Familiarity was key in the big women’s race Sunday at Besh Cup 4 at Tsalteshi Trails. Unfamiliarity was just as important in the major men’s race.
Sadie Fox, a sophomore at the University of Alaska Anchorage and a graduate of Soldotna High School, won the Under-16 and over women’s five-kilometer interval classic race in 15 minutes, 53.30 seconds. West Valley freshman Kendall Kramer, who won the cross-country running Tsalteshi Invitational last fall, was second at 16:16.10.
“I really like being back in Soldotna,” Fox said. “I know so many people here and they were cheering for me on the course.
“I live right on the trails and grew up on them. I know them like the back of my hand.”
The situation was different for Anchorage’s Hunter Wonders, who won the men’s Under-18 and over 10K classic at 29:58.30. Logan Mowry was second at 30:24.90.
Many Anchorage prep cross-country runners get familiar with Tsalteshi Trails due to the massive Tsalteshi Invitational held each season.
But there is no invitational during the high school ski season which draws big Anchorage schools. Besh Cup racing features the top skiers in the state, but due to snow conditions and alternating years with Homer, Tsalteshi had not hosted a Besh Cup race in four years.
So when event organizers drew up the 10K course to include the big hills on both the Bear and Goat loops, those who know the trails may have raised their eyes a little, but not Wonders.
“There were a couple really big hills about 6K,” Wonders said. “They caught me by surprise. I hadn’t skied that part of the course yet.”
But Wonders said that may have actually resulted in a faster time.
“Since I was unaware of those hills, I paced for an easier course,” Wonders said. “If I had known about those hills, I might have gone a little slower to get ready for them.”
Despite their differences in familiarity with the course, both Fox and Wonders gave the same review.
“It’s a really fun course to ski when you’ve got good wax,” Wonders said. “There’s a lot of transitions to the ups and downs.”
Fox also likes the variety of her home track.
“I really like this course,” she said. “You aren’t herringboning the whole time or double-poling the whole race.
“It’s a fun, rolling course.”
And with the recent snowfall, crisp temperatures and blue sky, the trails were tuned to perfection.
“It was nice seeing everyone pull together after they haven’t had a Besh Cup in such a long time,” Fox said. “The groomers did a fantastic job.”
The Besh Cup is used to choose Team Alaska for Junior Nationals at Lake Placid, New York, in early March. But both Wonders and Fox have busy racing schedules where Besh Cup isn’t necessarily a priority.
Wonders is in the Alaska Pacific University Early Honors Program, meaning he is combining his senior year at South High and his freshman year at APU while skiing for the vaunted ski talent factory.
Early this month in Utah, Wonders qualified for the Nordic Junior and U23 World Ski Championships. Just six men and six women from the United States qualified, so Wonders is looking forward to leaving in three days for the venue in Soldier Hollow, Utah, as the event is held on U.S. soil for the first time in 30 years.
Wonders hasn’t skied for South yet this season, but he said he is planning on regions and the state meet.
“It’s always fun to do Besh Cups, but they aren’t my priority,” Wonders said. “They’re more to keep my feet on the ground for racing.”
Fox skis for UAA and just returned from a meet in Montana a week ago. But the Seawolves don’t race again until Feb. 7.
But Fox was the only UAA skier to show up for Besh Cup weekend at Tsalteshi. She said her teammates were resting up or recovering from illness.
“I wanted to come home and race on my home trails,” Fox said.
Also in the women’s race from the area, Kenai Central’s Addison Gibson was 16th at 17:33.20, Kenai’s Riana Boonstra was 23rd at 17:57.70, Soldotna’s Kellie Arthur was 49th at 19:53.20 and Soldotna’s Cameron Blackwell was 56th at 20:59.50.
In the men’s race, Kenai’s Karl Danielson was 10th at 32:03.10, Soldotna’s Koby Vinson was 18th at 32:53.60, Soldotna’s Jeremy Kupferschmid was 34th at 35:34.70, Soldotna’s Addison Downing was 35th at 35:37.40, Homer’s Jacob Davis was 36th at 35:51.90 and Soldotna’s Josh Shuler was 38th at 36:25.60.
Zanden McMullen of APU won the Under-16 boys five-kilometer classic in 14:52.50. Homer’s Caleb Rauch was 27th in 17:11.80.
In the 1.2K classic for Under-10 racers, Kenai’s Samuel Anders was fifth in 5:46.40 and Kenai’s Daniel Anders was seventh in 6:47.30.
The Besh Cup series concludes with two races in Fairbanks on Feb. 4 and 5.