Anchorage's Grace Christian School was the class of the Nikiski Class Races Monday at the Nikiski Community Trails.
The Grizzlies had the top runner in all of the classes except for the boys junior class, where Nikiski's Mike Wicker broke through for a win. Grace also had the top two overall runners in each race.
In the girls race, sophomore Casey Martinez finished first at 21 minutes, 46.7 seconds, while her senior sister, Sarah Martinez, finished second at 21:48.3. Kenai Central senior Alee Roley was third at 22:47.1.
Both the Martinez sisters trained hard all summer to get ready for the cross country season. That training paid off at Nikiski, a hilly course that many runners say is the toughest they will face all season.
"I'm always really happy when this is over with," Casey said. "This is a really tough course."
Both Casey and Sarah said they used a bit of teamwork to pull away from the field.
"The uphills are my strength, so I push her on the uphills," Sarah said. "On the downhills, she pushes me."
In the boys race, Grace senior Elliott Gauthier won with a time of 19:11.6. Freshman teammate Leif Karlberg was second in 19:41.8.
Gauthier transferred to Grace from Skyview, where he ran last year.
"This is the first summer I have trained for running," Gauthier said. "I definitely feel like I am a step ahead of last year."
Gauthier also said it helps to have teammates like Karlberg pushing him every day in practice.
In the boys race, Wicker led a 1-2-3 finish by Nikiski juniors with his time of 21:02.5. Behind Wicker were Nick Witaker and Robert Burns.
"It helped to have Nick and Robert behind me pushing me," Wicker said.
Perry Corsetti, in his first year as the Nikiski cross country head coach, said he only has five runners out for the team, but said they are dedicated runners. Nikiski senior Laura Rooper, who finished fifth overall in the girls race, attended a Nike running camp in the state of Washington in the summer.
Homer and Kenai Central also have first-year running coaches. Kardinals coach Paul Gutzler said he has 13 runners on his team right now, but is looking for more.
"It's a young team with a lot of potential," Gutzler said.
He said highlights for his team were Roley's finish and freshman Triston Delaney finishing third amongst freshmen boys.
Homer coach Jennifer Chapple has 15 runners out and is expecting more as fishing and hunting seasons wind down. She said highlights for her team were Gus Beck finishing fifth in a fast sophomore boys class and Tia Halpin finishing third amongst junior girls.
Nikiski Class Races
at Nikiski Community Trails
Freshmen: 1. Julie Anne Loughlin, Grace Christian, 23 minutes, 37.2 seconds; 2. Justina Illutsik, Gra, 28:07.9; 3. Danielle Bassler, Gra, 28:47.7; 4. Sarah Zerkel, Gra, 30:18.9.
Sophomores: 1. Casey Martinez, Gra, 21:46.7; 2. Bethany Weber, Gra, 24:44.3; 3. Tia Halpin, Hom, 25:26.1.
Juniors: 1. Rachel Lucia, Gra, 24:44.5; 2. Rikki Peck, Gra, 25:31.6; 3. Lauren Baldwin, Ken, 25:49.5; 4. Courtney Davison, Gra, 26:47.0; 5. Cheryl Maillelle, Gra, 30:44.7.
Seniors: 1. Sarah Martinez, Gra, 21:48.3; 2. Alee Roley, Ken, 22:47.1; 3. Laura Rooper, Nik, 23:59.4; 4. Freida Ware, Nik, 30:52.1.
Freshmen: 1. Leif Karlberg, Gra, 19:41.8; 2. Caleb Cotter, Gra, 20:59.5; 3. Triston Delaney, Ken, 24:21.8; 4. Logan Harrison, Gra, 24:32.2; 5. Thomas Harris, Gra, 24:51.3; 6. Alex Troll, Gra, 25:04.0; 7. Quintin Pribberow, Ken, 26:10.2; 8. Thomas Alley, Gra, 34:36.1.
Sophomores: 1. Peter Walls, Gra, 19:54.9; 2. Ryan Cox, Gra, 19:55.5; 3. Drew Edwards, Gra, 20:08.3; 4. George Illutsik, Gra, 20:10.8; 5. Gus Beck, Hom, 20:27.4; 6. Sam Peterson, Gra, 22:45.7.
Juniors: 1. Mike Wicker, Nik, 21:02.5; 2. Nick Witaker, Nik, 21:08.4; 3. Robert Burns, Nik, 22:53.5; 4. Louis Karlberg, Gra, 23:29.2; 5. Brad Denesen, Ken, 24:48.4; 6. Travis Machida, Gra, 25:14.0; 7. Jed Smith, Hom, 28:12.4; 8. Jude Murphy, Hom, 29:05.4.
Seniors: 1. Elliott Gauthier, Gra, 19:11.6; 2. Scott Hatter, Gra, 19:54.5; 3. Ben Boerger, Gra, 20:28.3; 4. William Martinez, Gra, 22:53.2.
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