The Kenai Klassic was hosted by Kenai Central High School, but it was Nikiski high school coach Dale Bakk making the friends at Saturday's meet at the trails behind the Nikiski pool.
The meet was scheduled for the Kenai Nordic Trails at the Kenai Golf Course, but had to be moved to Nikiski due to low snow cover in Kenai.
The move paid off as skier after skier was dazzled with the condition of the pool trails compared to trails elsewhere on the central Kenai Peninsula.
"I think we may have some visitors next week," Bakk said, alluding to the fact that many ski teams will probably flock to the good trail conditions in Nikiski.
A lot of teams have been practicing at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School. But conditions there are so icy in some places that one coach described them as dangerous.
The trails behind the pool also have enough snow to have classical tracks. Tsalteshi Trails does not have enough snow for classical tracks.
"This is way better than Skyview," said Soldotna senior Daniel Harro, who won the boys 8.7-kilometer classical race. "We've been training at Skyview, but getting in distance skiing can be tough when it's so icy.
"After awhile, it just gets dangerous."
The race Saturday was a mass start, so it was important for Harro and girls winner Stephanie Lambe of Skyview to get off to good starts.
Without a good start, a skier gets caught in the pack amongst a flurry of poles and winning becomes nearly impossible.
"I started out in front, and I wanted to keep it that way," Lambe said. "If you get caught in the pack, there's more of a risk of breaking some equipment."
Lambe missed three races before Christmas due to vacation. Her race Saturday -- her first victory of the year -- showed she is now rounding into form.
Lambe finished the 5.8-kilometer course in 15 minutes, 54.8 seconds. She scooted in 24 seconds ahead of runner-up Rachel Goldstein of Soldotna.
Because the course at Nikiski is pretty flat, most of the top skiers, Lambe included, double-poled the entire course and didn't bother using the legs to kick.
"She just had the arm strength and I didn't have it," Goldstein said. "She was the faster skier today."
Lambe was one of four skiers in the top six for Skyview, which defeated runner-up Soldotna for the team crown.
Also for Skyview, Elisabeth Haberman was third, Lela Wiley was fourth and Elisha Tarries was sixth.
"We've been able to be consistent in our training, we've just had to deal with skiing in circles a lot," Skyview coach Kent Peterson said. "It was nice to finally have the whole team at a race.
"They keep pretty busy with other things, but we're coming together for the end of the season."
Harro finished in 22:30.2 to defeat runner-up Noah King of Skyview by a minute. Mike Kent of Kenai was third.
Homer's Lela Wiley step-turns around a corner Saturday at the Kenai Classic. Wiley finished fourth in the girls race.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Like Lambe, Harro double-poled the whole race. He didn't really have a choice, since he said his kick wax wasn't working.
For King, who is just a sophomore, Saturday marked a breakthrough race.
"He's just been working incredibly hard and it's starting to pay off for him," Peterson said.
Soldotna placed four skiers in the top seven to take the team title over runner-up Skyview.
David Hernandez was fourth for the Stars while Ryan Walton was fifth and Matt Haberman was seventh.
"Matt Haberman is a new skier who is really stepping up," Soldotna coach Dan Harbison said of the junior. "It's nice to see him doing so well."
At trails behind Nikiski pool
Team scores: 1. Skyview, 1 hour, 6 minutes, 39.6 seconds; 2. Soldotna, 1:12:45.9 seconds; 3. Kenai Central, 1:08:01.6; 4. Homer, 1:27:25.1; 5. Nikiski, 1:46:19.3.
Individual results in girls 5.8-kilometer classical race
1. Stephanie Lambe, Sky, 15:54; 2. Rachel Goldstein, Sol, 16:18; 3. Elisabeth Haberman, Sky, 16:44; 4. Lela Wiley, Sky, 16:45; 5. Aleta Phelps, Hom, 17:00; 6. Elisha Tarries, Sky, 17:14; 7. Katie Burck, Ken, 18:41; 8. Jenny Smola, Sol, 18:41; 9. Synneva Hagen-Lillevik, Ken, 18:42; 10. Katie Franzmann, Sol, 18:47; 11. Jaime Miller, Sky, 18:48; 12. Linnea Hassbring, Ken, 18:48; 13. Heidi Keller, Sol, 18:58; 14. Tess Caswell, Sol, 19:45; 15. Katy Pankoski, Sol, 19:45; 16. Jeena Standridge, Sky, 20:59; 17. Roxanna Wilcox, Ken, 21:47; 18. Shauna Hall, Ken, 21:51; 19. Kira Matiya, Ken, 21:56; 20. Amanda Boll, Sol, 21:57; 21. Janna Krein, Ken, 22:47; 22. Samantha Halpin, Hom, 23:01; 23. Clarissa Ribbens, Nik, 23:01; 24. Danielle Cuddy, Gra, 23:03; 25. Sarah Martinez, Gra, 23:14.
26. Laura Rooper, Nik, 23:20; 27. Ali Siedl, Gra, 23:26; 28. Hannah Harrison, Hom, 23:39; 29. Kasey Aderhold, Hom, 23:43; 30. Anna Clock, Sew, 24:46; 31. Jacqueline VanDriessche, Sew, 25:27; 32. Heather Apperson, Sew, 25:27; 33. Erica Thye, Nik, 28:05; 34. Debbie Duggin, Nik, 31:51.
Team scores: 1. Soldotna, 1:36:13.4; 2. Skyview, 1:40:48.5; 3. Seward, 1:45:15.2.
Individual results in boys 8.7-kilometer classical race
1. Daniel Harro, Sol, 22:30; 2. Noah King, Sky, 23:30; 3. Mike Kent, Ken, 24:12; 4. David Hernandez, Sol, 24:26; 5. Ryan Walton, Sol, 24:26; 6. Nick Swan, Sew, 24:46; 7. Matt Haberman, Sol, 24:50; 8. Damian Anderson, Sky, 24:55; 9. Kyle Dudley, Sky, 25:11; 10. Mike Farrens, Hom, 26:01; 11. Kyle Latz, Ken, 26:05; 12. Alex Hundertmark, Sol, 26:31; 13. Matt Adams, Sew, 26:41; 14. Mark McCarten, Sol, 26:54; 15. Walter Moore, Sew, 27:00; 16. Chad Adams, Sew, 27:06; 17. Dylan Anderson, Hom, 27:31; 18. Lief Bardarson, Sew, 27:37; 19. Jess Orr, Sky, 27:51; 20. Nick Chapman, Sew, 27:54; 21. Morgan Jones, Hom, 29:24; 22. Kaleb Johnson, Nik, 29:29; 23. Nick Byrne, Sky, 30:02; 24. Russell Schindler, Gra, 30:16; 25. Levi Lounsbury, Nik, 30:44.
26. David Apperson, Sew, 31:00; 27. Paul Horskoetter, Gra, 33:16; 28. Grant Mott, Gra, 34:39.
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