Several plot lines will converge Saturday on the 5-kilometer Tsalteshi Trails course as Skyview High School prepares to host the state cross country championships.
Among the stories to be played out on Tsalteshi's challenging course: Soldotna's Ari Goldstein will be defending her class 4A individual title as her teammates try for a team title; the Kenai boys and girls will be looking to make some noise in the team standings while Trevor Baldwin and Lauren Baldwin shoot for the front of the pack; Seward's Matt Adams will try to claim the 1-2-3A boys individual title; both boys and girls teams from Cook Inlet Academy will compete; and individual runners representing Skyview, Homer, Soldotna and Nikiski will try to end their cross country seasons with a strong finish.
"You get a good race strategy, encourage the kids to have a great day and see how it all plays out," said CIA coach Ted McKenney.
Competition begins at noon with the 1-2-3A girls race, followed by the 4A girls at 12:45. The 1-2-3A boys take to the course at 1:30, and the 4A boys toe the line at 2:15.
Goldstein won the 4A title last year and, after a phenomenal track season last spring, has dominated the field this season, winning the region title last week and her first borough title the week before that.
Goldstein's teammate, Katie Franzmann, has been her closest competitor this season. Rachel McCartan, Leana Purruggannon, Brittany Osland, Katy Pankoski and Amanda Boll fill out the Soldotna roster. The Stars entered the season with their their sights on a state team title, but were hampered by injuries at last week's region meet and finished third.
"We're a lot healthier than we were last week," Devenney said. "We're going to run better. I don't know where we're going to place, but we'll run better."
With five seniors running Saturday, Devenney said it will also be an emotional race.
"It's going to be hard to say goodbye to this bunch. They've been such troopers for me for four years," Devenney said. "They've accomplished a whole lot -- three boroughs, two regions, been in the top six in state -- they've done an amazing job."
A pair of Soldotna boys qualified for the meet, Patrick Lybrand and Rob Navarro.
"I just want to see those guys get in and compete well," Devenney said.
The Kenai Central boys and girls teams qualified for the state competition by virtue of their runner-up team finishes at the region meet.
Leading the way for the boys team this season has been Trevor Baldwin. Levi Sutton, Jed McGlasson, John McGlasson, Kris Larson, Chris Amen and Trent Semmens round the Kenai boys state team.
Lauren Baldwin has led the Kenai girls team this season, but Synneva Hagen-Lillevik, Elena Bird, Alee Rowley, Michelle Oberg, Jessica Summer and Anina Stauffacher all have had solid seasons.
"There are quite a few seniors on the team. They've set some personal goals related to how they would like to end their running career at Kenai High School," said Kenai coach Liz Burck. "On a team basis, I just want to see everybody run hard and see where we end up on Saturday. I just want to know everybody did the best they could."
Also in the 4A races, Ariel Barker will represent the Skyview girls while Elliott Gauthier and Eli Hutchison will compete for the Skyview boys. Melanie Mach will represent the Homer girls.
In the 1-2-3A competition, McKenney said Seward's Adams is the favorite in the boys race but expected the Eagles' Brian Beeson, the Region II champion, to be in the mix.
Joining Beeson in the boys race will be teammates Ryan Fowler, John Forsi, Marcus Brown, Mark Beeson, Zach Cialek and Hunter Clark.
This is the first year the CIA girls will be going to the state meet as a team; in fact, McKenney said, the Eagles had qualified just one runner for the meet in the past, while three runners would have earned spots this year based on their finish at the region meet had they not qualified as a team.
"I have no seniors, so they'll all return, and this should be a real positive experience for them," McKenney said.
Brooke Forsi leads the CIA girls, teaming with Tana Alsworth, Sara Woods, Sharon Lindow and Kaitlon White.
Joining Adams in the 1-2-3A boys race will be Seward teammates Matthew Blair, Walter Moore, Leif Bardarson, David Apperson, Nate Buchanan and Kip Dixon. The Seward girls team consists of Rubye Foldager, Denali Foldager, Anna Clock, Sarah Glaser, Alicia Monnier, Teal Hetrick and Melissa Johnson.
Also in the 1-2-3A girls race, Kendra Moerlein will run for Ninilchik while Laura Rooper and Whitney Hitchcock will represent Nikiski.
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