When the state's high school cross-country ski teams take to the trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area in Fairbanks for the Alaska School Activities Association State Championships, at least some of the competition will have a familiar feel.
"With (Susitna Valley's) Taz Mannix and (Homer's) Aleta Phelps it's nice to have a state preview at regions," said Skyview's Elisabeth Habermann, herself a top contender, following last weekend's Region III championships. "The fastest skiers in the state aren't all from Anchorage and Fairbanks."
While Habermann and Phelps finished behind Mannix at the region meet, both will be competitive at the state meet. Habermann was fourth in the freestyle race and 19th in the classic race at last year's state meet and her Skyview mixed-technique relay placed fourth. Phelps was eighth in the classic race and 15th in the freestyle event.
Competition begins today with the freestyle races. The girls will race on a 7.5-kilometer course while the boys will tackle a 10-kilometer course.
Conditions are expected to be drastically different from last weekend's region meet, when temperatures approached 40. The forecast for Fairbanks calls for highs between 10 and 20 on Thursday and Friday, and highs between 15 and 25 Saturday. Light snow was expected Wednesday night, and there's a chance of snow in the forecast for today, Friday and Saturday.
Skiers will tackle a classic course on Friday, with the boys skiing 7.5 kilometers and the girls going 5 kilometers.
Saturday brings one of the most exciting events of the meet the relays. The girls will take four laps on a 3-kilometer course while the boys will each ski 5 kilometers.
The first two legs of the relay are classic legs while each team's top two freestyle skiers will finish up the race.
Peninsula squads also will be looking to move up in the team standings. The Skyview girls finished fourth overall last year while Soldotna, led by Katie Franzmann and Katy Pankoski, will look to improve on last year's eighth-place finish.
On the boys side, Kenai's Mike Kent, Soldotna's Ryan Walton and Skyview's Kyle Dudley were the top peninsula finishers at the region meet and will look to crack the top 10 at the state meet.
The Kenai boys were the runners-up in the region meet team standings and will try to better last year's 10th-place finish.
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