Good year for peninsula athletes

Posted: Sunday, December 28, 2003

The following is a look back at happenings in the sports world of the Kenai Peninsula in 2003:


Wrestling continued to have overlapping seasons for the small schools and the large schools.

In large-schools wrestling, Skyview continued to be one of the best programs in the state. The Panthers won the Region III/4A wrestling championships, then went on to take second in the state behind West Valley. Eli Hutchison won a state title for the Panthers.

Soldotna also had a great tournament, finishing fifth with Shawn Weigle and Colten Goracke as champions.

In small-schools wrestling, which concluded in December, Nikiski lost a close battle with Anchorage Christian Schools for the state title. Lance Penhale and Tab Key took state titles for the Bulldogs.


Many of the peninsula's schools completed great seasons in 2003. Kenai Central, behind the high-scoring duo of Adrian Borchgrevink and Owen Brewer, defeated Soldotna 3-2 for the Kardinals' first North Star Conference Championship. The Stars had gone undefeated in the regular season of the North Star Conference for the first time in school history.


Soldotna's Ari Goldstein runs to a first place finish in the 4A varsity girls race during the State Cross Country Championships in Palmer, Alaska, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003.

AP Photo/Al Grillo

The Nikiski hockey team also had one of the most successful seasons in school history, taking third place in the small-schools state tournament with a 5-4 victory over Delta. It was the highest finish in Nikiski's history.

Cross-country skiing

The Skyview girls and Soldotna boys continued to be the top teams in Region III. The Panthers won their second consecutive region championship and ninth in 12 years.

Meanwhile, the Stars captured their fourth straight region title.

Alaska also continued to show that it is the top state in the United States for cross-country skiers. At the Junior Olympics, Team Alaska won its fifth straight crown and 14th in the last 18 years. Peninsula skiers Andy Liebner, Brent Knight, Daniel Harro, David Hernandez, Rachel Goldstein and Stephanie Lambe were part of the effort.


This sport was perhaps the most affected by the notorious winter of 2002-03 that wasn't. While other sports that depended on snow were able to put on their main events, the 2003 Tesoro Iron Dog Classic snowmachine race had to be canceled.



Soldotna's Abby Kiffmyer swims in the girls 100-yard butterfly during the state swimming and diving championships in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2003.

AP Photo/Al Grillo

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race had to start in Fairbanks instead of Wasilla, but the race went on despite little snow across Alaska. The little snow was enough to cancel the Tustumena 200.

From the peninsula, Mitch Seavey was 12th, Jon Little was 13th, Tim Osmar was 22nd and Paul Gebhardt was 23rd. All managed the top-25 finishes despite less than ideal training conditions.


Both the Nikiski and Ninilchik girls defended their state titles.


Soldotna's Mark Harro, left, stretches to tag teammate and anchorman Daniel Harro during the boys 20-kilometer relay race at the Alaska State Activities Association cross country ski championships on the Jim Whisenhant Ski Trails at the Birch Hill Recreation Area in Fairbanks, Alaska, Saturday, March 1, 2003. The Soldotna team finished fifth in the event with a time of 58:30.3. Lathrop won both the race and the state title, its first since 1971.

AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Eric Engman

Nikiski, behind Class 3A coach of the year Ward Romans and Class 3A player of the year Karen Rabung, won its second straight crown.

Ninilchik won its fourth straight Class 2A crown. For the third straight year, Whitney Leman was named Class 1A-2A player of the year, and Dan Leman was named Class 1A-2A coach of the year.

The Cook Inlet Academy boys came up just short in their attempt at defending the Class 2A title. The Eagles lost to Hydaburg in the championship game.

Finally, the Soldotna girls put together a great season, finishing third at the state 4A championships.

Track and field

Kenai's Dallas Baldwin closed out her career by defending her high jump state title. Baldwin cleared 5 feet, 3 inches to win state, then kept jumping in search of Renae Pickarsky's 1983 state record of 5-6. Baldwin was unable to clear 5-5.


Eielson's Chad Odom, left, has a pass go off his fingertips as Kenai's Brandon Miles closes in for a tackle during the first half of the prep small school state championship game Saturday, Oct. 11, 2003, in Anchorage, Alaska.

AP Photo/Michael Dinneen

The Skyview boys also found a lot of success at the state meet. Levi McKay and Adam Kosydar closed out their careers by finishing one-two in the discus. McKay's best throw went for 168 feet.

Skyview's Trevor Tompkins also closed out his career with a state title. Tompkins won the 110-meter high hurdles in a time of 15.63 seconds.


Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of the low snow were the peninsula's soccer players, who were actually able to get on the field in time for most of the spring season.


Nikiski's Katie Floyd (20) drives past Barrow's Elizabeth Bodfish and Martina Leavitt (4) during the third period of Nikiski's 48-41 win in the Class 3A state basketball championship in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, March 22, 2003.

AP Photo/Al Grillo

However, it was a tough Region III tournament for the squads from the peninsula. The Soldotna girls were the only team to make it out of the first round, and the Stars lost in the semifinals to come up short of a state bid.


The Peninsula Oilers once again missed out on going to the National Baseball Congress World Series. The Oilers finished fourth in the Alaska Baseball League with a record of 17-18. The Oilers were 25-26 overall.

At the end of the season, the Oilers organization underwent a shakeup as baseball operations manager Mike Baxter and manager Kyle DiEduardo left the team.

DiEduardo, who had just one season under his belt as manager, was replaced by Aric Thomas, a member of the Oilers' NBC World Series championship team of 1993.

Baxter will be tougher to replace. In his nine years as baseball operations manager, the Oilers won three straight Alaska Baseball League crowns from 1998 to 2000.


Soldotna's Jennifer Senette, center, is tied up by Lathrop's Erika Stevens, left and Alana Clooten in the final minutes of their consolation game of the Alaska State Basketball Championships, Saturday, March 22, 2003, in Anchorage, Alaska. Soldotna won, 56-44.

AP Photo/Michael Dinneen

Meanwhile, the American Legion Twins had a tough season on and off the field. The Twins finished 10-34 on the field.

However, it can be considered good news that the Twins were even able to take the field at all this year. Peninsula Oilers Baseball, Inc., had to step up and save the Twins' season after American Legion Kenai Post #20 dropped its sponsorship of the Twins this year.

Motor sports

The Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions continued to enjoy popularity in the summer of 2003, with both the Circle Track and Motocross divisions enjoying successful seasons.

In motocross, peninsula riders Cody Woodworth, Zac Aragon and Sarah Herrin all took state titles. In 2002, there were 99 racers listed in the final state results. In 2003, that number jumped to 158.

The circle track also became a more popular destination. The year-end event was held under the lights. It was the first time in Alaska that there had been circle track racing under lights.

Twin Cities Raceway champions for 2003 were Jackie McGahan in the Sprint Car Division, Josh Fell in the A-Stock Division, Richard McGahan in the B-Stock Division and Mike Young in the Late Model Division.


Kenai's Mick Boyle, (251) races teammate Trevor Baldwin, to the finish line in the boys 4A race during the State Cross Country Championships in Palmer, Alaska, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003.

AP Photo/Al Grillo


The Kenai Chrysler Open, which takes place at the Kenai Golf Course, had another successful year. This year, the purse was $30,000. Anchorage professional Billy Bomar took home $6,000 of that by winning the tournament.

In the other big-money event on the peninsula's golfing calendar, the seventh annual Wells Fargo All Alaska Pro Skins Game, Birch Ridge Golf Course pro Tom Walsh was the big winner. Walsh pushed through back pain to win $1,550 for his first victory in four tries at the skins game.

Cross country

This season belonged to juniors Ari Goldstein of Soldotna and Whitney Anderson of Seward.

Both Goldstein and Anderson won region titles to lead their squads to Region III championships, Goldstein in Class 4A and Anderson in Class 3A. It was the second straight region championship for the Stars.

Goldstein and Anderson both followed that up with victories at the state meet, with Goldstein winning her first Class 4A championship and Anderson taking her first Class 3A championship.


Cook Inlet Academy's Luke Myers (24) looks to pass around Hydaburg's George Peratrovich during the first quarter of the Class 2A boys title game in the state basketball championships in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, March 29, 2003.

AP Photo/Al Grillo

At the Region II meet, the Cook Inlet Academy boys captured the championship behind individual champion Brian Beeson. It was the second straight year the Eagles and Beeson were victorious at that meet.


Kenai Central took its second-straight small-schools state title, thumping Eielson in the championship game 46-0.

Kenai finished with a 9-1 record, winning nine straight after losing in the season opener to West. Along the way, Kenai won a Northern Lights Conference title, snapping Soldot-na's three-year run atop the league.

Kenai's Dakota Craig was named small-schools Offensive Player of the year and Kenai's T.J. Hancock was named the Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Also, Kenai's Jim Beeson was Coach of the Year and Kenai's Jim Dawson was Assistant Coach of the Year.

Soldotna and Nikiski also made the playoffs, but both were eliminated in the small-schools semifinals.


The Soldotna swim program was not able to reproduce the dominance of 2002, when both the boys and girls teams took home state titles, but the program did produce a display of individual dominance at the state meet.

SoHi senior Abby Kiffmeyer won the 100-yard butterfly and set a state record in winning the 100 backstroke at the state swimming and diving championships. Kiffmeyer, who also led the Soldotna girls to their fifth-straight Region III title, was named the female swimmer of the state meet for her efforts.

Seward sophomore Jacqueline Van Driessche provided the peninsula with its only other state title. Van Driessche won the 100 breaststroke to take home the first state swimming title in Seward's history.


While none of the peninsula's Class 4A schools made it to the state tournament, Class 3A peninsula teams Seward and Nikiski advanced to state, with the Seahawks winning the District 3/3A championship. The Seahawks lost in the third-place game at state, while the Bulldogs lost in the fourth-place game at state.

In Class 1-2-3A-West volleyball, Ninilchik took the first Region 2 championship in school history, with tournament Most Valuable Player Amanda Matson playing a key role. The Wolverines went on to lose the fourth-place match at state.

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