It was mariners’ type weather, and a Homer Mariners’ type meet.
The Homer girls and boys cross-country teams swept the team titles at the Kenai Peninsula Borough meet Tuesday under constant showers at a puddly and slick Tsalteshi Trails.
Seward junior Hunter Kratz won the three-kilometer boys race, while Kenai Central sophomore Riana Boonstra captured the 3K girls race.
The Homer girls have garnered a ton of accolades recently, most notably the Class 1-2-3A state crown last season.
“I’m really proud of both teams, especially the boys,” Homer coach Bill Steyer said. “The boys are sometimes overshadowed by what the girls have done, but they’re some really good athletes that are putting in hard work as well.”
Steyer also likes the way the meet sets the Mariners up for regions on Sept. 26 and state on Oct. 3.
But he also knows nothing can be taken for granted, and Tuesday showed two reasons why.
First, there were the conditions at Tsalteshi, which had one puddle cresting at 1 foot deep. A few runners fell down or turned ankles, but there were no major incidents.
Second, two Homer girls runners were disqualified for switching bibs. The Mariners were still able to hang on for the team title, but Steyer said a valuable lesson was learned before a similar mishap could result in a lost trip to state or even a state title.
“I used to race dogs long distance, like in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest, so I know that anything can always happen,” Steyer said.
Homer’s boys scored 29 points for the win, while Seward was second at 49, Soldotna was third at 55 and Kenai Central was fifth at 91. The Mariners put all five of their scoring runners in the top 10, with Jordan Beachy taking third, Jared Brant taking fourth, Charlie Menke taking fifth, Luciano Fasulo taking seventh and Jacob Davis nabbing 10th.
Kratz, a junior, crossed the line at 10 minutes, 18 seconds, which was 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Aaron Swedberg of Soldotna. Kratz, who wanted to mention his dentist and running partner Michael Moriarity as part of his success, said he took the lead before the one-kilometer mark and was able to hold it. Kratz has his eyes set on a state title and defending Class 1-2-3A champ Kaleb Korta of Galena.
“I’m close,” Kratz said. “I’ve finished two seconds behind him, but obviously he’s a great runner. I want to make it tough for him.”
Swedberg said there was a temptation to go all out and possibly catch Kratz, but as much fun as he said he was having in the mud and rain, a minor ankle twist midrace reminded him that there are more things to come in his senior season, starting with a five-kilometer time trial in Homer on Saturday.
“I’d really like to PR there,” he said. “I also want to do really good at regions and get myself and the boys team to state.”
Also in the top 10 on the boys side were Seward’s Paxson Berry in sixth, Soldotna’s Levi Michael in eighth and Kenai’s Karl Danielson in ninth.
On the girls side, Homer put all five of its scoring runners in the top 12 despite losing a top-10 finisher to disqualification. Megan Pitzman led the Mariners with a runner-up finish, clocking 12:27 to Boonstra’s 12:11. Alex Moseley was sixth, Aurora Waclawski was seventh, Lauren Evarts was 11th and Ziza Shemet Pitcher was 12th.
Homer’s 34 points edged the 39 of Kenai for the win, while Soldotna was third with 49. The Kardinals competed without one of their top runners in Jaycie Calvert, who sat out with a minor hip issue.
Boonstra came back from a hamstring injury that had been hampering her for her first borough title. After starting her season with a fourth-place finish on Aug. 22 at the Tsalteshi Invitational, Boonstra said the hamstring kept her from returning to form until Tuesday.
And, perhaps not surprisingly for the reigning Mount Marathon junior girls champion, Boonstra said she loved every minute of the rain and mud.
“I really, really like running in the rain,” she said. “I think it’s cool and refreshing. The mud and slippery trail also doesn’t bother me.
“Me and Addison (Gibson) both really like races like this, so we were both happy.”
Pitzman did not seem quite as enthused about the conditions, but finished second nonetheless in the last race of the day.
“That was just crazy,” she said. “It was raining hard, but it started pouring even more during the race. It was hard to see when you were going down some of the hills. There were a lot of puddles, but you just had to go right through them.”
Others making the top 10 were Seward’s Ruby Lindquist in third, Kenai’s Ithaca Bergholtz in fourth, Gibson in fifth, and Soldotna’s Daisy Nelson, Kellie Arthur and Olivia Hutchings in eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively.
Kenai Peninsula Borough
Tuesday at Tsalteshi Trails
Team scores: 1. Homer, 29; 2. Seward, 49; 3. Soldotna, 55; 4. Kenai Central, 91.
Individual 3-kilometer results
1. Hunter Kratz, Sew, 10:18; 2. Aaron Swedberg, Sol, 10:38; 3. Jordan Beachy, Hom, 10:55; 4. Jared Brant, Hom, 11:00; 5. Charlie Menke, Hom, 11:07; 6. Paxson Berry, Sew, 11:08; 7. Luciano Fasulo, Hom, 11:10; 8. Levi Michael, Sol, 11:12; 9. Karl Danielson, Ken, 11:13; 10. Jacob Davis, Hom, 11:18; 11. Braden Olson, Kenai, 11:19; 12. Thomas Zweifel, Sew, 11:22; 13. Koby Vinson, Sol, 11:23; 14. Seth Brewi, Sew, 11:25; 15. Greg Trail, Niko, 11:28; 16. Josh Shuler, Sol, 11:29; 17. Case Estes, Sew, 11:36; 18. Jeremy Kupferschmid, Sol, 11:41; 19. Denver Waclawski, Hom, 11:41; 20. Dexter Lowe, Hom, 11:42; 21. John-Mark Pothast, Sol, 11:42; 22. Jonathan Kingsland, Sew, 11:54; 23. Roy Taylor, Ken, 11:56; 24. Alex Estes, Sew, 12:19; 25. Mathew Torkelson, Ken, 12:51.
26. Alden Bookey, Ken, 13:19; 27. Gavin Wallis, Nik, 13:37; 28. Aaron McCollum, Nik, 13:58; 29. Henry Heft, Nik, 15:50.
Team scores: 1. Homer, 34; 2. Kenai Central, 39; 3. Soldotna, 49.
Individual 3-kilometer results
1. Riana Boonstra, Ken, 12:11; 2. Megan Pitzman, Hom, 12:27; 3. Ruby Lindquist, Sew, 12:30; 4. Ithaca Bergholtz, Ken, 12:34; 5. Addison Gibson, Ken, 12:50; 6. Alex Moseley, Hom, 12:54; 7. Aurora Waclawski, Hom, 13:04; 8. Daisy Nelson, Sol, 13:06; 9. Kellie Arthur, Sol, 13:07; 10. Olivia Hutchings, Sol, 13:23; 11. Lauren Evarts, Hom, 13:24; 12. Ziza Shemet Pitcher, Hom, 13:34; 13. Molly Erickson, Sol, 13:39; 14. Hannah Pothast, Sol, 13:40; 15. Emily Werner, Sol, 13:43; 16. Kasey Paxton, Ken, 13:55; 17. Leah Johnson, Ken, 14:22; 18. Megan Hickman, Niko, 14:29; 19. Jazi Larrow, Sol, 14:36; 20. Nimi Pollock, Ken, 14:51; 21. Iris Anderson, Sew, 15:27.