SoHi ski team takes momentum to state

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Soldotna girls Nordic ski team will look to build on momentum it created with a dominant showing at the Region III skiing meet last weekend.

The Soldotna girls, along with the Kenai Peninsula's other five ski programs, will compete at the state ski meet today, Friday and Saturday at the Birch Hill Recreation Area in Fairbanks. Today, there will be a boys 7.5-kilometer classic race at 1 p.m. and a girls five-kilometer classic race at 2:30 p.m.

The meet could see some unusual conditions -- for Fairbanks. The Interior city got about 16 inches of snow a couple of days ago, plus a lot of wind. The city is not known for big snowfalls or wind storms. Temperatures today are also expected to be in the 20s.

At the Region III meet, SoHi's Bree Mucha won races on Friday and Saturday to take top individual honors. She said after the meet her goal for state was to get into the top 10 for the first time.

"She has a very good chance to be up there in the top 10," said D'Anna Gibson, who is Bree's mother and Kenai Central's ski coach. "She'll have to have good days, but she's right there."

Mucha led the Soldotna girls to their fourth straight Region III team title. The Stars swept the top three individual slots, with Maranda Merkes taking second and D.Anne Martin claiming third.

Soldotna coach Dan Harbison didn't make any predictions following the meet, but did say that he has a lot of confidence in the way his top three are skiing right now.

The Stars also had Region III's top boys skier in Luke Michael. As a team, the Stars finished behind Region III champion Homer, but finished second and in front of prerace favorite Palmer.

Homer coach Jan Spurkland said after the race that winning the region was a major goal and that his team worked hard all year for that. The coach was proud of his team for reaching that goal, but he also sensed his skiers were now interested in seeing where they stacked up against the state's best.

Area coaches said that it is hard to match up against some ski programs elsewhere in the state where athletes train year-round and end up as some of the top prep skiers in the country.

The goal many times becomes scoring one last victory against borough and region rivals.

"We'd like to see if we could get a little closer to SoHi, and stay ahead of Kenai," Skyview coach Kent Peterson said of his boys. "We'd also like to see how close we can get to Homer and Palmer."

The coach also said it would be great if Brayden Holt and Leif Danielson could get into the top 20. On the girls side, Peterson said he is looking for his younger girls to get experience, and for his senior girls -- Tamlyn Silva and Elisha Hollers -- to have a satisfying conclusion to their prep careers.

Gibson's girls team, led by region fourth-place finisher Michelle Klaben, finished about 40 seconds in back of runner-up Grace Christian at regions.

The boys finished in fifth, one minute behind Skyview. James Watkins broke a pole in Saturday's skate race, finishing 26th after finishing fifth in Friday's classical race.

"No excuses, but James broke his pole," Gibson said. "We probably would have been really close to Skyview."

Clarion sports reporter Wesley Remmer contributed to this story.

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