McNEIL CANYON -- The rain refused to let up. A slushy trail showed bits of brush poking through here and there and spectators huddled beneath umbrellas and fishing slickers.
But Skyview High School's Stephanie Lambe did not succumb to the rainy-day winter blues.
"It was awesome," she said of her day at a soggy Kenai Peninsula Borough cross-country skiing championships hosted by Homer, as a last resort, on Saturday. "It felt really good to be skiing on snow."
Lambe's enthusiasm was one part conditions -- foul weather reduced Tsalteshi Trails to ribbons of ice last week -- and one part performance.
Lambe, who took first in the girls 7.5-kilometer classical race with a time of 22 minutes, 41 seconds, led a veritable Panthers stampede to the borough team title. Five Skyview girls posted finishes in the top eight.
Soldotna's Rachel Goldstein finished second just 16 seconds behind Lambe, while Homer's Aleta Phelps was third with a time of 23:30. The Stars took second in the team standings and Homer placed third.
In the boys race, SoHi's Daniel Harro had a 16-second edge on Noah King of Skyview to grab the borough title and lead the Stars to the team win. Mark Harro was third in 22:03.
Daniel Harro, who finished the 7.5-kilometer course in 21:22, did not exactly agree with Lambe's enthusiasm for the sloppy conditions on this bench of forest and fen some 1,400 feet above Kachemak Bay.
"It was ridiculous -- I was post-holing the whole time," Harro said of his efforts to double pole on the softened trail. "You've just got to stay relaxed and take a few deep breaths. At least (the race) didn't get canceled."
SoHi coach Dan Harbison, who faces the possibility of going back to dry-land training this week, echoed that sentiment.
"We were very happy that we had the chance to compete today," Harbison said, adding that limited time on snow is a crusher physically as teams attempt to gear up for the region and state meets later this month. "Mentally, it's just reminding ourselves that everybody is in the same boat."
Out on the trail, there were the usual tales of woe that come with a slushy snowpack that begins to deteriorate as more skiers scoot through. Broken poles and occasional sink holes in the tracks caused problems for some. Passing on the narrow trail also was tricky, many skiers said.
The rain began several hours before dawn and continued steady until the race awards ceremony got under way around 4 p.m. With next week's Region III championships also scheduled for McNeil, it was anybody's best guess as to how the trail might hold up if the warm weather continues.
On Saturday, most racers said the way to deal with it was simply to grin and bear it.
"Once you get started, you really don't notice the rain that much," Homer freshman Mike Farrens said. "Plus, it was really warm."
SoHi's Heidi Keller agreed that skiing in a February rainstorm wasn't as depressing as one might have guessed.
"It wasn't too bad, actually," she said. "We thought it was going to be really horrible (conditions), but it wasn't."
Goldstein said the girls, who raced first, had the advantage of a fresher, less chewed-up course than the boys.
Homer coach Daryl Farrens was appreciative of how upbeat everybody was. He said canceling was never an option, considering that teams had driven from as far as four hours away to have a shot at skiing in the race.
"It was pretty amazing," the Homer coach said. "Skiing in the rain is a first for me."
Sepp Jannotta is a reporter for the Homer News.
KENAI PENINSULA BOROUGH MEET
at McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, Homer
Team scores: 1. Skyview, 1 hour, 36 minutes, 37 seconds; 2. Soldotna, 1:44:04; 3. Homer, 1:50:21; 4. Kenai, 1:50:24; 5. Nikiski, 2:18:07.
Individual 7-kilometer classic results
1. Stephanie Lambe, Sky, 22:41 seconds; 2. Rachel Goldstein, Sol, 22:57; 3. Aleta Phelps, Hom, 23:30; 4. Elisabeth Habermann, Sky, 23:53; 5. Elisha Tarries, Sky, 24:28; 6. Jaime Miller, Sky, 25:35; 7. Katie Franzmann, Sol, 26:00; 8. Lela Wiley, Sky, 26:46; 9. Synneva Hagen-Lillevik, Ken, 26:48; 10. Tess Caswell, Sol, 27:04; 11. Roxanna Wilcox, Ken, 27:27; 12. Kasey Aderhold, Hom, 27:33; 13. Katie Burck, Ken, 27:46; 14. Alecia Wood, Sky, 28:00; 15. Heidi Keller, Sol, 28:03; 16. Jenny Smola, Sol, 28:15; 17. Kira Matiya, Ken, 28:23; 18. Katy Pankoski, Sol, 28:47; 19. Shawna Hall, Ken, 28:59; 20. Samantha Halpin, Hom, 29:01; 21. Linnea Hassbring, Ken, 29:08; 22. Cassie Wilcox, Ken, 29:20; 23. Monica Peters, Hom, 30:17; 24. Amanda Boll, Sol, 30:39; 25. Laura Rooper, Nik, 31:50.
26. Clarissa Ribbens, Nik, 32:15; 27. Anna Clock, Sew, 33:25; 28. Jenna Standridge, Sky, 33:38; 29. Callie Ware, Nik, 36:44; 30. Heather Apperson, Sew, 36:56; 31. Erica Thye, Nik, 37:18; 32. Debbie Duggin, Nik, 44:28.
Team scores: 1. Soldotna, 1:29:04; 2. Skyview, 1:35:07; 3. Kenai, 1:35:47; 4. Homer, 1:42:21.
Individual results 7.5-kilometer classic results
1. Daniel Harro, Sol, 21:22; 2. Noah King, Sky, 21:38; 3. Mark Harro, Sol, 22:03; 4. Andy Banas, Ken, 22:23; 5. Alex Hundertmark, Sol, 22:48; 6. David Hernandez, Sol, 22:51; 7. Morgan Jones, Hom, 22:56; 8. Mike Farrens, Hom, 23:03; 9. Damian Andersen, Sky, 23:13; 10. Jordan Engel, Ken, 23:17; 11. Dylan Anderson, Hom, 24:01; 12. Kyle Dudley, Sky, 24:08; 13. Matt Haberman, Sol, 24:10; 14. Ryan Walton, Sol, 24:18; 15. Nick Swann, Sew, 24:49; 16. Kyle Latz, Ken, 25:03; 17. Clay Nelson, Ken, 25:04; 18. Matt Adams, Sew, 25:42; 19. Nick Chapman, Sew, 25:45; 20. Lief Bardarson, Sew, 26:05; 21. Jess Orr, Sky, 26:08; 22. Walter Moore, Sew, 26:11; 23. Mark McCartan, Sol, 26:21; 24. Levi Lounsbury, Nik, 26:41; 25. Nick Byrne, Sky, 27:08.
26. Chris Amen, Ken, 28:49.
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