COVID-19 costumes ruled the day Sunday at the 17th Ski for Women at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna.
COVID-19 did not rule the day, as a large turnout of skiers went through the waxing and masking necessary to participate in the 5-kilometer event.
“We’ll beat this here in America,” said Carmen Stephl, one half of a pair of COVID-related outfits that won best costume. “We’ll beat this working together.”
Almost 90 skiers got together to raise money for the LeeShore Center in Kenai, which provides services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Jenny Neyman, the administrative coordinator for the Tsalteshi Trails Association, said a cause supporting women is chosen each year for the event. Neyman said LeeShore Center is always an important cause, but is particularly important now because of the way the new coronavirus pandemic is making the housing process more complicated.
The numbers for the event were up from 60 in 2020, 66 in 2019 and 34 in subzero-cold 2018.
Neyman said the Tsalteshi board didn’t know how many would come out in a pandemic, but added the response was great and so was the crowd’s adherence to the mitigation plan.
Kelli Boonstra, who won the women’s 5-kilometer freestyle in 16 minutes, 13 seconds, said it was fun to connect with so many people again.
Boonstra did the race with her daughters Jayna (second in 16:37) and Tania (eighth in 19:08). Kelli’s husband, Todd, competed in the men’s drag race.
Kelli used to be one of the top cross-country skiers in the United States. Now, she teachers physical education at Soldotna Montessori and coaches the Kenai Middle School ski team.
“It was super fun,” Boonstra said. “I saw a lot of my middle school kids and my kids from PE. I even got to see some who are doing remote learning.”
Carly Reimer, director of the Tsalteshi Youth Ski Program, also was excited to see so many familiar faces at the event.
“It was great to get everybody together,” she said. “You heard so much chatting during the race. It’s our celebration for the Super Bowl.”
Reimer has spent many a Ski for Women at the front of the pack, but fell back this year with a good excuse. She towed her daughter, Lois, behind her.
“It’s the first time she’s had enough balance to sit in the tracks and glide along,” Reimer said.
With husband, Adam, and son, Gus, competing in the drag race, Carly was happy to have her whole family entered for the first time. Gus even won the best costume in the drag event.
Melissa Smith took third in the freestyle race at 17:15, while the top classic technique times went to Sarah Pyhala at 23:30, Olga Hippchen at 29:04 and Sue Seggerman at 31:08. Tyler Hippchen won the men’s drag race.
The top costumes went to Stephl for her can of “COVID Be Gone!” and Kristin Mitchell, an area doctor, for her COVID vaccine costume.
Stephl is a dental hygienist who has been a caregiver for the past three years. Her outfit was recycled from an old Mrs. Toothpaste costume.
“I thought, ‘What can I do that’s relevant to what we’ve experienced in the last year?,” Stephl said.
The second-place costume went to Ariana Cannava, a Skyview eighth-grader, and her mother, Katrina.
The Cannavas, who were part of the winning group costume in 2018 as a box of crayons, incorporated a live pet rooster, Dexter, into their chicken costumes. Ariana carried Dexter in a backpack.
“I’ve taken him skiing here before,” Ariana said. “He does like it, but he doesn’t like the eagles. He screams when he sees them flying.”
Ariana has been doing the Ski for Women for eight years — since she was 6 years old — while Katrina has about 10 years in.
“It’s a really fun thing we can do together to support the women in the community,” Katrina said.
The third-place costume went to Becky Hart, RaChelle Gruenberg, Heather Rinke and Sara Bundy for outfits honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the Supreme Court until her death last year.
The four had won best costume last year for elaborate ravens, while Bundy and Gruenberg had won in 2019 for dressing as Valentines.
“It was a great event,” Boonstra said. “I appreciate all the people who put it on. I know how hard it is, especially in the cold.”
17th Ski for Women
Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails
5-kilometer freestyle — 1. Kelli Boonstra, 16 minutes, 13 seconds; 2. Jayna Boonstra, 16:37; 3. Melissa Smith, 17:15; 4. Libby Jensen, 17:30; 5. Erika Arthur, 17:42; 6. Gabby Tews, 17:49; 7. Krista Arthur, 18:13; 8. Tania Boonstra, 19:08; 9. Becca Hitchcock, 19:58; 10. Bethany Nyboer, 23:22; 11. Emily Moss, 23:55; 12. Madison McDonald, 23:55; 13. Dana McDonald, 24:19; 14. Sara Mahood, 24:58; 15. Natalie Tews, 25:40; 16. Heather Rinke, 29:17; 17. Kristin Mitchell, 31:01; 18. Audrey McDonald, 31:12; 19. Kali Saxton-Shaw, 32:45; 20. Ariana Cannava, 34:07; 21. Chelsea Springer, 39:31; 22. Nicole Hewitt, 39:33; 23. Marly Perschbacher, 40:53; 24. Kinley Bradford, 43:33; 25. Alicia Driscoll, 44:44.
26. Sara Boersma, 45:43.
5-kilometer classic — 1. Sarah Pyhala, 23:30; 2. Olga Hippchen, 29:04; 3. Sue Seggerman, 31:08; 4. Kristie Cotroneo, 31:10; 5. Lucia Carson, 31:11; 6. Laura Gerber, 31:59; 7. Rachel Gilliland, 32:09; 8. Kelli Stroh, 32:10; 9. Tomi Hippchen, 33:28; 10. Stephanie Cox, 33:30; 11. Sara Bundy, 33:42; 12. Cynthia Bybee, 34:15; 13. Katrina Cannava, 34:17; 14. RaChelle Gruenberg, 35:21; 15. Julie Williams, 35:35; 16. Lori Lindsay, 36:08; 17. Dawnjalee Blossom, 36:29; 18. Kylie Morris, 36:42; 19. Kristina James, 37:18; 20. Becky Hart, 37:18; 21. Amy Hogue, 38:22; 22. Rinna Carlson, 38:22; 23. Carrie Wawrzyk, 38:31; 24. Marina Bosick, 38:43; 25. Katy Sheridan, 38:44.
26. Karen von Breyman, 39:22; 27. Jackie Knutson, 39:49; 28. Angie Nelson, 40:00; 29. Larissa Arbelovsky, 42:29; 30. Ryan Queen, 42:29; 31. Gail Moore, 43:32; 32. Dawn Navarro, 43:50; 33. Rebecca Wick, 43:51; 34. Sabine Poux, 43:44; 35. Carmen Stephl, 44:05; 36. Carly Reimer, 44:21; 37. Lois Reimer, 44:21; 38. Marsha Markstrom, 44:42; 39. Tasha Reynolds, 44:52; 40. Kristi Bradford, 44:53; 41. Leonide McKay, 44:55; 42. Leslie Boyd, 47:29; 43. Gigi Banas, 47:29; 44. Bethany Nyboer, 47:29; 45. Brenda Dale, 47:29; 46. Tressa Dale, 47:25; 47. Jena Kruzick, 47:49; 48. Shana Butler, 47:49; 49. Dasha Howlett, 52:22; 50. Kelly Key, 52:22.