Kenai Central sophomore Logan Satathite runs to victory Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at the Nikiski Class Races in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central sophomore Logan Satathite runs to victory Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at the Nikiski Class Races in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

2019 Cross-Country preview: Beeson returns to lead Kardinals

There is a Beeson coaching a fall sport at Kenai Central High School again.

No, not Jim Beeson, who rolled up 103 wins in 19 seasons as the head coach at Kenai before serving various roles with the football program and retiring from the school in 2014.

Beeson’s daughter, Bailey, takes over the reins of the Kardinals’ highly successful cross-country program. Beeson graduated from Kenai in 2012 and ran cross-country and track at Division II Western Oregon. She returned to the Kenai Peninsula to teach and coach in Homer last school year, and now has come all the way back to Kenai.

“I couldn’t be happier than to be back at Kenai,” she said.

Beeson is teaching at Kenai Middle School, where she has the same principal — Vaughn Dosko — as she did when attending the school. Beeson said her name carries high expectations and she’s not shying away from that.

“Everyone holds high expectations and I like that, I truly enjoy that, because that pushes me to be better for the kids,” Beeson said. “My dad always said do what I would teach you do to, then do it a little more.

“I’m continuously introduced as Mr. Beeson’s daughter and that hasn’t quite gotten tiring yet. No complaints there.”

Beeson takes over a program that has recently been one of the best in the state, particularly on the girls side. A girl from Kenai has won the region title in seven of the last eight years, with Allie Ostrander winning from 2011 to 2014, Riana Boonstra winning in 2015, Addison Gibson winning in 2017 and Jaycie Calvert winning in 2018. The Kardinals girls also have four straight region team titles.

At the state level, Ostrander collected titles from 2012 to 2014 and Calvert won last year. The Kenai girls won state in 2015 and 2018, with runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017. The boys also are on the rise, qualifying for state last season for the first time since 2014.

“Once they see what they can do, they’re more likely to work harder and stick at it,” Beeson said. “Running is a very difficult sport not to get any reward from.”

Beeson said the girls program needs to build depth after losing top runners Calvert and Brooke Satathite, while the boys have that depth and are ready to make noise at Division II.

As usual, a Division II state berth in Region 3 will be tough. There are four state berths up for grabs, with traditional powerhouses Grace Christian, Anchorage Christian Schools, Kenai, Homer and Seward all in the hunt.

The Homer girls had a string of four straight region titles snapped last season, but 2017 state champ Autumn Daigle, a senior, returns to lead a talented squad. Second-year coach Bob Ostrom also said the boys have another state berth in their sights.

Shelly Walker takes over the Seward program and is looking to build on the tradition of Dan Marshall, who stepped down after the 2017-18 school year after 23 years at the helm. Both Seahawks squads missed state last year. While Walker said the girls are still in a building mode, the boys will be a team to watch.

“We’re going to get some very solid training, that’s science- and research-based, under them so they are strong and fit and have a very fast region race,” Walker said.

Soldotna is the lone Division I school left on the peninsula, and also the smallest school at that level in Division I. Yet Ted McKenney, who has over 30 years of coaching experience on the peninsula and is in his sixth year at Soldotna, got both his girls and boys teams to state last season.

“It’s always really tough to make it to state,” McKenney said.

Excitement also is high at Nikolaevsk, which competes as a Class 1A school in Region II. The state meet this year will feature a Class 1-2A race, 3A race and 4A race, instead of just a Class 1-2-3A race and Class 4A race. Coach Steve Klaich, who started the program 11 years ago, said his team is excited about the new format.

The only thing tempering the excitement for the area cross-country teams is all the wildfire smoke. The Tsalteshi Invite has already been canceled and all of every team’s meets are in Southcentral Alaska, which has a wildfire smoke problem that looks as if it will come and go for quite some time.

“You look at our season, it’s Bartlett, Palmer, Seward, Tsalteshi, Palmer and Bartlett,” Beeson said.

Walker said the disturbing part of the season so far is that with all the incredible running trails available in the Seward area, the middle of the week found the team playing water polo in the school pool due to all the smoke in the air.

Similarly, the Stars were practicing in the SoHi Commons late in the week, while Kenai had to practice in the Kenai Middle School gym.

The following is a closer look at the Kenai Peninsula’s cross-country programs:

Soldotna Stars

McKenney, along with assistant coach Kent Peterson, has 59 runners out for the team.

“Mr. Peterson and I think we have a healthy program,” McKenney said. “The kids enjoy the fun and discipline.”

The coaches make room for all runners in the program by having three groups at practice — aggressive, moderate and beginner.

The girls finished second at regions last year for their first state berth since 2015. Palmer, behind a title from then-freshman Katey Houser, won regions for the first time since 1989.

“They’re going to be really hard to overcome,” McKenney said of the Moose. “They’re young, and they’re going to be led by her again.”

The Stars return senior Cameron Blackwell, junior Erika Arthur and sophomores Jordan Strausbaugh, Jordan Ruffner and Ellie Burns to lead another charge to state. Sophomore Kaidence Schaeffer, junior Katie Delker and senior Ryann Cannava all add critical depth.

McKenney said the group has been gladly taking on extra workouts.

“They’re a nice, strong group, and they’re good to each other,” he said.

The boys have been to state the past two years and will be led by seniors Bradley Walters and Lance Chilton.

“He’s a fine young man and a good leader,” McKenney said of Walters. “Tonight, I asked if anybody wanted to stay for extra units and because he did, other guys jumped in.”

Junior Anchor Musgrave worked hard to be the No. 3 runner on the team, while senior Jack Harris, junior Zach Burns and sophomores Maleda Denbrock and Quinn Cox fill out the team.

“They compete with each other,” McKenney said. “It’s going to be really hard to make boys varsity. There’s like 16 kids that want those seven spots.”

Homer Mariners

In his second year, Ostrom saw his numbers swell from about 12 to over 20 with the start of school this week.

“Getting to state looks good for both the boys and girls,” Ostrom said. “The girls have a lot of depth and the freshmen on the boys side have to get up to speed.”

The boys have talented runners up front in juniors Clayton Beachy, Eyoab Knapp and Daniel Reutov, and sophomore Austin Cline.

“The rest is up in the air,” Ostrom said. “We’ll let those freshmen sort it out.”

Ostrom says he loves competing in this region because it inspires runners to perform.

“It’s a big help to have that carrot out there,” he said. “They’ll have to work hard to get to state.”

The girls have a ton of potential because they’ll have two of the top runners in the state in Daigle and junior Brooke Miller.

Ostrom said Daigle took note as Calvert worked hard for her senior year and went undefeated against 3A competition.

“That totally inspired her to work hard all summer and set high goals for this year,” he said.

Daigle’s family fishes in the summer, and Daigle faithfully found a road somewhere to run on when the fishing was done. When the family came to town once a week for supplies, Daigle fit in a track workout.

“Brooke has been running a lot in the summer program,” Ostrom said. “I’m looking forward to how she improves. We’ll have somebody pushing Autumn. They’ll feed off each other.”

Sophomore Haylee Overson also returns, while a promising freshman class is led by Eryn Field.

“We’re waiting to see who starts moving up at the meets,” Ostrom said.

Nikiski Bulldogs

Anna Widman returns after taking a year off from coaching and has five runners out for the team.

“I took one year off for a sabbatical but it’s nice coming back to it,” she said. “It’s like coming back to an old friend. I’m enjoying hanging out with the kids again.”

The boys team is made up of seniors Bryan McCollum and Joey Yourkoski, junior Boden Quiner and German foreign exchange student Yorik Bostuck.

“I’m excited about this year,” Widman said. “They’ll push each other and that seems to be the most valuable thing for this age group.”

Junior Emily Hufford makes up the entire girls team.

Kenai Kardinals

Beeson and assistant coach Mike Bergholtz have the numbers in the program up to about 35. It says something about the mind-set of the program at this point that both the girls and boys have set their No. 1 goal as winning state.

On the girls side, Beeson said it will be tough to replace the departed runners.

“Right now, we don’t have the depth,” Beeson said. “We need to build a foundation. They’re young and I’m looking forward to what is to come, but to work toward a state goal we’ve got to have that depth.”

Freshman Jayna Boonstra is currently the fastest runner on the team, while sophomore Logan Satathite is just behind. Sophomores Summer Foster and Leah Fallon have been a little sick lately, but Beeson said she’s happy to get that out of the way earlier in the season rather than later.

Junior Kaya Cox is the only upperclassman on the team and also will serve as captain. Freshman Mikaela Hall also is showing promise.

“The team is really strong academically,” Beeson said. “They really want a 4.0 and the academic award at state.”

On the boys side, the goal is a state title and Beeson said the Kards are working like they really want one.

“The boys have the depth I wish the girls had,” she said. “They’ve got upperclassmen leading, working and keeping everyone going.”

Leading the way is junior Maison Dunham, who was third at the region race and sixth in the state last season. Sophomore Joe Hamilton followed a training program written for him this summer by Ostrander and also is ready for a big year.

“It’s been really good,” Beeson said. “Joe Hamilton has someone to push him even harder.”

The open secret in cross-country is McKenney will help runners regardless of school, and McKenney encouraged sophomore Nathan Haakenson to train this summer, setting Haakenson up for a big year.

The Kardinals also get depth from seniors Josh Foster and Tucker Mueller, sophomore Tyler Hippchen and freshman Ky Calvert. Mueller was named captain of the team. Beeson said there are a number of other runners challenging for a varsity spot.

“I see a lot of potential with them,” she said. “We did a really hard workout (Wednesday) and they were all very nervous about it, but all I had to do is get them started, and once I got them started they got through the entire thing.”

Seward Seahawks

Walker was Marshall’s assistant coach for a few years, so she knows what type of program she has inherited. Walker had been coaching her daughters at the middle school, but with Alexi Walker now a freshman, Walker decided to go for the high school job when it opened up.

There are 16 out for the team this year, but Walker remembers one year when Marshall had 55 of the 180 kids in the school out for cross-country.

“Dan created so many lifelong runners,” Walker said. “They could have been defined by any other sport.”

Walker said the tradition of great running carries on to this day, with community members volunteering to run with the boys team because Walker cannot keep up with them.

Junior Max Pfeiffenberger was the lone Seward runner to make state this year. He is joined by seniors Bjorn Nilsson and Jaden Van Dyke, and juniors Levi DeBoard, Trey Ingalls, Sam Koster and Clay Petersen.

“I’m really excited to get them dialed in and have them start to work together and push each other,” Walker said.

On the girls side, Walker is building for the future.

“I don’t know if I’ll fill a varsity team because they are so young,” Walker said. “I don’t have any seniors. I have three juniors and three freshmen, and I don’t want to run freshmen at varsity.

“We’re growing right now and we’ve got a young team with a lot of potential.”

The juniors are Hana Cooney, Lucy Hankins and Maranatha Bruekner.

Nikolaevsk Warriors

Klaich has five runners out for the team.

Sophomore Justin Trail and senior Isabelle Hickman both will be looking for return trips to state, which takes a top-10 finish at the region meet. Also running for the Warriors will be seniors Sophia Klaich and Elizabeth Fefelov, and freshman Josiah Brown.

Eventual winner Bradley Walters leads Lance Chilton on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at the Nikiski Class Races in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Eventual winner Bradley Walters leads Lance Chilton on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at the Nikiski Class Races in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski senior Bryan McCollum competes in the junior-senior race during the Nikiski Class Races on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski senior Bryan McCollum competes in the junior-senior race during the Nikiski Class Races on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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