Skiers ready for slick, quick trails

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2006

When the state cross-country skiing championships kick off today at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, competitors from the Kenai Peninsula will be looking to go fast — very fast.

“They’re ready to ski a course that they’re a lot more familiar with in conditions that we’re a lot more familiar with. Rather than cold, slow snow, we’re going to have fast ice,” said Kenai coach Dave Feeken.

Competition begins with today’s 1 p.m. mass start classic races, with the boys slated to cover 10 kilometers and the girls set to go 7.5 kilometers.

High School Skiing

Friday’s freestyle races races also start at 1 p.m., with the girls covering 5 kilometers and the boys going 7.5. The meet concludes with relays Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. Each of the four legs in the girls relay will be 3 kilometers, while the boys relay legs are 5 kilometers. The first two skiers in each relay will ski classic; the final two legs are freestyle.

Skyview coach Kent Peterson said his skiers like the mass start format.

“(The classic race) is the long race this year, and that will be a nice format. It was nice (to have a mass start classic race) at regions. The kids knew exactly where they were and how they were racing,” Peterson said.

The Skyview boys head into the state championships on a high after taking the team title at the Region III meet in sloppy conditions in Homer two weeks ago.

“That was a real big confidence boost. We were expecting to be third, maybe second, but to win by 7 minutes was huge,” Peterson said. “They’re all excited to go up and see where we are. They’re all juniors and sophomores, so they’ll get a lot of experience this year and be primed for next year.”

Erick Romig, a junior, has paced the Panthers this season, and among his next four skiers — Taylor Karnikis, Tommy Honer, Lucas Thein and Kelly Skipwith — Peterson said any one of them was capable of stepping up with a big race. Peterson even threw in freshman Jordan Merkes as one to watch.

Kendra Merkes has been Skyview’s top female skier and came on strong at the end of the season, claiming second in both races at the region meet to win the overall individual title.

Feeken said three of his boys, senior Kyle Latz, junior Christopher Hall and sophomore Trent Semmens, each are capable of top-15 finishes and could even find themselves in the top 10.

“Between them, Morgan Jones from Homer and Ryan VanGorder from Colony, they could mix up some of that Anchorage horsepower. We could see a different top 10 than what they’re used to seeing every weekend,” Feeken said.

Of his girls team, Feeken said he’s seen enough nervousness over the past week to know they’re ready to compete.

“It’s a real young girls team, all freshman and sophomores. They’re ready to go enjoy the experience.” Feeken said. “They’ve all been watching the Olympics, so they’re pumped for that. Those girls are very competitive with each other. ... They’re going up there to race. It’s not just a trip to Anchorage.”

Feeken said his team should be ready for icy conditions after practicing on ungroomed trails on the Kenai Golf Course, which have gotten slick after thawing and freezing again.

“If you were lucky, you hit the bridge,” Feeken said of the slippery conditions.

Soldotna coach Dan Harbison has a full team of six boys and one girl headed to the meet. Harbison said he’s hoping for good performances from Max Milliron, Caleb Chase and Liana Purugganan.

“The guys are racing as a team, so we’re hoping to do well as a team. We’d like to at least have a good showing among region teams,” Harbison said.

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