to whiz by the changing zone and onto the skate portion.
The plan seemingly worked, as five of the top seven finishers were Kardinals skiers, and six of the top 10. Senior Joe Bressler led that charge with a runner-up finish, missing out on the win by three seconds.
“We just had to double-pole it all, and so we didn’t have to change skis or anything, and it saved a lot of time,” Bressler said. “Having to double-pole with no waxing really made up for it. That was the best way to go.”
Along with Bressler came Nate Mole, Jake Gillman, Fox Michaud, Jordan Theisen and James Butler all in the top 10. Colton Diehl from Soldotna finished third to top the Stars’ effort.
“We didn’t have any kick, so we had to double-pole up the hills, and there were two big hills,” said senior Jake Gillman. “That was a little harder, but it was a short enough race.
“It felt really good when everyone’s trying to change their skis and you just go right by them.”
The chaotic nature of the race also led to a few spills on course, as some racers attempted to quicken their race by loosening their bindings before coming to a stop in the change zone.
“I was trying to beat my teammate who was ahead of me most of the race, and she was changing boots and skis, and I just changed skis,” Noble said. “Right when I was about to take off, I put one foot down and both my skis flew off and I fell backward, so I spent like an extra 30 seconds trying to put it back on.”
Besh Cup #3 held at Tsalteshi
The third of six Besh Cup races of the year provided local skiers a chance to shine in the 1-kilometer freestyle sprints at the Tsalteshi Trails on Saturday.
Former SoHi skier Bree Mucha finished second overall in the women’s race, and was fastest of the Older Junior skiers.
Megan Spurkland finished 11th overall as the top racer from the Homer Women’s Nordic club. Homer’s Barae Hirsch won the J3 class sprint.
Soldotna’s Luke Michael finished ninth overall in the men’s race, and was fourth-fastest in the OJ category.
Brian Rowe was the fastest racer from the newly created Kachemak Nordic Racing club in 23rd, with former Homer coach Jan Spurkland in 24th.
Friday at Tsalteshi Trails
Team times — 1. Grace Christian, 1 hour, 32 minutes, 51 seconds; 2. Kenai, 1:40:21; 3. Homer, 1:41:30; 4. Soldotna, 1:47:18. Not official — Skyview, Seward.
Individual 6-kilometer results — 1. Claire Trujillo, Gra, 21:33; 2. Anna Trujillo, Gra, 21:42; 3. Casey Neill, Sky, 23:40; 4. Aspen Daigle, Hom, 23:42; 5. Alex Bergholtz, Ken, 24:00; 6. Lindsey Kromrey, Sew, 24:08; 7. Cheyanne Applegate, Gra, 24:20; 8. Kirsten Nyquist, Ken, 25:13; 9. Emily Cusick, Gra, 25:14; 10. Makaela Salzetti, Ken, 25:24; 11. Maya Tso-Wu, Gra, 25:32; 12. Tisha Lovett, Hom, 25:36; 13. Rachel Ellert, Hom, 25:39; 14. Lindsay Floyd, Ken, 25:43; 15. Taylor Gilmore, Sol, 25:45; 16. Beverly Schindler, Ken, 26:21; 17. Lydia Arndt, Hom, 26:32; 18. Xochi Harbison, Sol, 26:42; 19. Annbjorg Bakken, Ken, 26:47; 20. Harmony Wayner, Gra, 26:48; 21. Dani McCormick, Sol, 27:09; 22. Madison Nelson, Sol, 27:41; 23. Brittany Hollers, Sky, 28:14; 24. Olivia Hutchings, Sol, 31:56.
Team times — 1. Kenai, 1:16:42; 2. Soldotna, 1:20:59; 3. Grace Christian, 1:26:01; 4. Skyview, 1:26:19; 5. Homer, 1:27:23.
Individual 6-kilometer results — 1. Sky Schlung, Sky, 18:40; 2. Joe Bressler, Ken, 18:43; 3. Colton Diehl, Sol, 19:02; 4. Nate Mole, Ken, 19:08; 5. Jake Gillman, Ken, 19:19; 6. Fox Michaud, Ken, 19:31; 7. Jordan Theisen, Ken, 19:32; 8. Ghen Sasakura, Hom, 19:44; 9. Joe Rife, Sol, 20:09; 10. James Butler, Ken, 20:23; 11. Jong Kim, Sol, 20:27; 12. Olen Danielson, Ken, 20:31; 13. Andrew Eller, Gra, 20:40; 14. Tanner Best, Sol, 21:20; 15. Ivan-David Isaacs, Gra, 21:36; 16. Carl Eckman, Gra, 21:41; 17. Josh Vantrease, Hom, 22:00; 18. John Cosgrave, Gra, 22:03; 19. Brenner Musgrave, Sky, 22:11; 20. Jeremiah Hudson, Sky, 22:13; 21. Kerian Henderson, Gra, 22:34; 22. Liu Tianen, Hom, 22:48; 23. Jake Worsfold, Hom, 22:50; 24. Logan Hemphill, Sky, 23:13; 25. Daniel Shuler, Sky, 24:19.