The bad news for Kenai Peninsula high school cross-country ski teams is that due to a lack of snow in Anchorage two weeks ago, the state championship meet was moved to the Birch Hill Recreation Area in Fairbanks, where it has been held for the last three seasons.
While the change in venue adds to the commute, peninsula teams are looking on the bright side of things: Birch Hill is a beautiful course; the ski club in Fairbanks puts on great meet; and with three trips already to the Golden Heart, coaches and administrators knew just who to call and the best way to get there.
"It was a scramble, but (the Alaska School Activities Association) gave us as much time as they could have, so we've been able to speedily make arrangements," said Soldotna coach Dan Harbison. "Because we just came off of having three years of state meets up there, that gave us an advantage of knowing who to call and what to do."
Homer coach Daryl Farrens said he was hoping the meet would have been moved closer to home.
"We'd much rather have had it at Skyview, or even Anchorage. It puts a bit of a burden on us transportation-wise. It's a great course up there and they put on an awesome event, but we've been up there three years in a row and we were looking forward to a different venue," Farrens said.
The peninsula's teams left for Fairbanks Tuesday, with plans to overnight along the way to break up the trip. Competition begins today with mass start freestyle races at 1 p.m. Interval start classic races begin at 1 p.m. Friday, and the meet concludes with mixed technique relays Saturday starting at 11 a.m.
Harbison said that past years' experiences would be helpful to his team.
"I think they're very excited about going," Harbison said of his skiers. "They're looking forward to having a good performance up there. The good thing about it being moved back to Fairbanks is that a number of my racers have skied on that course before. It's nice to have that experience to take with you."
Nikiski coach Dale Bakk said skiers who have been there before have been forewarning teammates about Birch Hill, which is a challenging course.
"They've already been cautioning the younger guys, but they're looking forward to it," Bakk said. "In fact, when they moved the race to Fairbanks, they were excited about it, especially the guys who have been there before. They enjoyed skiing there last year, and they had a little extra fire in the last week of practice because they know they're heading north."
While the course will be familiar, much of the competition will not. Peninsula schools skied against Anchorage schools in just one meet this season and have not seen any of the Fairbanks schools. So, instead of shooting for placements, coaches will be looking for skiers to do their best and see where that effort gets them.
"We haven't really gotten to ski, except at the Lynx Loppett, with the Anchorage schools," Harbison said. "We hope to do well. Looking at times, I think we'll hold our own. That's a good goal to go up there and compete hard and do well."
ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State Cross-Country Skiing Championships
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Birch Hill Recreation Area, Fairbanks
Homer Girls: Erika Klaar, Alina Rykaczewski, Claire Laukitis, Sara Arsenault, Thorey Munro, Gillian Beran-Maryott. Boys Morgan Jones, Michael Farrens, Travis Hines, Gus Beck.
Kenai Central Girls: Synneva Hagen-Lillevik, Cassie Wilcox, Audrey Coon, Rebekah Summer, Becca Ford, Jamie Dunn. Boys: Christopher Hall, Trent Semmens, Clay Nelson, Kyle Latz, D.C. Reid, Kirk Louthan.
Nikiski Boys: Levi Lounsbury, Aaron Bakk, Bryan Bakk, Thomas Wheeler, Ancel Ware, Mike Wicker.
Seward Girls: Alisha Friel, Tekla Backlund, Katie Peck, Anna Clock, Sarah Glaser, Melissa Johnson. Boys: Ilia Pinchuk, Mark Chase, David Apperson, Leif Bardarson, Matt Adams, Adam Sarka.
Skyview Girls: Elisabeth Habermann, Kendra Merkes, Jaime Miller, Marci Mohler, Heather Roesing. Boys: Noah King, Taylor Karnikis, Erick Romig, Kelly Skipwith, Tommy Honer.
Soldotna Girls: Ali Wykis, Amanda Boll, Lauren Olendorff, Brittany Osland, Katy Pankoski, Katie Franzmann. Boys: Caleb Gordon, Eddie French, Sean Twohy, Max Milliron, Caleb Chase, Stephen Olendorff.
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