For peninsula ski teams, it's not time to panic, but it's definitely time to pull out some good snow dances.
The first ski meet of the season was scheduled to be Saturday in Homer, but that has been called off due to lack of snow.
However, ski coaches say the snow pattern so far in Alaska this winter is not that far out of the ordinary.
"When our son was racing at Skyview from 1992 to 1996, there were a lot of years where we missed the first couple of races," Kenai Central coach Dave Feeken said.
Most of the ski teams, except for Seward, have been able to get on skis this year. Teams are using flat, grassy fields in the area.
Teams also have been able to do a lot of dry-land training. Last year, when the trails were already in great shape at the start of the season, teams didn't get to do any dry-land training.
"There is value in dry-land training -- just as long as it doesn't go on forever," Feeken said.
Nikiski coach Dale Bakk said the ski season may seem a little late this year because it came so early last year.
"We're due for a wet, warm early winter," Bakk said. "We'll eventually get snow."
When abundant snow does come, the Skyview girls and Soldotna boys will be looking to defend Region III titles.
Last year, Skyview enjoyed a return to glory. The Panthers had a seven-year region winning streak that ended in 1998. Skyview did not win another region title until 2002.
The Panthers lost just one skier off the team they took to state last year.
"We're looking to repeat in the region," Skyview coach Kent Peterson said. "We'd then like to tie or exceed the best finish our girls team has ever had at state, which is fourth."
Meanwhile, Soldotna will be looking for a fourth straight Region III crown. The Stars lost just one skier off their team from a year ago.
The following is a closer look at the peninsula's six ski teams:
First-year coach Daryl Farrens, who will be assisted by Megan Corazza, is greeted by a young boys and girls team. Farrens has 20 total skiers out.
On the boys side, Farrens does not have a senior and has just one junior in David Moore.
However, he has a lot of young talent in sophomores Dylan Anderson, Michael Farrens and Brandon Moffet and freshmen Morgan Jones and Joshua Strutz.
He also said he has two Japanese foreign exchange students on the team in Kayo Toyoda and Daisuke Yagi.
"Those freshmen and sophomores are all big, tall, lanky guys," Farrens said. "If we can keep those guys out, in two years we should be doing pretty well."
The girls team, which paced the peninsula with a sixth-place finish at state last year, has more experience than the boys team. Junior Aleta Phelps returns looking to improve on her 12th place finish at state last year.
Homer also has experience in seniors Heather Strutz and Lauren Migdal. Samantha Halpin, a sophomore, also will provide a boost when she returns from injury.
Sophomore Elise Marshall and freshman Hannah Harrison will fill out the squad.
Farrens said Phelps, Strutz and Migdal showed their leadership qualities in the preseason. Farrens did not fill the coaching position until just before the season started, but that trio was running the team through preseason workouts, anyway.
KENAI CENTRAL KARDINALS
Coach Dave Feeken has 13 girls and seven boys out for his squad.
Feeken said the boys team will be led by senior Jordan Engel and junior Andy Banas.
"The others are working hard to keep up with those two," Feeken said. "They can all get faster together."
Some of those others are Johnathan Sanchez, junior Mike Kent, sophomore Chris Amen and freshmen Clay Nelson and Kyle Latz.
On the girls side, the Kardinals lost a lot of talent and leadership to graduation. Feeken is looking to senior Katie Burke to fill some of that void.
Feeken is anxious to see what sophomore Synneva Hagen-Lillevik will do after coming off a strong running season.
Other than that, Kenai could have what Feeken said should be an interesting scramble for varsity spots.
Skiers involved will be seniors Shauna Hall, Janna Krein and Roxanna Wilcox and sophomores Cassie Wilcox and Kira Mitaya. The Kardinals also have Linnea Hassbring, a foreign exchange student from Sweden.
Dale Bakk, in his seventh year at the helm in Nikiski, had 10 skiers out for the program this year. He said that's a nice number because it allows for a lot of individual attention.
Last year, the Bulldogs had a wide range of skill levels on the team. While there were some beginners, Nikiski also had one of the top skiers in the state in Zach Hall.
"This year, we've been able to concentrate a lot on the basics as a team," Bakk said. "That's been a lot of fun."
The girls team will be led by senior Clarissa Ribbens. After that, the squad is young. Freshmen Laura Rooper and Erica Thye did well in middle school. Also rounding out the squad is sophomore Debbie Duggin and freshman Kuunani Lanford.
While Bakk doesn't expect the girls team to make a lot of noise at meets because it is so young, the coach said the boys team could surprise itself.
The team has experience in seniors Brian Hack and Kaleb Johnson. Added to that will be young talent in sophomore Levi Lounsbury and freshmen Mike Hack and Nick Goff.
Seward coach Rich Houghton has nine boys and six girls out for skiing.
While the girls team is young, the boys team should be fairly experienced. The boys team is made up of seniors Nick Swann, Nick Chapman and Isaiah Norton, junior Chad Adams, sophomores Matt Adams, Leif Bardarson, Stephen Picotta and Walter Moore and freshman David Apperson.
The girls team has one returner in junior Heather Apperson. Anna Clock, a sophomore from the cross country team, also should provide a spark.
Skyview coach Kent Peterson, in his eighth year with the program, has 12 girls and eight boys to work with this year.
Peterson lost just one skier off the girls team he took to state last year. Senior Lela Wiley and junior Stephanie Lambe will captain a talented group that also includes senior Alecia Wood, junior Elisha Tarries and sophomores Jaime Miller and Elisabeth Haberman.
Haberman had to miss the state meet last year due to Junior Iditarod, but Peterson is happy to report that Junior Iditarod will not interfere with regions or state this year.
"We've got some pretty experienced kids, and I'm happy with the new kids we have, too," Peterson said. "We have a pretty deep girls team."
The boys team, captained by senior Damian Anderson and sophomore Noah King, is in more of a building mode. Peterson also is looking for contributions from juniors Kyle Dudley and Jess Orr and freshman Rob Berkhahn.
"The boys team has lots to learn, but so far they've been willing to work hard in training, so that's a good sign," Peterson said.
Dan Harbison, in his sixth year with the team, has 10 boys and nine girls to work with.
Harbison only lost one skier off his main team last year. Returning are seniors Daniel Harro, Mark Harro, David Hernandez and junior Ryan Walton.
Trying to step up on varsity will be senior Mark McCarten, juniors Spencer Litzenberger, Alex Hundertmark and Clyde Foley and sophomores Stephen Olendorff and Matt Haberman.
"They're pretty down-to-business," Harbison said of his boys team. "They're focused on getting in shape, keeping in shape and getting back to a high performance level."
While Harbison's boys team is loaded with experience, his girls team is more of an unknown.
The core of the team will be senior Rachel Goldstein, juniors Jenny Smola and Heidi Keller and sophomore Amanda Boll.
"The girls seem to be jelling together well," Harbison said. "Whether we can put together a team that can be competitive in meets is yet to be seen."
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