Soldotna's Ari Goldstein and Katie Franzmann will be among a pack of Class 4A runners looking to take advantage of the graduation of Kris Smith Saturday at the state cross country meet in Palmer.
The past two seasons, Smith dominated the race. This year, there will be a lot more suspense.
"There might not be a superstar like Kris, but there will be a better field this year," SoHi coach Mark Devenney said. "There's five, or probably six, that could win it."
Goldstein has shown she is capable by finishing second at the Skyview Invitational, first at the Palmer Invitational and first in the Region III/4A girls race.
Franzmann has not won any races this year, but Devenney said she is good enough to take state.
There have been two runners that have defeated Goldstein this year. One is Service's Juliane Smith. The other is Seward's Whitney Anderson, who is the big favorite in the Class 1-2-3A girls race. 2002 Class 1-2-3A girls champion Linnea Pudwill of Houston has graduated.
Both the boys champions have graduated as well. The departure of Palmer's Aaron Dickson has left Chugiak's Jesse Cherry, Dimond's Jeff Quickel and Colony's Peter Doner as favorites in the Class 4A boys race.
In the Class 1-2-3A boys race, Jake Moe of Anchorage Christian Schools has left so David Tamura of Valdez, Matt Adams of Seward and Tomas Paniataaq of Nome will battle to take his place.
The battle for team titles at the meet also should be close. In Class 4A boys, Juneau-Douglas, Dimond and Chugiak are out front.
The peninsula representative will be Soldotna's squad of Caleb Chase, Matt Haberman, Alex Hundertmark, Rob Navarro, Levi Sutton, Anton Vaissenberg and Ryan Walton.
The team is made up of three seniors, two freshmen and a sophomore, and Devenney is thrilled with the late charge that put them on top.
"I'm tickled to death with them," Devenney said. "I told them three weeks ago they were going to make it to state. About a month ago, the whole attitude on that team changed."
Other peninsula entrants in the boys Class 4A race will be Skyview's Elliott Gauthier and Eli Hutchison, Kenai Central's Trevor Baldwin and Mick Boyle and Homer's Monte Garroutte.
Garroutte, Baldwin and Boyle could end up in the top 10.
Baldwin and Boyle will use a pack style of running that has kept them within a few seconds of each other all year.
"It's amazing how good they are about that," Kenai Central coach Liz Burck said. "They're so fun to watch."
In the Class 1-2-3A boys race, Region III rivals Valdez, ACS and Seward will battle for the team title. Making the trip for the Seahawks will be Adams, David Apperson, Leif Bardarson, Matthew Blair, Tom Blair, Nate Buchanan and Walter Moore.
Region II champion Cook Inlet Academy, with Trapper Alsworth, Brian Beeson, Greg Brown, Marcus Brown, John Forsi, Andy Hall and Thomas Minelga, also should be in the mix.
The peninsula will send Homer, Kenai Central and Soldotna to race in the Class 4A girls race. Those three will be looking to overcome meet favorites Service and East.
Racing for Region III champion Soldotna will be Goldstein, Franzmann, Brandi Denna, Rachel McCartan, Katy Pankoski and Sierra Williams.
Soldotna's four best runners are juniors, so even if the Stars don't win this year they'll be building for the future.
The Kardinals, who will bring Lauren Baldwin, Elena Bird, Larissa Cochran, Audrey Coon, Synneva Hagen-Lillevik, Michelle Oberg and Alee Rowley, also have a young team. The Kards have five juniors, a freshman and a sophomore.
Finally, Homer's team will be made up of Katie Arsenault, Hannah Harrison, Erika Klaar, Melanie Mach, Megan Mahan, Aleta Phelps and Johanna Spaeder.
Other runners in the Class 4A girls race from the peninsula will be Skyview's Ariel Barker and Marci Mohler.
In the Class 1-2-3A girls race, Seward will have to overcome a stiff challenge from Susitna Valley. Running for Seward will be Anderson, Anna Clock, Jolie Glaser, Sarah Glaser, Sarah Hermann, Teal Hetrick and Katie Sela.
Also in the mix will be Ninilchik's team of Krista Leman, Amanda Matson, Madison Moe, Katie Moerlein, Kendra Moerlein, Courtney Schnabl and Angela Singh.
Others from the peninsula running in the race will be Nikiski's Whitney Hitchcock and Laura Rooper and Cook Inlet Academy's Sara Wood.
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