Kenai's Marcus Reemtsma intercepts a pass in front of Soldotna's Garrett Gardner during a game in October. The two teams continued their rivalry in the state small-schools championship later in the month.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Next week, the Kenai Peninsula sporting scene will plunge head-long into the 2005 schedule - basketball season tips off in earnest next weekend while hockey and cross-country skiing teams gear up for state championships.
Then it's on to spring pursuits - soccer and track and field - followed by the boys and girls of summer and, all to soon here in Alaska, it's back to fall and winter sports.
In a sports world that's always looking forward to the next game, here's a brief look at the highlights of the year that has passed:
At the large-schools state championship in February, the Skyview Panthers finished as runners-up to Wasilla, claiming three individual state titles.
Eli Hutchison led the Panthers with his title at 119 pounds, setting a state record for takedowns in a season along the way. Dallas Seavey won a title at 130 pounds, and Brandon Cleveland capped his career with a win at 152 pounds.
Homer's Monte Garroutte also claimed an individual title for the peninsula, winning at 135 pounds.
The Nikiski Bulldogs wrapped up 2004 with a pair of individual titles at the state small-schools tournament in December. Lance Penhale became a three-time state champion with his win at 112 pounds, capping a 31-0 mark in his senior season.
Jordan McCaughey won a title at 125 pounds for the Bulldogs, helping Nikiski to a fourth-place finish in the team standings.
The Skyview High School girls team posted its 10th Region III title in 13 seasons in February while Kenai's Mike Kent had the fastest individual combined time for his freestyle and classic races at the region meet.
At the state championships in Fairbanks, Homer's Aleta Phelps was second overall and Skyview's Elisabeth Habermann was third in a highly competitive field. Both skiers joined Alaska's Junior Olympic squad for the national championships in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Stacey Borgman, facing camera, of Homer, Ak., and Lisa Schlenker of Lake Oswego, Or., representing the Princeton Training Center/New York Athletic Club, celebrate their a win in the lightweight women's double sculls in U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Rowing on Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J, Wednesday, June 30, 2004. Borgman and Schlenker stroked a 7:02.43 for the 2000-meter course.
AP/The Times of Trenton, Martin
Mark Carr of Kenai and Dusty VanMeter of Kasilof teamed up to win the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmachine race, covering the approximately 2,000 miles from Fairbanks to Nome to Big Lake in 39 hours, 3 minutes.
While both Carr and VanMeter have won the race multiple times, 2004 was the first time a team had won the race riding Bombardier Ski-Doo machines.
Soldotna's Scott Davis teamed with Todd Palin of Wasilla to finish second riding Polaris machines, 38 minutes behind Carr and VanMeter.
While Sterling's Mitch Seavey raced to an Iditarod win, other peninsula mushers found success in smaller venues.
Seavey was second in the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race in February as he prepared for the Iditarod, finishing just behind Cim Smyth of Big Lake. Kasilof's Lance Mackey and Ninilchik's Tim Osmar were third and fourth, respectively, in the race through the Caribou Hills.
Osmar's daughter Nicole won the Junior Iditarod, following in her father's footsteps.
USA's Tela O'Donnell reacts to an off beat question during a news conference of the U.S. women's wrestling team Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2004, in Athens. The Athens 2004 Olympic Games will be opened Friday, Aug. 13.
AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac
The 2004 state championships marked the conclusion of another good year for the Kenai Central hockey team as the Kardinals advanced to the fourth-place game at tournament, though they finished the season with a loss. The Kardinals won their second consecutive North Star Conference tournament tile, though hockey on the peninsula was shaping up to be quite competitive as Skyview was a late goal away from making the state tournament and a young Soldotna team showed steady improvement throughout the year.
In Greatland Conference play, the Homer Mariners placed fourth at the conference tournament, knocking the Nikiski out in an overtime game in the consolation semifinals.
The Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association also had a big year, sending a Midget B team to the national tournament in Florida after the squad won the state tournament in March.
The Ninilchik girls basketball team clinched its fifth straight state 2A title in March, defeating district foe Bristol Bay in the state title game a week after the Angels had bested the Wolverines in the district tournament.
Juneau-Douglas' Keil Urata, left, and Skyview's Sean Mallette leap for a header in a state championship semifinal match Friday, May 21, 2004, in Wasilla, Alaska. Juneau advanced to the championship match with a 2-1 victory.
AP Photo/Michael Dinneen
The Nikiski and Seward girls represented the peninsula in the state 3A tournament - Seward finished fourth while Nikiski was eliminated in the second round - and the Homer girls qualified for the state 4A tournament.
Track and Field
Soldotna's Ari Goldstein proved herself the class of the field at the state championships in May, winning the 800-, 1,600-, and 3,200-meter races at the meet - then anchored the Stars 1,600 relay to a victory.
Kenai Central's Mick Boyle also notched an individual title, capping his career with a win in the 800.
The Skyview High School boys made a name for themselves, finishing third at the state championship tournament in May. The Panthers notched wins over Dimond and Chugiak during the tournament and lost by a goal to state runner-up Juneau-Douglas in the semifinals. Skyview qualified for the tournament as the runner-up from Region III.
The Homer girls went to the state tournament brimming with confidence after sweeping through the region tourney, but were unable to duplicate the same success at state.
Club soccer on the Kenai Peninsula also continued to grow as the Kenai Peninsula Soccer Club's girls under-13 Riverhawks won the Alaska State Cup in August and earned the right to play in the U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV tournament in Denver next June.
Ninilchik players celebrate their 43-37 win over Bristol Bay in the girls' Class 2A championship game of the state tournament in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, March 27, 2004.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
It was quite a summer for baseball on the Kenai Peninsula. The Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League created quite a buzz around town as the team finished the season tied for second in the league standings.
The American Legion Twins posted a second-place finish in their district tournament but came up just short at the state tournament. The Twins also played a three-game series with a squad of Twins alumni, taking two of three games from the old-timers to win the inaugural Twins Cup.
The Kenai Little League Senior Girls Softball All-Stars had a successful run, making it to the state championship series before losing a tight game to a squad from Juneau.
Even the Soldotna Little League 9- and 10-year-old all-stars got in on the act, winning the Alaska State All-Star Tournament.
The golf season on the Kenai Peninsula culminated in August in dramatic fashion as Norm Jarvis, a pro from Vancouver, B.C., holed a birdie chip on Kenai Golf Course's par-4 17th hole to claim a one-stroke victory at the Kenai Chrysler Championship.
Mo Redford, Gordon Griffin and Rita Botelho won titles at the Grainge Memorial Senior Golf Tournament in July, while Botelho and Matt Matarrese took home top honors at the 31st annual Peninsula Amateur golf tournament in June.
Two athletes from Homer made it to the Olympics in Athens, Greece this summer.
Stacey Borgman narrowly missed the finals in the women's lightweight double sculls, and Tela O'Donnell, who graduated from Nikiski High School, competed in women's wrestling, the first time the sport had been included in the Olympics.
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions organized both circle-track auto racing and moto-cross events this summer.
City Race moto-cross series winners included Cole Krandall (50cc), Cody Woodworth (60 cc and 80 cc expert), Troy Lamay (80 cc novice), Dylan Hendricks (80 cc intermediate), Justin Weaver (125 cc novice), Sarah Herrin (125 cc intermediate), Zac Aragon (125 cc expert), Jed Brown (250 cc novice), Monique Aragon (women's novice), Trevor Walden (mini quads), Lucas Herrin (quad novice), Todd Ritter (quad expert) and Mike Arno (vet).
The action was fast furious on the Twin City Raceway circle track as the track hosted a pair of sprint car invitationals to go with their regular stock-car racing activities.
Nikiski Hannah Thompson spikes the ball during the opening-round game against Cordova in the Class 3A state volleyball tournament in Anchorage, Alaska Thursday, Nov. 11, 2004.
AP Photo/ Al Grillo
The Nikiski High School volleyball team put together a remarkable regular season. The Bulldogs raced through the regular season and conference tournament with an undefeated record, though they suffered a setback in the opening round of the state 3A tournament. The Bulldogs regrouped, though, and finished fourth at the state tournament.
At the 4A level, the Kenai Central Kardinals broke a two-decade drought, qualifying for the state tournament after a third-place finish in their conference tournament.
Ninilchik also made a state appearance, qualifying for the 1-2-3A West tournament.
Cross Country Running
Ari Goldstein capped her high school cross country career with her second consecutive state championship, running away from the 4A field as the race returned to Tsalteshi Trails after a three-year absence.
Seward made a splash in the 1-2-3A race as Matt Adams took the boys title and led the Seahawks to the boys team championship while Rubye and Denali Foldager finished first and second in the girls race.
At the 2A level, Cook Inlet Academy senior Brian Beeson won his fourth Region II title.
Kenai Central High School won its third straight state small-schools title, defeating arch-rival Soldotna 20-14 in the championship game at Anchorage Football Stadium in October.
Soldotna's Ari Goldstein leads the field en route to her state-championship win in the girl's 1,600 meters Saturday, May 22, 2004, in Anchorage, Alaska.
AP Photo/Michael Dinneen
The game was everything a great rivalry should be, with the Kardinals, the Northern Lights Conference champions, resorting to their smash-mouth offense to come from behind for the win.
Kenai and Soldotna shared most of the all-state honors, with Soldotna running back Garrett Gardner earning Offensive Player of the Year honors, Kenai's Dakota Craig notching Defensive Player of the Year honors from his linebacker position, and Soldotna's Dan Spindler joining Nikiski's John Schwenke as Linemen of the Year.
Seward's Jacqueline Van Driessche won her second individual state title, finishing first in the 50-yard freestyle at the state championships.
While Van Driessche was the only peninsula swimmer to score a state title, this year's region meet proved to be dramatic as the Soldotna girls edges Homer for their sixth straight Region III crown.
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