Great conditions greet skiers at state meet

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003

For once, Kenai Peninsula cross-country skiers are actually glad to see warmer than usual weather.

The prep skiing season will climax today, Friday and Saturday with the state ski meet at Birch Hill in Fairbanks.

The skiing season in Southcentral Alaska has been marked by nightmarish conditions caused by warmer than normal temperatures.

But the peninsula's skiers weren't sad to arrive in Fairbanks and find that the city also was having warmer than normal temperatures. Wednesday, it was 32 degrees at Birch Hill.

"It's not as cold as it usually is up here," Skyview coach Kent Peterson said. "When it's cold, it gives (the Fairbanks skiers) a strength advantage.

"With it being warmer, that evens out some."

The colder the temperatures, the harder it is to make skis glide. Fairbanks skiers are used to training on cold snow, so they are accustomed to the strength it takes to ski on cold snow. However, it appears that at this meet, that strength will not be an advantage.

The warm temperatures make the state's skiers even happier to be in Fairbanks.

A few years ago, some weren't happy when the state ski meet was moved from Anchorage to Fairbanks. But now, with Anchorage having snow problems that forced the relocation of the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to Fairbanks, the move looks like a great thing.

"I think everybody's grateful we had already planned to have it in Fairbanks," Peterson said. "We're here already. We don't have to worry about moving."

On the girls side of the meet, Service, which last weekend won its fourth straight Region IV title and seventh in the last nine years, is the favorite to capture state.

After that, Peterson sees West Valley, East and Skyview all in the thick of things in the battle for second place.

Two weeks ago, the Panthers took their ninth Region III championship in 12 years. At that meet, Stephanie Lambe, Elisabeth Habermann, Lela Wiley, Elisha Tarries and Jaime Miller all finished in the top 10. Peterson said the group will all have to perform well if Skyview is to pull off a runner-up finish.

"We've skied in the rain, and we've found a way to ski almost the whole winter since we got snow in December," Peterson said. "We've skied in a lot of marginal conditions. Mentally, that should make us tougher."

On the boys side of the meet, the peninsula's best shot at a solid finish comes from the Soldotna boys. The Stars will be contending with, among others, East, which won the Region IV title last week. Two weeks ago, the Stars won their fourth straight Region III title.

Daniel Harro, Mark Harro, David Hernandez, Matt Habermann and Ryan Walton were all in the top 20 at regions for the Stars.

Other peninsula skiers who were in the top 10 at regions and are looking to make some noise at the state meet are Soldotna's Rachel Goldstein and Katie Franzmann, Homer's Aleta Phelps, Kenai's Synneva Hagen-Lillevik and Andy Banas, and Skyview's Damian Andersen, Kyle Dudley and Noah King.

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