The high school cross-country skiing season got off to a brisk start this weekend with the Skyview Invitational at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School.
Skiers kicked off the season with a 1-kilometer freestyle sprint race by torchlight Friday evening and finished things up with a 5-kilometer classic race Saturday.
Despite temperatures just above zero, skiers were excited to be out competing this season, especially with the fast conditions on the beautifully groomed track.
"Your lungs get frozen up, and going down hills, since you're going so fast, your eyes freeze up. It feels like they're going to be frozen closed," said Soldotna's Jenny Smola. "But I just love being out on snow, going fast on skis. The cold's not too bad just when you're out there in Lycra, it's not the best."
Smola was seventh in the overall combined standings for the Stars, who placed four skiers in the top 10 Katie Franzmann, Heidi Keller and Katy Pankoski finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Keller had this to say of the fast conditions during Friday's skate race: "It was really fast and really fun. You felt like you were going to knock over the tiki torches going around the corners."
Race seeding was done and individual standings were kept by class, giving skiers a chance to see how they matched up with their peers. Overall standings, combining times from both races, also were kept.
The girls field was chasing Susitna Valley's Tazlina Mannix, who finished first in both the skate and the classic races. Mannix's combined time was 22 minutes, 28 seconds, 32 seconds ahead of Homer's Aleta Phelps. Skyview's Elisabeth Habermann was third overall in 24:41.
Skyview's Kyle Dudley double-poles away from the start of Saturday's 5-kilometer classic race. He skied to a third-place finish in 17:34.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
In the boys competition, Colony dominated the field with five skiers in the top 10. The Knights also had the top two overall finishers, with Ross Wise taking first in 20:02 and Kerry Klauder finishing second in 20:40.
Phelps said that the first race of the season was mostly just a good chance to get into the swing of things.
"Just getting back to high school skiing, getting back to the team I haven't seen them for a while," Phelps said. "We have a pretty young team. We're seeing how we measure up to everyone else so we can determine how the rest of the season will be. I think we did well this weekend. We're going to keep improving, but I think it was a good start."
Habermann also said it was a good start to the season.
"Usually, I'm not as good a sprinter, so I'm really happy with my finish in that," said Habermann of Friday's skate race, adding that she prefers the longer distances. "And I'm really happy with my classic finish. I'm not as good a classic skier. I'm just really happy."
Habermann said skiing on her home course did have some advantages.
"It's nice to know when you're on the last hill," Habermann said. "You know all the corners, the uphills, the downhills, and where it's slick."
A meet at home has added benefits as well, namely a nice warm bed instead of a floor. Last season, Hatcher Pass was the only place in Southcentral Alaska with snow, so going to meets meant long road trips and less-than-five-star accommodations.
Soldotna's Katy Pankoski tucks down Angle Hill near the finish of Saturday's classic race.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"It's so nice not to have to spend the night in a school, sleeping on a hard gym floor," said Soldotna's Pankoski.
Also finishing in the top 10 for the girls were Skyview's Elisha Tarries, who took ninth, and Kenai Central's Synneva Hagen-Lillevik.
"You could really tell how out of shape we are, but it was really fun to go out there, work as hard as you could and see how the year is going to be," Hagen-Lillevik said.
In the boys competition, Skyview's Kyle Dudley was third overall in 20:53 while Soldotna's Ryan Walton skied to a fourth-place finish in 21:20.
"I just worked hard before the race even started," Dudley said of the keys to his success. "This is my third sport this year, so I'm in a little bit of shape.
"I was just trying to go fast. In the classic race, when the Colony guy passed me, I just wanted to keep up with him and stay with him the whole way."
Walton said the meet concluded a tough week of practice for the Stars.
"(Our goal was) just to get out there, focus, and try to get our top five skiers close," Walton said. "Our whole top five were within a minute of each other (Friday).
"... We held a time trial on (the course) Wednesday, so we knew what to expect. Today, we had better wax. We're hoping to improve from here, and max out at state."
Soldotna's Matt Habermann was tenth overall in 22:40 and Kenai Central's Clay Walker just seven seconds off that pace, finishing 11th.
"It's a pretty short race, so I pushed myself the entire way, never slowing up," Walker said of Saturday's classic event. "I kept trying to catch the person in front of me."
Skyview Invitational Cross-Country Skiing Meet
Friday and Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
Individual combined results (including Friday's 1-kilometer skate race and Saturday's 5-kilometer classic race)
1. Tazlina Mannix, SuV, 22 minutes, 28 seconds; 2. Aleta Phelps, Hom, 23:00; 3. Elisabeth Habermann, Sky, 24:41; 4. Katie Franzmann, Sol, 25:28; 5. Heidi Keller, Sol, 25:53; 6. Katy Pankoski, Sol, 26:15; 7. Jenny Smola, Sol, 26:17; 8. Kate Fitzgerald, Pal, 26:20; 9. Elisha Tarries, Sky, 26:33; 10. Synneva Hagen-Lillevik, Ken, 27:01.
Other peninsula finishers 14. Kendra Merkes, Sky, 28:58; 15. Lauren Olendorff, Sol, 29:36; 16. Jamie Miller, Sky, 29:41; 22. Ali Wykis, Sol, 31:09; 23. Erika Klaar, Hom, 31:10; 25. Shauna Hall, Ken, 31:18; 26. Kira Matiya, 31:30; 28. Sarah Glaser, Sew, 32:21; 29. Alina Rykaczewski, Hom, 32:33; 30. Heather Sinclair, Sol, 32:45; 31. Kristin Vantrease, Hom, 32:48; 33. Brittany Osland, Sol, 33:06; 34. Kasey Aderhold, Hom, 33:10; 35. Anna Clock, Sew, 33:16; 40. Jessica Summer, Ken, 34:27; 41. Amy Hundertmark, Sol, 34:55; 45. Rebekah Summer, Ken, 36:21; 46. Katie Peck, Sew, 36:49; 51. Jenny Merritt, Hom, 39:32; 53. Tashina Wortham-Turn, Sky, 42:35; 58. Debbie Duggin, Nik, 44:04.
1. Ross Wise, Col, 20:02; 2. Kerry Klauder, Col, 20:40; 3. Kyle Dudley, Sky, 20:53; 4. Ryan Walton, Sol, 21:20; 5. Nick Wise, Col, 21:50; 6. Brandon Gonski, Col, 21:58; 7. Joe Dougherty, Col, 22:02; 8. Nico Ambrose, SuV, 22:07; 9. John Hundley, Pal, 22:35; 10. Matt Habermann, Sol, 22:40.
Other peninsula finishers 11. Clay Nelson, Ken, 22:47; 13. Stephen Olendorff, Sol, 23:21; 15. Morgan Jones, Hom, 23:44; 16. Chris Hall, Ken, 23:47; 17. Spencer Litzenberger, Sol, 23:53; 19. Max Millron, Sol, 24:07; 21. Alex Hundertmark, Sol, 24:25; 22. Travis Hines, Hom, 24:38; 24. Caleb Chase, Sol, 24:56; 25. Sean Twohy, Sol, 25:11; 26. Chris Amen, Ken, 25:15; 28. DC Reed, Ken, 25:42; 29. Nick Byrne, Sky, 25:44; 30. Jesse Orr, Sky, 25:54; 31. Aaron Bakk, Nik, 25:59; 32. Alex Cox, Sky, 26:24; 33. Chad Adams, Sew, 26:35; 34. Taylor Karnikis, Sky, 26:45; 35. Kip Dixon, Sew, 27:18; 36. Levi Lounsbury, Nik, 27:21; 44. Lucas Thein, Sol, 28:16; 47. Ole Nyhuis, Sol, 28:43; 48. Rob Berkhahn, Sky, 28:55; 49. Jacob Franzmann, Sol, 28:55; 50. Kirk Loutham, Ken, 29:03; 51. Alex Rodgers, Sky, 29:22; 53. Kelley Skipwith, Sky, 29:59; 55. Jordan Oleson, 30:46; 59. Ben Phillips, Ken, 31:26; 60. Simon Kleinert, Sky, 31:31; 62. Tad Martin, Hom, 32:00; 65. Mike Wicker, Nik, 33:25; 66. Geoffrey Cox, Sky, 33:33; 68. Ken Faust, Sew, 34:50; 69. Sam Kilfoyle, Sky, 35:02; 71. Eddie French, Sol, 35:30; 73. Sam Caswell, Sol, 36:47; 74. Harley Maxson, Sky, 38:02; 76. David Lladeras, Sky, 40:11; 79. Peter Sheppard, Hom, 41:16.
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