Skyview freshman Marci Mohler has this whole state meet thing down pretty well. It's her mother, Paula, who had a little trouble with the emotions of the big event.
Mohler finished a surprising second Saturday in the Class 4A state girls race at the sun-splashed Michael Janecek Running Trails at Palmer High School.
"I had to run pretty hard to finish second, so I was tired and out of breath when my mom came running toward me," Mohler said. "She hugged me really hard.
"I said, 'Mom, you're going to have to stop that. I can't breathe.'"
It turns out Paula also had a slight lapse in her audiovisual responsibilities during the moment, too, forgetting she had her video camera running and waving it around blindly in the air.
"I'm not sure what I've got on this tape," Paula said as she replayed it after the race. "I was doing pretty good until the end."
Mohler's finish highlighted the Kenai Peninsula's efforts in the girls races Saturday. West High's Kris Smith took the Class 4A race with a commanding effort, while Chugiak won the team title to break East High's three-year winning streak. In the Class 1-2-3A girls race, senior Danielle Pratt finished first to lead Grace to its second straight crown.
There are two other races in the cross country season which draw most of the state's talent -- the Skyview Invitational and Palmer Invitational. Mohler was sixth at Skyview and fifth at Palmer, and she also finished far behind Colony junior Dominique Colberg at last week's Region III meet.
Saturday, Mohler was seven seconds behind Colberg about 2 kilometers into the 5-kilometer race on Palmer's mostly flat, winding course. Running stride-for-stride with Bartlett freshman Christina Copus, Mohler was still six seconds behind Colberg with just under 4 kilometers gone in the race.
But Mohler and Copus caught Colberg in the finishing chute, then Mohler barely held off both of them for second place. Mohler finished in 19 minutes, 1 second, while Colberg was third in 19:02 and Copus was fourth in 19:03.
"I think what happened was Dominique Colberg didn't think we were close to her at the end, so she didn't sprint," said Mohler, who didn't expect to do better than fourth Saturday. "When I caught her, she realized we were there, so I had to get going."
While finishing second in the state as a freshman is heady stuff, Mohler has a tough task ahead if she wants to finish first next year, because the Smith's victory was as dominating as Mohler's finish was surprising. The junior finished at 18:21, 40 seconds ahead of Mohler.
Smith has used various tactics this year, such as running at the start with her teammates then making up ground in the last half of the race, but she's at her best when she takes command of a race at the beginning and never lets up.
Saturday, she was ahead by seven seconds a little over 1 kilometer into the race and kept piling seconds on to her lead throughout.
"I guess I'll have to get used to leading, because I worked hard for this year, but I'm planning on working even harder for next year," Smith said. "I guess that sounds cocky, but I have a lot of goals I want to reach."
Soldotna freshman Ari Goldstein, a running mate with Mohler at Soldotna Middle School last year, finished 10th at 19:33.
"I didn't expect to finish in the top 10 my first year," Goldstein said. "This was fun."
Kenai Central senior Katherine Amen was the only other peninsula finisher in the top 20. She finished 18th in 20:05 to lead Kenai to a peninsula-best seventh in the team standings.
"Our girls ran well," Kenai Central coach Liz Burck said. "They had times comparable to the rest of the season, but it was a fast race."
Aleta Phelps paced Homer by finishing 29th.
The Kenai girls did bring home the team sportsmanship award while the Soldotna girls had the squad with the best grade point average.
In the girls 1-2-3A race, Pratt took a 10-second lead 2.5 kilometers into the race over teammate, and fellow senior, Ashley Thomas. Pratt made the advantage hold up, finishing in 19:46, 13 seconds ahead of Thomas.
For Thomas, it was the fourth time she finished second at the state meet. Pratt, who transferred from Susitna Valley to Grace Christian after finishing third in the state as a junior, credited practice runs with Thomas with giving her the fitness to finish first.
"I didn't know where she was the whole race," Pratt said of Thomas. "I was running scared the whole time. Even at the end, I thought she was right there.
"When I crossed the finish line, I was still scared."
Seward had the top individual finisher and the top team finish for the Kenai Peninsula in the girls 1-2-3A race.
The Seahawks finished third behind Grace Christian and Susitna Valley.
"I was looking back at some of our times when we won state, and they're comparable," said Seward coach Dan Marshall, whose Seahawks won four girls titles in the 1990s. "Those were just two tough teams ahead of us."
Sophomore Sarah Hermann, fighting a cold that had caught up with her last week, paced the Seahawks by finishing fourth. Seahawks senior Kelly Houghton was seventh.
Senior Molly Bosick paced Ninilchik by placing 26th, while Melissa Deiman, normally the team's top runner, recovered from a fall to place 29th.
Zara Lounsbury was 35th to pace Nikiski.
State cross country championships
at Palmer High School
Class 1-2-3A girls race
Team scores: 1. Grace Christian, 41; 2. Susitna Valley, 55; 3. Seward, 59; 4. Bethel, 77; 5. Nikiski, 133; 6. Delta, 143; 7. Tri-Valley, 193; 8. Barrow, 216; 9. Mount Edgecumbe, 224.
Individual 5-kilometer results
1. Danielle Pratt, Gra, 19 minutes, 46 seconds; 2. Ashley Thomas, Gra, 19:59; 3. Taz Mannix, SuV, 20:22; 4. Sarah Hermann, Sew, 20:28; 5. Nadine Fischetti, ACS, 20:43; 6. Melissa Ostermick, SuV, 20:58; 7. Kelly Houghton, Sew, 20:59; 8. Rachel Daly, Gra, 21:03; 9. Anjuli Haydu, Craig, 21:08; 10. Lyndsey Viltrakis, Eie, 21:18; 11. Chrissy Morris, Kake, 21:28; 12. Jaqueline Davis, Bet, 21:31; 13. Renae Moore, SuV, 21:32; 14. Cassie Green, Del, 21:38; 15. Liz Embick, Val, 21:39; 16. Kim Rathmann, ACS, 21:41; 17. Larissa Shimanek, Bet, 21:48; 18. Dakota Stranik, Gra, 21:51; 19. Chelsea Hoffman, Bet, 21:52; 20. Katie Sela, Sew, 21:54; 21. Ayla Dolecki, SuV, 21:54; 22. Nikki Nick, Bet, 21:58; 23. Marion Glaser, Sew, 21:59; 24. Anna Clock, Sew, 22:00; 25. Brook Williams, Wra, 22:04.
26. Molly Bosick, Nin, 22:08; 27. Katie Moerlein, Nin, 22:11; 28. Amy Beckley, Eie, 22:15; 29. Melissa Deiman, Nin, 22:15; 30. Lauren Payne, Monroe, 22:23; 31. Meggie Matteson, Her, 22:25; 32. Autumn Strueli, Petersburg, 22:26; 33. Stefanie Claus, Craig, 22:31; 34. Katrina Davis, Gra, 22:32; 35. Zara Lounsbury, Nik, 22:35; 36. Elsa Gaule, Sew, 22:37; 37. Katie Floyd, Nik, 22:48; 38. Pauline Nay, Kotzebue, 22:55; 39. Ivy Shipman, SuV, 23:03; 40. Dora Hughes, Mount Edgecumbe, 23:04; 41. Marjorie Woodward, Eie, 23:05; 42. Jennifer Knight, Del, 23:06; 43. Katherine Carscallen, Dillingham, 23:07; 44. Celine Becker, Mon, 23:09; 45. Emilee Gillaspie, Nik, 23:17; 46. Sonja Head, Nome-Beltz, 23:22; 47. Letitia Talerico, Tri-Valley, 23:26; 48. Anjani Salonen, Nik, 23:28; 49. Jill May, Craig, 23:28; 50. Marlene Bell, Hooper Bay, 23:32.
Other peninsula finishers
66. Jenny Miller, Nik, 24:24; 81. Jessica Ralston, Nik, 25:40; 85. Aurora Zinck, Nik, 26:22.
Class 4A girls race
Team scores: 1. Chugiak, 73; 2. East, 78; 3. Juneau-Douglas, 83; 4. West High, 103; 5. West Valley, 116; 6. Ketchikan, 147; 7. Kenai Central, 155; 8. Homer, 207; 9. Soldotna, 210; 10. North Pole, 246.
Individual 5-kilometer results
1. Kris Smith, West, 18:21; 2. Marci Mohler, Sky, 19:01; 3. Dominique Colberg, Col, 19:02; 4. Christina Copus, Bartlett, 19:03; 5. Morgan Ekemo, Chu, 19:18; 6. Davya Baker, WV, 19:25; 7. Elisa Bolling, Ket, 19:28; 8. Jessica Allman, Eas, 19:32; 9. Hilary Young, JD, 19:32; 10. Ari Goldstein, Sol, 19:33; 11. Heidi Denton, JD, 19:50; 12. Jodi Jakubek, Ket, 19:51; 13. Leah Besh, Eas, 19:52; 14. Briana Sullivan, Chu, 19:54; 15. Emma Rea, Wes, 19:59; 16. Juliane Smith, Ser, 20:01; 17. Jenny Di Grappa, NP, 20:03; 18. Katherine Amen, Ken, 20:05; 19. Chelsea Holmes, Dim, 20:10; 20. Laura Johnson, WV, 20:23; 21. Nina Johnson, Chu, 20:24; 22. Elizabeth Quinley, Eas, 20:26; 23. Taryn Council, Bar, 20:27; 24. Alena Sullivan, Chu, 20:28; 25. Sarah Hamm, Dimond, 20:29.
26. Ashley Mickens, Eas, 20:30; 27. Greta Thibodeau, JD, 20:30; 28. Ingrid Denkewalter, Wes, 20:30; 29. Aleta Phelps, Hom, 20:31; 30. Jillian Bartling, WV, 20:31; 31. Molly Krehlik, JD, 20:32; 32. Brittany Rohm, JD, 20:35; 33. Shellie Loaisiga, Chu, 20:39; 34. Sally Johnson, Eas, 20:47; 35. Arianne Massengale, Eas, 20:53; 36. Mary Krusen, Ken, 20:54; 37. Alia Parker, Wes, 20:55; 38. Sheylyn Lindfors, Chu, 20:56; 39. Melanie Mach, Hom, 20:58; 40. Natalie Semmens, Ken, 21:00; 41. Rachel Goldstein, Sol, 21:13; 42. Kelsey Leonard, WV, 21:18; 43. Karli Knudsen, Ken, 21:20; 44. Syverine Abrahamson, Hom, 21:22; 45. Erin Nugent, Ket, 21:23; 46. Ellie Miner, Wes, 21:24; 47. Val Gauna, Kodiak, 21:24; 48. Krista Cowley, Kod, 21:27; 49. Katie Gillette, WV, 21:28; 50. Tamra Kornfield, Eas, 21:30.
Other peninsula finishers
52. Roxanna Wilcox, Ken, 21:42; 55. Elena Bird, Ken, 22:02; 58. Michelle Edwards, Ken, 22:14; 62. Rachel McCarten, Sol, 22:34; 68. Brandi Denna, Sol, 23:20; 71. Samantha Halpin, Hom, 23:31; 74. Sierra Williams, Sol, 23:51; 75. Heidi Keller, Sol, 25:12.
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