It should be an interesting Region III skiing championships for Kenai coach D’Anna Gibson on Friday and Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School.
Gibson’s girls and boys teams should both be in the hunt for the first region ski title in the school’s history. Kenai’s Christopher Hall and Trent Semmens should also provide drama as they chase a boys individual crown.
The only area where Gibson does not have a race favorite for the Kardinals is the girls race. There the favorite is Soldotna freshman Kailey Mucha, who happens to be Gibson’s daughter.
“Even if she wasn’t my daughter I’d consider her a really strong contender,” Gibson said. “I think there will be some interesting races.”
One of the interesting races will be for the boys team title, where Skyview hopes to defend its crown.
Skyview coach Kent Peterson said his squad set the goal of the defending the region title at the beginning of the season and has been working hard all year at that defense.
“At the Nikiski relays our team was third behind Colony and Kenai,” Peterson said. “It’s been getting more competitive as the season goes on.”
Peterson said his team’s advantage is depth. Erick Romig, Taylor Karnikis and Tommy Honer have been Skyview’s top three skiers all season. After that Kelly Skipwith, Jordan Merkes, Lucas Thein and Harley Maxson all have the ability to be the fourth scoring skier. That means a bad race by an individual will not cost Skyview as much.
Gibson said her top five have been Semmens, Hall, Kirk Louthan, DC Reid and Anders Nyquist. Kenai does not have as much room for bad races as Skyview does.
“We need all of them to have a good race to make it happen,” Gibson said.
Colony, led by Ryan Van Gorder, will be looking for its third title in the past four years. Van Gorder also will battle with Romig, Semmens, Hall, Soldotna’s Max Milliron and Susitna Valley’s Galen Johnston for the individual title.
The Kardinals also will have to come through with a solid performance to get a girls title. Homer is the clear favorite after taking the Kenai Peninsula Borough title without its top skier on Saturday.
Homer coach Ida Martin said Kenai, Soldotna and Colony could catch her team, but Martin remains confident of getting Homer’s first region title since 2000.
“If my girls ski the way they have been, they should be untouchable,” Martin said.
Erika Klaar leads a solid and deep Homer group rounded out by Claire Laukitis, Emma Laukitis, Kristen Vantrease, Frances Bursch and Gillian Beran-Maryott.
Kenai’s squad will be led by Becca Ford, Molly Watkins, Maya Johnson and Kristi Louthan.
“If they all have a good race they could give Homer a run for their money,” Gibson said.
Peterson, whose girls team won its 10th region title in 13 years in 2004, is hoping to have enough girls to field a team for regions. The squad will be led by Kendra Merkes and Heather Roesing.
In the race for the top individual girl, Mucha has been the region’s top skier all year, although Klaar has shown the ability to beat her. Other names thrown out as contenders by coaches are Skyview’s Merkes, Seward’s Sarah Glaser and Kenai’s Molly Watkins.
Seward coach Dennis Perry said Glaser, the borough champion, will face a tough task in trying to ski well at regions. The Seward squad has been struck with a virus this week and nearly everyone, including Perry, is not feeling well.
“They may need to quarantine my team,” Perry said.
Perry is glad his team will have two weeks to recover before state. There, he said his girls have a good shot at the small-schools state title.
Nikiski coach Dale Bakk also is eyeing a small-schools state title. He wants his boys to use this region meet as a springboard to a state title.
Bakk thinks things are coming together for his squad of Aaron Bakk, Bryan Bakk, Thomas Wheeler and Ancel Ware and he’d like to make some noise at regions.
“Just because we’re a small school doesn’t mean we can’t get in there and surprise some people,” he said. “We’re fully capable of doing it.”
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