The cross-country course at Nikiski High School is tough, but the Homer girls have seen tougher. It showed Monday at the Nikiski Class Races.
The Mariners girls, coming off a high-altitude running camp in Oregon at the end of July, nabbed the team title in the freshman and sophomore, and the junior and senior races.
Homer’s Megan Pitzman won the freshman and sophomore girls race, and three of the next five finishers wore Homer gear.
In the junior and senior girls race, Kenai’s Allie Ostrander and then Soldotna’s Olivia Hutchings were first to the line, but Homer claimed three of the next five spots.
The major boys spoils were split between Kodiak and Kenai. Keith Osowski won the freshman and sophomore boys race to lead the Bears to the team title, while Jonah Theisen claimed the junior and senior race to lead the Kardinals to top team honors.
Pitzman said seven members of Homer’s girls team and one member of the boys team attended the Oregon camp, which featured running at elevations as high as 9,000 feet.
At the end of five days of training, the Mariners did an uphill, five-kilometer race starting at about 7,000 feet and going up another 800 to 1,000.
“Once you do that, nothing else seems as challenging,” Pitzman said.
Well, maybe one thing seems as challenging. Pitzman, a four-time finisher of the Mt. Marathon junior race, said the punishing race halfway up and down the Seward mountain is harder than even the uphill 5K.
So even though the constant uphills and downhills at Nikiski make up the toughest course prep runners will see this season, Pitzman was in her element as she breezed to the win in 22 minutes, 6 seconds. Kodiak’s Melissa DeGuzman was second at 22:37.
Pitzman said the reason the Mariners have gone to such heights in their training is simple — six-time defending Class 1-2-3A girls state champion Grace Christian.
“We’re shooting for first place at state as a team,” she said.
Osowski also said the Bears have designs on a first Class 4A boys state title since 2008. That’s why he put in his training this summer, and it showed Monday when he won a race for the first time, running 18:14 to top teammate and runner-up Jack Hannah by 54 seconds.
“We’re shooting for first place but it is going to be a challenge,” he said. “West Valley and West are going to be tough.”
The Nikiski Class Races are just 10 practices into the season. Runners need 10 practices to compete, so many are not eligible for the event and run instead in the community race.
The numbers of juniors and seniors entered was so small that the junior and senior boys and girls race was combined into one.
Kenai Central senior Allie Ostrander left more than just a few jaws on Seward’s Fourth Avenue this summer when she won the coed Mt. Marathon Junior Race — the first time the race has been won by a girl.
Monday, she was fourth overall on the rugged Nikiski course. Jonah Theisen won at 17:10, Kodiak’s Levi Fried was next at 17:25, Kenai’s Jordan Theisen was third at 17:30 and Ostrander was right behind at 17:31.
Kodiak’s Levi Thomet, the two-time defending Class 4A champ, was in the community race. There are no official times for the race, but Thomet came in at about 16:13.
“I was trying so hard to catch him,” Ostrander said of Jordan Theisen. “I was really close and I think he knew it. He picked up the pace a little.”
Ostrander ran about 20 yards behind the lead pack of three for most of the race. She said she could never close the gap because every time she made progress on an uphill, the long legs of the boys would stretch out the lead on the downhill.
But Ostrander was still happy with her race after improving her time from last year by about a minute. Ostrander was in the community race this year.
“I was really happy I got to run with the boys because it’s a tough course and it was hot out,” she said. “It was nice to have their backs as a target.”
After improving so much at Nikiski, the odds increase that Ostrander could break into the 16s this Saturday at the Tsalteshi Invite, where she ran 17:15 last year.
“To get in the 16s is my season goal,” she said. “It would be a dream come true.”
Jonah Theisen said he made his winning move on a downhill about a mile from the finish. He did not expect the move to be decisive, but it was enough to get the best of his brother, at least for now.
“I guess he was kind of sick last week and I was fresh,” Jonah said.
He said running with Ostrander also gave him motivation.
“It probably made me run faster because I didn’t want to lose to her,” he said.
Nikiski Class Races
Monday at Nikiski High School
Freshman, sophomore girls — 1. Megan Pitzman, Hom, 22 minutes, 6 seconds; 2. Melissa DeGuzman, Kod, 22:37; 3. Ithaca Bergholtz, Ken, 23:05; 4. Jalee Martushev, Hom, 23:30; 5. Alex Mosley, Hom, 24:19; 6. Audrey Rosencrans, Hom, 24:24; 7. Molly Erickson, Sol, 24:32; 8. Mallory Arnold, Kod, 24:49; 9. Katherine Cooper, Ken, 25:07; 10. Chloe Nelson, Kod, 25:15; 11. Arielle Himelbloom, Kod, 25:20; 12. Mackenzie Lindeman, Ken, 25:50; 13. Halaia Barnett, Kod, 25:51; 14. Addison Gibson, Ken, 25:55; 15. Honey Rose Macatuno, Kod, 25:56; 16. Elena Bramante, Sol, 27:39; 17. Kasey Paxton, Ken, 27:44; 18. Elizabeth Lisenby, Sol, 30:35; 19. Kaley Hunter, Ken, 30:51; 20. Dareena Doyle, Ken, 30:54.
Team champion: Homer.
Freshman, sophomore boys — 1. Keith Osowski, Kod, 18:14; 2. Jack Hannah, Kod, 19:09; 3. Jordan Beachy, Hom, 19:39; 4. Jacob Davis, Hom, 20:05; 5. Denver Waclawski, Hom, 20:31; 6. Koby Vinson, Sol, 20:33; 7. Jacob Alwert, Kod, 20:39; 8. Tristan Landry, Ken, 21:01; 9. Gabriel Nummer, Kod, 21:10; 10. Jaime Rios, Hom, 21:18; 11. Addison Downing, Sol, 21:45; 12. Brenden Thompson, Kod, 22:02; 13. John Sarmiento, Hom, 22:12; 14. Jode Sparks, Sol, 22:34; 15. Anthony Maghupoy, Kod, 22:58; 16. Elan Carrol, Hom, 23:35; 17. Brian Dusek, Sol, 23:50; 18. Rey Jacob Roy, Kod, 24:08; 19. Nick Gilliam, Hom, 24:11; 20. Sam DeGuzman, Kod, 24:26; 21. Cy Dull, Ken, 24:57; 22. Jeremy Basuel, Kod, 24:57; 23. Gavin Wallis, Nik, 25:14; 24. Jaycob Goff, Ken, 26:14; 25. Talon Musgrave, Sol, 26:31.
26. Aaron McCollum, Nik, 26:36; 27. Julius Villasenor, Kod, 27:08; 28. Shane Larrow, Sol, 27:09; 29. Jay Mason Davis, Hom, 28:19; 30. Aaron Taliesin, Hom, 28:44; 31. Jason Ramos, Kod, 28:49; 32. Benjamin Wilson, Sol, 30:23; 33. Henry Heft, Nik, 37:43.
Team champion: Kodiak.
Junior, senior girls — 1. Allie Ostrander, Ken, 17:31; 2. Olivia Hutchings, Sol, 20:48; 3. Molly Mitchell, Hom, 21:26; 4. Zoe Bigley, Kod, 21:44; 5. Ziza Shemet Pitcher, Hom, 22:44; 6. Alex Bergholtz, Ken, 22:49; 7. Aurora Waclawski, Hom, 22:57; 8. Sadie Fox, Sol, 23:29; 9. Raen Barcelon, Kod, 25:32; 10. Mikaela Salzetti, Ken, 28:49.
Team champion: Homer.
Junior, senior boys — 1. Jonah Theisen, Ken, 17:10; 2. Levi Fried, Kod, 17:25; 3. Jordan Theisen, Ken, 17:30; 4. Travis Cooper, Ken, 18:13; 5. Richie McKinney, Kod, 19:31; 6. James Butler, Ken, 19:37; 7. Anthony Rubina, Kod, 19:40; 8. Michael Parnell, Kod, 19:57; 9. Ian Ashley, Ken, 20:13; 10. Gregorio Ibabao, Kod, 20:19; 11. Levi Michael, Sol, 20:31; 12. Aaron Swedberg, Sol, 20:37; 13. Drew Kant, Sol, 24:42.
Team champion: Kenai.