Having some of the area's top cross-country skiers out of town for a Besh Cup event in Fairbanks certainly didn't dampen the competitive spirit of those that stayed on the peninsula Saturday.
In fact, it may have strengthened that spirit as both the boys 10-kilometer race and the girls 7.5-kilometer race were hotly contested at the Kenai Klassic ski meet Saturday on the Kenai Nordic Trails.
"It was nice -- I didn't think I'd do that good," said Homer's Travis Kauffman, who skied to a fifth-place finish in the boys race. "A lot of the big dogs are up in Fairbanks. I don't know how the other guys feel, but it was nice to finish a little higher in the pack."
Kauffman led early in the race after a getting out of the gate strong in the mass start, but ended up chasing Kenai's Mike Kent over the last two kilometers. Kent finished in first place with a time of 42 minutes, 37 seconds.
In the girls race, Syverine Abrahamson of Homer crossed the finish line first in 31:52, gradually pulling away from the field instead of saving it all for the final kick.
"Usually, I try to keep myself back" in a mass start, Abrahamson said. "There's a lot of energy -- it's like a bunch of horses champing at the bit. I was with a few skiers in the first kilometer, Heidi Keller and (Elisha Tarries). I decided to lengthen my stride a little and I gradually pulled away."
Abrahamson finished 1:46 ahead of Skyview's Tarries. Keller crossed the line eight seconds behind Tarries.
"It feels good when you work hard all season, then it pays off in a race," Tarries said. "I just tried to stay up front. I could hear (Keller), so it made me ski harder."
Tarries said she enjoyed the course, though with all the level ground on the golf course, it made for a tough day of double-poling.
"There's not really any hills to take a break on, so you've got to keep pushing the whole way," Tarries said.
Keller said the key to finishing strong was getting out of the starting chute with the lead pack.
"You want to get out first and stay with the lead pack," Keller said. "If you don't stay with them at the beginning, you'll never catch up to them again."
Katie Burck led the Kenai girls with her fourth-place finish, but three of her teammates also finished in the top 12 to give the Kardinals the girls team title. Synneva Hagen-Lillevik was eighth (36:06), Cassie Wilcox was ninth (36:08) and Roxanna Wilcox was 12th (36:53), just edging Nikiski's Aurora Zinck (36:58).
Burck said she liked the mass start.
Kenai's Mike Kent descends a hill on his way to a first-place finish in the boys 10-kilometer race at the Kenai Klassic Saturday.
Photo by Will Morrow
"I like to know where you're at compared to other people," Burck said. "You know how hard you need to push it."
Kent knew just how hard he needed to push through the boys race -- because he let someone else set the pace.
"I had friends tell me to stick with one of the top skiers, then pass him," Kent said. "You don't want to jump out ahead because you don't want slack off and get passed at the end."
Kent said he tucked in with the lead pack coming out of the chute, but didn't move into first place until the final two kilometers.
"In one of these long races, it's really a mind game," Kent said. "You've got to ski the course a couple of times and strategize. You try not to be the first one out because then you have to set the pace, and it might be too slow or too fast. You stick behind someone and kick at the end.
"I can't believe how well that worked."
Kent was 14 seconds ahead of Palmer's Ryan Ford. Skyview's Damian Anderson took third in 43:03 while teammate Sid Cox was fourth in 43:26, pacing the Panthers to the boys team title.
Skyview also got top 12 finishes from Kyle Dudley (ninth, 46:43) and Forrest West (12th, 48:10).
Matthew Habermann was Soldotna's top boys finisher, taking 11th in 48:07.
Kenai Klassic Results
10-kilometer classic -- 1. Mike Kent, Ken, 42 minutes, 37 seconds; 2. Ryan Ford, Pal, 42:51; 3. Damian Anderson, Sky, 43:03; 4. Sid Cox, Sky, 43:26; 5. Travis Kauffman, Hom, 44:11; 6. Ben Meyers, Was, 45:54; 7. Brian Osborne, Sew, 46:23; 8. Michael Farrens, Hom, 46:27; 9. Kyle Dudley, Sky, 46:43; 10. David Dickson, Pal, 47:47; 11. Matthew Habermann, Sol, 48:07; 12. Forrest West, Sky, 48:10; 13. Stephan Olendorf, Sol, 48:26; 14. Alex Hundertmark, Sol, 48:29; 15. Mark McCarten, Sol, 48:47; 16. Chris Amen, Ken, 49:22; 17. Kenny Crewdson, Was, 50:20; 18. Clyde Folley, Sol, 50:31; 19. Ben Logsdon, Pal, 50:40; 20. Nick Swann, Sew, 51:08; 21. Lief Bardarson, Sew, 51:14; 22. Walter Moore, Sew, 51:44; 23. Dylan Anderson, Hom, 51:59; 24. Justin Priest, Pal, 53:03; 25. Patrick Boyle, Was, 53:18; 26. Jess Orr, Sky, 53:24; 27. Caleb Johnson, Nik, 53:49; 28. Chad Adams, Sew, 53:50; 29. Adam Green, Sol, 54:08; 30. Nick Chapman, Sew, 54:09; 31. Levi Lounsbury, Nik, 54:16; 32. Brian Hibberd, Sky, 55:15; 33. Matt Adams, Sew, 55:38; 34. David Moore, Hom, 57:24; 35. Aaron Gilbert, 59:03; 36. Andreas Kutz, Was, 1:03:16; 37. Sean Pezzini, Was, 1:03:23; 38. Jon Leiner, Pal, 1:07:38.
7.5-kilometer classic -- 1. Syverine Abrahamson, Hom, 31:52; 2. Elisha Tarries, Sky, 33:38; 3. Heidi Keller, Sol, 33:46; 4. Katie Burck, Ken, 34:06; 5. Emily Smayda, Pal, 35:18; 6. Heather Strutz, Hom, 35:38; 7. Sierra Williams, Sol, 35:53; 8. Synneva Hagen-Lillevik, Ken, 36:06; 9. Cassie Wilcox, Ken, 36:08; 10. Alecia Wood, Sky, 36:38; 11. Marci Mohler, Sky, 36:40; 12. Roxanna Wilcox, Ken, 36:53; 13. Aurora Zinck, Nik, 36:58; 14. Nicole Mayer, Sol, 37:04; 15. Marta Todd, Gal, 37:26; 16. Kelly Houghton, Sew, 37:30; 17. Brita West, Sky, 37:54; 18. Tess Caswell, Sol, 37:54; 19. Shauna Hall, Nik, 38:26; 20. Jessica Ralston, Nik, 38:34; 21. Dara Rehder, Hom, 38:37; 22. Rachel Riner, Was, 38:56; 23. Jenny Smola, Sol, 39:05; 24. Janna Krein, Ken, 39:10; 25. Paisley Meekin, Pal, 39:17; 26. Sarah Boone, Hom, 39:24; 27. Esther Hundley, Pal, 39:34; 28. Michelle Trumpler, Sky, 39:34; 29. Atali Smith, Was, 40:04; 30. Becca Wachter, Was, 40:26; 31. Lauren Migal, Hom, 40:44; 32. Laure Wesser, Was, 41:40; 33. Clarrisa Ribbens, Nik, 41:46; 34. Sarah Stoltz, Sew, 42:06; 35. Jenna Standridge, Sky, 42:07; 36. Amy Shoemaker, Sol, 42:24; 37. Cate Jelle, Pal, 44:01; 38. Danielle Woolen, Was, 44:19; 39. Ashley St. Onge, Sol, 44:26; 40. Shannon Hohl, Sew, 45:51; 41. Heather Apperson, Sew, 49:38; 42. Jenny Miller, Nik, 50:48.
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