Cook Inlet Academy junior Josh Holly has a chance on Saturday to become the second runner in school history to take a state title at the state cross country championships at the Mike Janecek Trails at Palmer High School.
Joel Davis nabbed CIA's only title in 1989.
Holly is coming off a victory at the Region II championships last weekend in Talkeetna. He also won the Class 1-2-3A boys race in early September at the Janecek trails.
"Josh is strong and frankly, he's got one of the best coaches in the state," Seward coach Dan Marshall said of Ted McKenney, who has coached the Eagles for over 20 years. "There's very few guys around the state that know as much about running as Ted McKenney."
Holly will have to win a tight battle if he wants to win state.
"We're not looking at one guy like Trevor Dunbar that's going to show up and win," Marshall said, alluding to the heavy favorite in the Class 4A boys race. "It's going to be a race until the end. It should be fun."
Others that could challenge are CIA senior Lars Arneson, Seward senior Travis Price, Anchorage Christian schools senior Tyler Andersen, Grace Christian's Jacob Kirk and Leif Karlberg, and Jeremy Head from Nome.
Marshall said the key for Price will be hanging with the lead pack.
"If he's there in the last 400 meters, he can't be beat," Marshall said. "He just has to be there the last 400 meters."
Seward is the lone small-schools boys team from the peninsula to qualify for state. Marshall said the Seahawks, made up of Price, Brett Chase, Andrew Buchanan, Austin Gillespie, Tyler Haddow, Mike Zweifel and Andy Cloward, are aiming for a top-two finish, with Grace being the favorite to take the top slot.
Other peninsula runners in the Class 1-2-3A boys race will be Nikiski's Sebastian Strickland and CIA's Tyler Sorlie.
In the 1-2-3A girls race, Seward will aim for its third-straight state title. Grace is the favorite to take the title, though.
"Grace is too good," Marshall said. "We don't have the depth. We ran a great race at regions, and we didn't beat them.
"If the Grace girls were to open the door, we'd walk through it."
The Seahawks are led by Allison Barnwell. Marshall said she is one of a handful of runners with a shot at a state title.
"Allison is running very well and she's a smart runner," Marshall said. "She'll give it a go." Other runners for Seward will be Mackenzie Barnwell, Kristina Atherton, Kelley Sefton, Samantha Feemster, Catie Zweifel and Mariann Norcross.
The CIA girls will make their fifth straight appearance in the small-schools race. The team is made up of Sadie Arneson, Lauren Bauder, Kelsey Brush, Kaitlyn Dederick and Chelsea McGee.
The Soldotna girls and boys teams will run in the Class 4A races, and both have to attend to rivalries.
The Soldotna girls finished second to Colony last weekend at the Region III meet. Both teams are very young, so they should battle for region hardware for the next couple of years.
The Knights have four juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen. The Stars have four freshmen, two juniors and a senior.
"This last weekend, they just outran us," Soldotna coach Dan Harbison said. "If we run a little smarter, I think we can close the gap and maybe catch them."
Soldotna's top runner has been freshman Bree Mucha.
"I think for a freshman, a top-10 finish at state would be something she could shoot for," Harbison said.
Soldotna also will be represented by freshmen Melanie Smith, Maranda Merkes and Shannon Wyatt, juniors Kailey Mucha and Jenna Jensen, and senior Sarah Walton.
Bree Mucha was beaten out for the region title last weekend by Skyview junior Ivy O'Guinn, who now has two region crowns.
"She's been in the top 10 (at state), and I kind of expect her to finish there again," Skyview coach Kent Peterson said of O'Guinn.
The peninsula also will be represented in the girls race by Kenai Central senior Molly Watkins and Kenai freshman Taylor Ostrander.
In the boys Class 4A race, Soldotna gets another shot at crosstown rival Skyview.
"We've been going back and forth with them all season," Harbison said. "They caught us by one point at regions.
"I'd like to see them step up and actually have everyone put in a good performance and catch their rival."
Running for the Stars will be freshman Travis Semmens, juniors Jeff Mullen, Ryan Sanders, Josiah Moldenhauer and Evan Clay, and seniors Alex Stone and Jordan Merkes. Harbison said he'd like to see Semmens, Mullen and Stone slip into the top 20.
Peterson said the Stars are not the only team that will make the meet interesting for the Panthers.
"SoHi and Wasilla have been teams we've been racing with all season long," Peterson said. "They're a good way for us to gauge ourselves."
Skyview senior Mike Moerlein has trained all summer with the goal of finishing in the top 10 at this race. Peterson said senior Johnny Cook also has a shot at a top 15.
Others running for Skyview will be seniors Ryan Helminski, Elijah Deatherage and Alec Sweetland, junior Corey Gulley and sophomore Brayden Holt.
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