Told that Soldotna ski coach Dan Harbison said that skiers would be ready for any conditions at the state meet due to this winter’s checkered weather, Skyview coach Kent Peterson agreed before checking the forecast.
“Except for snow,” Peterson said. “That’ll change everything.”
Everything has changed.
Anchorage’s Kincaid Park, which will host state today, Friday and Saturday, got 4 to 6 inches of snow Wednesday. The meet starts with interval-start freestyle racing at noon today.
“All of a sudden, that’s going to really slow things down,” Peterson said. “Skiers will think their wax is bad because they are now skiing on snow instead of ice.”
In order to understand how much snow has changed things, consider the information the Alaska School Activities Association released earlier in the week about the meet:
“Coaches should advise athletes to consider using their ‘B’ skis. Reasonable efforts will be made to ensure an acceptable skiing surface. However, expect rocks, dirt, and ice to be present.”
Ever since the massive warming trend at the end of January, then the subsequent freeze-up that included no snow, central Peninsula skiers have been training on crushed ice.
That’s like training for a bike race by only riding downhill with the wind.
“You’re working, but it’s not like skiing on real snow,” Peterson said. “Actually, this could be an interesting twist.
“This will focus more on endurance. On snow, the race will definitely be a little longer.”
No Peninsula skier has ever been a skimeister for the state. The best shot this year comes from SoHi’s Sadie Fox, who won her first Region III title last weekend and finished third at the Lynx Loppet earlier this season.
After her region title, Fox said a state title would be tough, but she is expecting a very good finish.
“I do think that,” Harbison said. “Top five or top three is very realistic.”
Hannah Pothast was second at the region meet. Harbison said she could get in the top 15 with good races.
Beyond Pothast and Fox, SoHi has relied on a mixture of skiers to get the job done — a job that included winning regions.
Also on varsity for the Stars are Olivia Hutchings, Dani McCormick, Molly Erickson, Emily Werner and Xochi Harbison.
“A top-10 team finish would be a good position for us,” Harbison said. “We’ll have to see how that shakes out.
“We haven’t gotten to ski against all the other teams since the Lynx Loppet (in mid-December).”
Levi Michael led the SoHi boys by taking fifth in the region. Colton Diehl was 12th.
“Levi Michael has the potential to have some good races up there, and so does Colton Diehl,” Harbison said.
Also skiing for the varsity will be Tanner Best, Addison Downing, Drew Kant, Aaron Sweberg and Caleb Corr.
The Kenai Central boys will be looking to bounce back after a tough weekend at regions.
The Kards are led by Travis Cooper. Cooper was in second place after the first day of regions, but a broken pole Saturday caused him to fall to seventh.
“He could at least be in the top 10, and he could finish in the top five,” Kenai coach Brad Nyquist said. “When we get there, we’ll go out and ski, and see what the conditions are like, and use what our strengths are.”
The Kenai boys had designs on a region title, but they hadn’t seen Colony, Grace and Palmer in over a month, and those three squads surprised a bit with their strength and pushed the Kards to fourth.
“They put that behind them,” Nyquist said. “They set high goals for themselves at state. They’d like to finish in the top six. That’s the goal they set early on in the season.”
Chasing that varsity goal are James Butler, Olen Danielson, Fox Michaud, Nate Mole and Jordan Theisen.
The Kenai girls, fifth at regions, set a goal of making the top 10. Alex Bergholtz led the Kards by taking eighth at regions, while Kirsten Nyquist was 15th.
“Kirsten was top 20 in the skate race at the Lynx Loppet, so that’s a possibility,” Nyquist said. “Our classic is the tough aspect when looking at the overall.”
Rounding out the varsity will be Katie Cooper, Maddie Michaud, Beverly Schindler and Mikaela Salzetti.
Skyview will compete at the state meet for the last time before closing its doors in the spring.
In recognition, the Panthers will bring out the famed “cowsuits” one last time Saturday.
Peterson said the racing suits were retired about 10 years ago. They are called “cowsuits” because they are splattered with black and white, with a little purple.
“A lot of people I know are looking forward to seeing that,” Peterson said.
Peterson is looking forward to seeing how Mika Morton finishes off her season. Morton was fourth at regions.
“She had two good races last weekend,” Peterson said. “She’s learned a lot about racing and planning your own strategy.
“She has a good chance of being competitive up there. It would be really awesome to see her in the top 10.”
Filling out the final varsity ride will be Annamarieka Chythlook, Brittany Hollers, Sage Link and Abby Cook.
On the boys side, Peterson is focused on team goals.
“All six of them have the potential to have a good race,” Peterson said. “We were pretty close to SoHi and Palmer in the skate race — about a minute and a half out. It’d be nice to have a good race and close that gap.”
The six on varsity are Brenner Musgrave, Sky Schlung, Daniel Shuler, Jeremiah Hudson, Logan Hemphill and Sterling Stasak.