Clarion Calls: Don't write off summer sports or Homer Mariners

Posted: Friday, August 06, 2010

Jeff's call: Full weekend of motor sports beckons

Growing up just an hour from Green Bay in Wisconsin, I'm accustomed to football fever starting early.

I'm just not accustomed to actual football starting as early as it does in Alaska. Of course, starting prep football in the first week of August is necessary to complete the season before the early rush of winter.

But one thing the early start of the football season can obscure is that many summer events are still in full swing.

Take the full weekend of motor-sports action this weekend at Twin Cities Raceway.

It starts today with Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions - Circle Track Division. Sprint cars, A-stock, B-stock and Late Models will have time trials at 6 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m.

Then on Saturday and Sunday, the state motocross series comes to Twin Cities Raceway. Racing begins at 10 a.m. each morning.

Sam Emery, the secretary and treasurer of the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions - Motocross Division, said when the state series visited the Kenai Peninsula earlier in the summer, over 100 riders participated.

This event will have some extra flair because freestyle riders will perform at intermission, which should be at 1 or 2 p.m., on both Saturday and Sunday.

Rob Krause, Drennen Swenson, Mitch Moomey, Mykel Sorrels and Mike Wirz will represent Allred Enterprises in pulling off their high-flying tricks.

Several of the riders performed at a state event on the Kenai Peninsula last year and the event was wildly popular.

"The fans love the freestyle shows," Emery said. "It's exciting and high-flying ... an adrenaline rush."

The weekend also will feature the debut of the Jeff Vincent Memorial Award. During Sunday's intermission, the award will be presented to the Saturday winner of the quad expert class.

Jeff Vincent is a quad expert rider from this area who died in an auto accident last summer.

The cost to get into the motocross event is $10 for adults and kids 12 and over, and $7 for kids 5 to 11 and seniors over 60.

Mike's call: Don't count Homer out just yet

Prior to the first kickoff of this prep sports season, and the football community has already written off Homer. The Mariners graduated 14 seniors from last year's team. With just five plays and no size, Homer made a surprising run to the small-schools semifinals. The Mariners hung with then three-time defending state champs Soldotna for three quarters before the Stars ran away with the game in the fourth.

Head coach Camron Wyatt is looking for another surprising season this year.

"Our goal is to show that our program is solid," Wyatt said.

Despite hearing that it's impossible to recover from losing as many players as he did, Wyatt knows Homer won't be a pushover this season.

"Our program is healthy enough to continue to build a team year after year," he said.

However, Wyatt knows it won't be easy.

"It's gonna be a struggle," he said. "It will be a challenge to prove people wrong that we can be competitive this year after losing so many kids."

I was in a similar situation in high school. My freshman year, we had a senior-laden hockey team. Though we were supposed to make a deep playoff run, our postseason ended the first round in front of our home crowd. After graduating a double-digit senior class, the western Pennsylvania hockey community geared up for a rebuilding year. Instead, our team full of sophomores dominated the regular season and were one win from playing for the state championship.

So, anything is possible. Sure, it's obvious and trite, but sports is full of cliches. And it doesn't make them any less true.

The key to a successful start to the season is positivism. And Homer has that.

"We know we're competitive," Wyatt said. "The big challenge for us as a small school is can we get together as a team early on in the season. Teamwork and communication are going to be the critical elements for us this year."

Plus, every game has yet to be played. Every other team went through changes and it's how teams adjust each year that matters. I'm not saying the Mariners will make the semifinals again, but they could. Just as they could finish below .500 and miss the playoffs. It all remains to be seen. But don't count Homer out just yet.

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