Skyview's Ryan Helminski races through the forest Saturday during the Kenai Klassic cross-country ski race at Tsalteshi Trails, which are located behind Skyview High School.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
As of Friday, Trent Semmens wasn't planning on partaking in the Kenai Klassic.
Having missed practice most of the week with an illness, the Kenai senior's fortunes changed for the better later that day.
"By the end of (Friday), I was feeling pretty good and so I waxed my skis," he said, adding that when he awoke Saturday, he decided to give it a shot.
Now he's feeling much better.
After all, victory cures everything.
Not expecting to win, as he hasn't competed since the Besh Cup in Anchorage in late December, Semmens cruised through the 10-kilometer course at Tsalteshi Trails on Saturday, claiming the boys title in 30:55.4, just more than a minute ahead of Skyview's Tommy Honer (32:04.2) and Soldotna's Ryan Sanders (32:35.3).
Soldotna's Kailey Mucha won the girls race, while the SoHi girls and boys won the team titles.
"I am, actually," Semmens said of feeling healthy. "My throat doesn't hurt at all. Sweet."
Much of that, Semmens said, can be attributed to racing.
"I think, actually, revving up your body like that and getting your body warm can actually help sickness," he explained. "Hopefully, I get better sooner."
Having skipped last weekend's Mat-Su Pursuit, which was moved to Talkeetna, Semmens, who placed second the last two years in the Kenai Klassic, is now more confident heading into the remainder of the season.
"Hopefully a top 10," he said of his state competition goal.
Mucha won the girls 7.5-kilometer race, finishing in 27:11.6, ahead of Kenai's Molly Watkins (28:40) and SoHi's Jasmine Clock (28:52.2.).
"It was pretty smooth. I was telling myself, 'I've got to keep going. Keep going. Don't stop and don't slow down.'" Mucha said. "I'm happy."
Kenai's Trent Semmens comes down a hill near the finish on his way to winning the boys race with a time of 30:55.4.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Watkins claimed the Mat-Su Pursuit title last weekend with Mucha finishing second.
"I fell and I lost my pole and then I had to put it back on and that took a lot of my time," Mucha said of the Pursuit.
This race went a lot smoother, Mucha said, especially after the course was groomed.
"We skied that in practice that day (it snowed). It was so hard to ski because it was so deep," she said. "The Goat (Loop) hill, on Thursday, we did sprints up that and it was still really deep and it was so hard. (Saturday) it was so much nicer going up that hill."
After just the third official competition of the high school season, Mucha said she is gunning for a better finish at state than last year, when she placed fifth.
"I want to get up there again. I want to get a little better," she said. "I think I can if I keep it up."
Honer, too, is hoping to best his state performance, which he said was somewhere in the 50s range.
A second-place finish here and a triumph at the Pursuit is a good start.
"Regions ... I think top two wouldn't be that much to ask," he said. "And state's a whole other ballgame, though, because it's just like all the Anchorage teams are really high gear, top-notch skiers. Top 20 wouldn't be too lofty, I guess."
And just as Mucha and Watkins are constantly rivaling each other, Honer has Semmens to keep up with.
Soldotna's Kailey Mucha sprints up the final hill before crossing the finish line in first place with a time of 27.11.6.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"I've always been following Trent and I'm still following Trent this year," he said with a laugh. "It's really nice to know where you can gauge off.
"It's like throughout the season if anything. I can try," he said of catching him. "It's really too early to say. I'm just hoping. Fingers crossed."
In addition to Mucha and Clock, the Stars also got a top-10 finish from Mandy Smith, who finished eighth, in taking the girls team title. Homer was second, with Emma Laukitis, Gillian Beran-Maryott, Katie Miller and Claire Laukitis all finishing in the top 10, while Kenai was third, with Watkins and Ford picking up top-10 finishes.
In addition to a third from Sanders, the Stars also received top-10 finishes from Aaron Chase, Jordan Merkes and Gabe Murray to take the team title. Skyview, which also received a top-10 finish from Hunter Jackinsky, was second while Homer, with a top-10 placement by Gus Beck, was third.
Lars Arneson had the top performance for Cook Inlet Academy, finishing sixth.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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