Kincaid Park in Anchorage was ready on Thursday and so was Soldotna sophomore Kailey Mucha.
Mucha started the state cross-country skiing championships with a fourth-place finish in the girls 7.5-kilometer mass start race at Kincaid Park, which only 24 hours earlier had been more suitable for ice skates than skis.
"(Wednesday) we got here, and it was hard-packed ice," Skyview coach Kent Peterson said. "The kids were pretty nervous."
Enter a $300,000 Pisten Bully 600 that the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage purchased last year. The machine took the ice and ground it up into snow.
"The snow was chewed up and pretty soft," Peterson said. "Everybody was really happy."
Peterson said Mucha was in eighth or ninth place about five kilometers into the race, but moved up in the last third. Mucha's finish puts her in a great position to match or beat her fifth-place finish in the state as a freshman last year.
East senior Jamie Bronga dominated the girls race, finishing at 23 minutes, 43.8 seconds. Second-place finisher Rachelle Kanady was at 24:26.9, while Mucha crossed at 24:59.3.
Other peninsula skiers in the top 25 were Soldotna's Jasmine Clock at 17th, Homer's Emma Teal Laukitis at 18th, Homer's Gillian Beran-Maryott at 20th, Kenai Central's Molly Watkins at 21st and Seward's Allison Barnwell at 24th.
In the girls team race, East is in first while the top peninsula teams are Soldotna at seventh, Homer at eighth and Kenai at ninth.
On the boys side, South had a solid first day, grabbing the team lead and claiming the first- and second-place finishers. Andrew Dougherty won the 10-kilometer mass start at 26:48.9, while Erick Parker was second at 26:51.3.
Skyview's Tommy Honer, fresh off winning the Kenai Peninsula Borough race, was the peninsula's top finisher at 21st, with a time of 29:07.9.
"Tommy fell at least once," Peterson said. "The mass start is tight, and the results were a lot of crashes and a few broken poles."
Also from the peninsula, Soldotna's Aaron Chase was 24th, Kenai's Trent Semmens was 26th and Cook Inlet Academy's Lars Arneson was 28th.
In the team standings, Soldotna is ninth, Skyview is 10th and Homer is 12th.
Peterson said his team would love to make up the gap of just over a minute that the Stars hold.
"I feel like we're a good skating team, and we had a good classic race today," he said. "It seems like we're skiing really well at the right time. You always want to say you have a chance."
Although the Pisten Bully made life easier on the skiers, Peterson said waxing for the coaches was still really tough. In order to get kick, Peterson said many coaches turned to klister, a gooey wax that works wonders in icy conditions mainly because it sticks to everything.
"It does get everywhere," Peterson said. "It adds a lot of time to the event for the coaches."
The state meet continues today with a 5-kilometer girls freestyle at 1 p.m. and a 7.5-kilometer boys freestyle at 2:15 p.m. The meet concludes Saturday with the girls relay at 11 a.m. and the boys relay at 12:30 p.m.
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