Leaders of the pack: A look at the fine of 2009

Posted: Sunday, January 03, 2010

As last year's headlines turn over into this year's headlines, the Clarion takes a quick look back at the highlights of 2009.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Kenai Central's football team was happy to get their hands on the First National Bowl trophy in October after winning the small-schools state championship at Anchorage Football Stadium.


After losing their first match of the season to Kodiak in the first round of the region tournament, Soldotna's volleyball team won three straight to earn a state berth. Like regions, the Stars lost their opening match at state but won out to claim fourth place, their highest finish in program history.

SoHi met Northern Lights Conference champs Palmer in the fourth-place match. The Stars swept the Moose 25-14, 25-18 and 25-23.

"We came out playing excellent volleyball," head coach Bruce King said. "We made virtually no errors. We only had two missed serves in the first game.

"We were pretty much flawless in the first game and it carried over into games two and three."

King credited his team's success to its seven seniors.

"That senior leadership brought a lot to the floor," King said "They haven't stopped working to get better. If you're going to be a championship team, that's what you have to do."

Those seniors include Emily Rohloff, Emily Rich, Megan Hardy, Mariah Hamilton, Jasmine Woodland and Lydia Forbes, who was named player of the match in the fourth-place game at state.

The final senior, Shana Powell, was named NLC Southern Division player of the year. She had an excellent tournament, according to King.


Kenai Central upset the three-time defending state champion Soldotna Stars 21-10 to claim its fifth small-schools state title.

The Kardinals have won five small-schools titles -- three in championship games against the Stars. They also handed SoHi its first loss to a small-schools opponent in five years.

Kenai Central, which went 10-1 on the year, is 5-0 in small-schools title games, while Soldotna, who finished 8-3, is 3-4 in small-schools title games and 3-8 in state championship games.

Stars head coach Galen Brantley Jr. took his first postseason loss in his third year at the helm, while Jeff Baker, a college teammate of Brantley Jr.'s and a former Soldotna assistant, won the state title in his first year as Kenai's head coach.

"We didn't execute on offense," Brantley Jr. said. "We were outplayed and out-coached."

"It was a team effort. All 11 people did their job," said Kenai volunteer assistant coach Jim Beeson.

Kards quarterback AJ Hull threw for 142 yards and a touchdown, while running for 67 yards and a touchdown. He was named player of the game for the Kardinals.

Hull threw for more than 1,500 yards on the season.

Kenai senior Billy Kiefer ran for 127 yards in the state title game. He led all running backs in the state with more than 1,400 yards, averaging more than 130 yards per game.

This year mirrored 2002, when Soldotna defeated Kenai 28-0 in the final game of the regular season, but the Kards got the first of their four straight titles with a 7-0 victory over Soldotna in the title game.

The Stars put up more than 3,000 rushing yards this year and defeated Kenai Central 52-27 in Week 8 of the regular season.

"Everybody thought, 'SoHi's gonna do it again,'" said Baker.

Beeson, along with defensive coach Jim Dawson, was part of the four straight titles from 2002 to 2005. Out of his now five state titles, Beeson said this year his winning squad was the least expected to win out of the five -- making the victory that much sweeter.


Soldotna's Winter Heaven took second in the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke at the state swimming and diving championships hosted by Bartlett in November.

In the butterfly, he swam a 50.78, just .36 seconds behind first-place finisher Cody Brunette of Juneau-Douglas. Brunette set the state record in the event last year with a time of 49.19.

With his time from state, Heaven set a new SoHi record, breaking former Stars swimmer and now assistant swim coach Lucas Petersen's time of 50.97.

"He's been looking at that board for three years," Stars swim coach Sohail Marey said about the record board at SoHi. "Now, his name is on it. I'm really happy with his results."

With a time of 54.89, Heaven took second in the 100 backstroke.

Fellow Stars swimmer Olivia Bowen took fourth in the 100 butterfly.

Seward's Ryan O'Leary had the 100 freestyle won, but touched the wall out of the water instead of underneath. The slight difference was enough for Wasilla's Jeff Frey to win the race by .07 seconds.

Seward swim coach Janet Van Driessche said O'Leary came to the wall first, but reaching out of the water is what gave Frey the win.

O'Leary also took second in the 200 freestyle.

Kenai Central's Olivia Pfeifer took fifth in the 500 freestyle and placed eighth in the 200 freestyle. Pfeifer broke her own school record in the 500 freestyle.


Three peninsula wrestlers grappled their way into the finals at the state tournament, two in the Class 1-2-3A meet and one in the Class 4A meet.

Nikiski's Corey Green at 135 and Henry Eide at 285 made the finals. Both lost and claimed second in the state in their weight classes.

Skyview's Auston Tennis lost in the finals to now four-time state champ Nathan Hoffer of East High in the 140-pound finals.

The Bulldogs had four other wrestlers finish in the top five at state. Nikiski placed fifth as a team at state.


For the second year in a row, Soldotna's season ended with two straight losses at the Class 4A state hockey tournament.

The Stars followed up a 4-1 setback to Chugiak in the first game with a 3-2 loss to West Valley in the consolation semifinals in February at the Wasilla Sports Complex.

The Stars were eliminated in their first two contests last year, when they lost to Wasilla in the title game of the conference tournament.

The pair of losses concluded the 2008-09 season for SoHi, which finished 15-9-1 after winning the North Star Conference championship for the fourth time in school history with a 4-3 overtime win over Palmer.

In their second season of existence, the Kenai River Brown Bears improved upon their 12-win campaign from a year ago, compiling a 14-36-8 mark while qualifying for their first postseason after all four teams in the North American Hockey League's West Division advanced.

Half of their losses were by a single goal and eight occurred in overtime or a shootout.

Fairbanks swept the Brownies in three postseason games to end their season in April.

First-year coach Brent Agrusa resigned one day after the Brown Bears were knocked out of the playoffs. Agrusa, of Michigan, cited the distance from family and friends as the reason behind stepping down.

Michigan native Marty Quarters took over as head coach at the beginning of the 2009-10 season. Quarters was fired after 12 games.

Assistant coach Oliver David has since taken over the head coaching duties. The Brown Bears were active on the trade front in the first half of their third season. David has been rebuilding the team with youth and players committed to Alaska.

Cross-country skiing

Soldotna's Kailey Mucha won the mass start, 7.5-kilometer freestyle event at the state Nordic ski championships in February to become the first skier from the Kenai Peninsula to win a race at state.

Mucha joined her mother, Kenai Central ski coach D'Anna Gibson, to become the first parent-child winning combination at the championships.

Gibson, then D'Anna Dorris, won a pair of state titles skiing for West in 1987 and 1988.

Mucha finished second overall.

"Kailey has talent," SoHi ski coach Dan Harbison said. "She works hard and diligently year-round, and it produces results."

Soldotna's girls had a fourth-place overall finish, with Service taking the top prize. The SoHi boys finished fifth overall. The team was led by Travis Semmens, who topped all peninsula skiers with a 16th-place finish.

Both Kailey and Semmens transferred to Kenai Central for the 2009-10 school year.


SoHi's boys basketball team finished second at the Class 4A state tournament in Anchorage. The squad lost 55-52 to Dimond in overtime in the title game.

"They competed. I don't have any words left to say how proud I am of these guys," Stars head coach Matthew Johnson said.

"It was a treat to coach these guys," Johnson said. "One through 12 on that bench, they gave everything they had, they worked their tails off and I couldn't ask for anything more.

"They have nothing to hang their heads about. They should be extremely proud."

The Stars finished second in the Northern Lights Conference tournament.

Seward's boys took fifth at the Class 3A state tourney. The Seahawks won their first Southcentral Conference tournament title since 1993. Nikiski's girls also took fifth in the 3A state tournament.

The Cook Inlet Academy boys finished fifth out of the 2A schools. CIA's and Ninilchik's girls both made it to the state tournament. The Wolverines won their 14th Peninsula Conference title.


Lance Mackey won the Iditarod for the third year in a row. Only two other mushers in the race's 37-year history have won it three consecutive years. Susan Butcher, who won in 1986-88, and Doug Swingley, 1999-01, accomplished the same feat.

Mackey finished with 15 dogs.

He finished about six hours ahead of the second- and third-place mushers, Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker.

Peninsula musher Mitch Seavey finished fourth and Dallas Seavey finished sixth.

Cim Smyth, of Big Lake, and his team took first place in the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race in Clam Gulch in early February. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the race.

Smyth edged out second-place Mackey by 1 minute, 30 seconds. This was Smyth's second T-200 victory.

Dean Osmar, founder of the T-200, won the 100-mile race. Bruce Linton took second and Cain Carter finished third.

Travis Beals won the Junior T, followed by Rebekah Ruzicka in second and Merissa Osmar in third.


The Homer baseball team defeated Southcentral Conference foes Palmer and Soldotna to earn a trip to the state baseball tournament in Palmer.

Homer lost to Dimond, who went on to win the state title, in its first game at state and lost to West Valley, which finished fourth, in its second game. Josh Gilbert and Justin Frink were named to the Good Sport Team.

The American Legion Twins went 20-22 on the season. They were beaten by Dimond in the American Legion state tournament at Eagle River in late July.

The Peninsula Oilers went 18-27, finishing in the bottom half of the Alaska Baseball League. It was the Oilers worst season since 2001. The Oilers were 10 games behind first-place finisher Mat-Su Miners.

Dennis Machado was named the new manager at the end of the 2009 season. He replaces Jeff Walker to become the 25th skipper in Oilers history.


With an 8-5 win over SoHi, Homer's softball team, under coach Bill Bell, made its eighth trip to the small-schools state tournament in nine years of existence. The lone blotch on the record came in 2008, when Soldotna closed the season with a pair of blowout victories over the Mariners to secure the Stars' lone state trip in four years of existence.

Homer won the state title in 2006 and was the runner-up in 2007.

The girls won their first game at state, defeating Eielson 11-7. They lost to Sitka in their second game and dropped a close, 9-8 game to Kodiak, eliminating them from the tourney.

Track and field

Skyview's Ivy O'Guinn and the Kenai Central girls 1,600-relay team both won Class 4A state titles.

The Kenai girls 1,600 relay of Lierin Flanagan, Kristi Louthan, Shaynee DeVito and Bailey Beeson set a new state record of 4:04.46.

O'Guinn finished second in the 3,200 and took third in the 1,600.

Flanagan was fifth in the 100 and runner-up in the 200 and 400, while Beeson was sixth in the 400.

The victory helped the Kenai girls finish third in the girls meet.

Led by Class 1-2-3A boys outstanding performer Travis Price, who won four events, and Dylan Beck, who took three events, Seward won the Class 1-2-3A boys title for the first time after finishing second last year.

Price dominated both the 400 and 800, running 49.82 to break 50 seconds for the first time in the 400, and cruising home in 1:59.66 to top surprise runner-up and teammate Brett Chase in the 800.

The senior was not seeded on top of the triple jump or long jump, but won the triple jump at 41 feet, 9 1-4 inches, and the long jump at 20--3-4.

Beck won the high jump at 6--6, a leap which tied the school record and bested rival Leif Karlberg of Grace. Beck also won the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles over Karlberg with a time of 41.33 to Karlberg's 42.02.

Nikiski's Megan Hansen's personal-best discus toss of 104--11 was enough to beat runner-up Anna Simmers, of ACS, and Nikiski teammate Kassandra Johnson, who got fifth.

Nikiski, which had just three athletes at the meet, still managed to finish seventh. Eliza Chadwick finished second in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles for the Bulldogs.

The Kenai Peninsula also received a Class 1-2-3A state title from Cook Inlet Academy's Amie Smithwick in the 300 hurdles.

Nikita Naumoff paced the Kenai boys by finishing second in the high jump.


Lacie Wortham recorded three straight shutouts to put Kenai Central's girls into the state tournament for the first time in three years. The Kards won the Northern Lights Conference title with a 1-0 victory over Colony.

The third-seeded Kardinals fell to sixth-seeded Juneau-Douglas in the opening round of the state soccer tournament.

SoHi's boys took third in the NLC and earned a state berth for the third consecutive year.

Second-seeded Colony eliminated the Stars from the state soccer tournament with a 2-0 win at Anchorage Football Stadium in late May. The eighth-seeded Stars lost 5-2 to top-seeded Dimond in the opening round.

SoHi's Blaine Carver was named the 2009 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year and NLC MVP.

Soldotna's girls fell to Wasilla 3-2 in overtime in the NLC third-place match. SoHi's Shana Powell was named NLC MVP.

Cross-country running

Skyview's Ivy O'Guinn had a personal-best, second-place finish at the Class 4A state championship meet in October in Palmer.

O'Guinn finished the five-kilometer race in 19 minutes, 0.1 seconds, just missing catching champion Courtney Kisner of West Valley at the finish line. Kisner finished at 18:58.4, while Soldotna sophomore Bree Mucha was fourth at 19:12.5.

Melanie Smith also had a top-20 finish for Soldotna, placing 20th. SoHi's girls finished 11th.

In the Class 1-2-3A race, the Seward boys finished second in the team standings. The Seahawks were led by Brett Chase in ninth place and Austin Gillespie in 18th place. Nikiski's Sebastian Strickland finished 24th, while Cook Inlet Academy's Koebryn Mlynarik was 65th.

The Seward girls finished third. Allison Barnwell, who finished second at state last year, took third this year. Kristina Atherton also came through for the Seahawks with a 10th-place finish.

Motor sports

Scott Braswell won the A-Stock title for the 2009 Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions Circle Track Division. Charley Michel won the B-Stock title, Celina Jackson won the Truck title, Joey Essex won the Late Model title and Cameron McGahan won the Sprint Car title.

Michael Edwards won the 125 Intermediate title for the Motocross Division. Mike Kelly won the 250 Novice. Kelly also won the Vet Intermediate title. Frank Navarro claimed the 85 Novice crown. Spike Maciarello won the PRO title. Samuel Myers won the 65cc title and Gunner Wroe won the 50cc. Trenton Myers won the Mini Quad title. Randy Dobbs was crowned Vet Novice champion. Aaron Poland won the Vet "A" title.

Cory and Carly Davis both won season titles in the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series.

Cory earned a title in the year-end season points championship for the Semi-Pro Super Stock division. Carly won the Pro Women's title after winning the season's final race.


Birch Ridge Golf Course defeated Kenai Golf Course 14-10 to win the fifth annual Twin Cities Walker Cup. The duo of Eagleglen Golf Course pro Rob Nelson and Palmer Golf Course director George Collum won the 13th Annual All-Alaskan Pro Skins Game at Birch Ridge.

Collum and Nelson split $2,600. The team of Aaron Dexheimer and Rich Lundahl took second place, winning $1,950 and the team of Billy Bomar and Ryan Sparks took home $450.

Nolan Rose carded a two-day, 4-over-par 144 to win the 36th Peninsula Amateur at Birch Ridge. Rose's total set a new scoring record for when the tournament is played in two days. The old two-day record was 147, shared by 1978 champion Jim Curley and 1981 champion Don Turner.

Tommy Carver defended his Donald R. Morgan Memorial Kenai Golf Association Club Championship title. He shot a 158, edging out Beau Forrest's 160.

Dexheimer became the first pro to break par in a two-day tournament at the Kenai Golf Course, firing an 8-under 136 to win the Kenai Invitational Pro-Am.

Rene Alvarez fired shot a two-day total of 153 to win the Kenai Open at Kenai Golf Course. Chris Murray finished two strokes behind Alvarez.


Kenai Central graduate Molly Watkins won the women's 10-mile portion of the 2009 Rotary Unity Run. Cook Inlet Academy graduate Lars Arneson won the men's 10-miler. Rosika Nees won the women's five-kilometer race and Anchorage's Ryan Cox won the men's five-kilometer title.

Luke Oliver won the men's Kenai River Marathon. Valdis Kirsis won the men's half marathon. Sarah Duffy won the women's marathon and Greer Gehler won the women's half marathon.

SoHi graduate Ari Goldstein won the 10-kilometer portion of the 22nd Kenai Peninsula Run For Women. Seward grad Denali Foldager captured the five-kilometer competition.

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