Friday’s warm weather surge threw local high school ski teams for a loop as they forged ahead in the Kenai Klassic at the Kenai Golf Course.
Kenai Central swept the individual wins but finished second in the team results to Grace Christian in both the boys and girls events. Both Soldotna teams finished third in the team standings.
Kenai junior Alex Bergholtz took the girls 7.5-kilometer classic race, skiing to a 15-second win over Valdez’s Stephanie Allen in a time of 23 minutes, 16.6 seconds.
“Getting the kick wax right really helps,” Bergholtz said. “We didn’t have to use Klister.”
Senior Fox Michaud also gave the Kardinals a win in the boys 10K race with a time of 31:58.5, edging Ivan David Isaacs of Grace in a photo finish by seven-tenths of a second. Although skiers were released in groups of four, 30 seconds apart, Michaud and Isaacs went out in the same group and stuck with each other until the end, when the two racers comically sprinted to the finish line, kicking their heels up and running, rather than skiing.
“Going around the corner, I was like, screw this, I’m just going to sprint it,” Michaud said. “It worked out.”
Michaud’s teammate, Jordan Theisen, finished third among boys to help Kenai in the team standings, but it was not enough to overcome a Grace squad that placed five skiers in the top 10. The Grace girls won with four racers in the top 10.
The flat land around the course encouraged most racers to double-pole their way through the course, and the 40-degree temperatures meant waxing was a struggle for coaches.
Some schools, like Kenai and Grace, sandpapered the bottom of the racers’ skis. The trick they used was to roughen the kick zone — which raises tiny hairs on the plastic base — and give it traction when normal wax doesn’t work.
Other teams, such as Soldotna and Skyview, resorted to using Klister, a gooey substance that works in warm weather, but most skiers try to avoid.
“It’s not necessarily sloppy, it’s just so wet that your poles sink in,” Michaud said. “I was mostly striding.”
“Usually it doesn’t rain,” Bergholtz added. “It was hard trying to keep a steady pace, but I think everybody was trying to find a wax that gets you up the hills.”
Soldotna sophomore Aaron Swedberg, who finished 14th among boys on Friday, said the conditions made it hard to find grip.
“Even when you try to go hard and double-pole it, you still sink in,” Swedberg said. “It’s like you’re not even working hard. You’re just not going anywhere.”
Swedberg said the Klister on his skis worked well on uphills, but perhaps was too much on downhill portions.
The races also allowed the lesser-known athletes to have their time in the sun, as many of the varsity skiers on every team were sitting out Friday’s race in preparation for the weekend Besh Cup races in Homer. The results of the Saturday Besh Cup race were not available as the Clarion went to press.
Friday, Kenai Golf Course
GIRLS 7.5-kilometer varsity
Team standings — 1. Grace Christian; 2. Kenai; 3. Soldotna; 4. Homer; 5. Valdez.
Individual results — 1. Alex Bergholtz, Ken, 23:16.6; 2. Stephanie Allen, Val, 23:31.9; 3. Elle Arnold, Gra, 23:58.6; 4. Aspen Daigle, Hom, 24:00.1; 5. Kayla Rowe, Gra, 25:53.4; 6. Molly Erickson, Sol, 26:48.1; 7. Emily Werner, Sol, 26:59.6; 8. Lauren Tsao-Wu, Gra, 27:00.3; 9. Mikaela Salzetti, Ken, 27:03.6; 10. Cheyenne Applegate, Gra, 27:07.3; 11. Katie Cooper, Ken, 27:29.7; 12. Dani McCormick, Sol, 27:34.8; 13. Kirsten Nyquist, Ken, 27:39.3; 14. Xochi Harbison, Sol, 28:49.9; 15. Olivia Hutchings, Sol, 29:35.8; 16. Alex Durazo, Gra, 29:39.3; 17. Beverly Schindler, Ken, 30:03.7; 18. Audrey Russel, Hom, 30:48.1.
BOYS 10-kilometer varsity
Team standings — 1. Grace Christian; 2. Kenai; 3. Soldotna; 4. Homer; 5. Skyview; 6. Valdez.
Individual results — 1. Fox Michaud, Ken, 31:58.5; 2. Ivan David Isaacs, Gra, 31:59.2; 3. Jordan Theisen, Ken, 32:05.59; 4. John Cosgrave, Gra, 32:47.7; 5. Josh Roach, Gra, 33:00.2; 6. Josh Vantrease, Hom, 33:09.2; 7. Sergei Wegner, Val, 33:27.6; 8. Wyatt Brown, Gra, 33:47.1; 9. Ty Mumford, Gra, 34:12.6; 10. Addison Downing, Sol, 34:19.8; 11. Nathan Albright, Val, 34:40.8; 12. Sterling Stasak, Sky, 34:45.5; 13. Nate Mole, Ken, 35:21.7; 14. Aaron Swedberg, Sol, 35:36.8; 15. Skyler Diehl, Sol, 35:39.3; 16. Brenner Musgrave, Sky, 36:12.8; 17. Hoxie Parks, Hom, 36:47.6; 18. Drew Kant, Sol, 38:14.5; 19. Karl Eckmann, Gra, 39:25.7; 20. Tadhg Scholz, Hom, 41:31.9; 21. Colton Diehl, Sol, 43:29.1; 22. Kierian Henderson, Gra, 46:39.5; 23. Ryan Navrot, Hom, 47:47.4; 24. Olen Danielson, Ken, 48:27.1.