Kenai Central coach Brad Nyquist and Soldotna coach Isaac Erhardt have no idea what to expect from the competition at the state ski meet Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Government Peak Recreation Area north of Palmer.
That’s why the coaches are so happy to have the opportunity to compete in the meet. Thus far, Kenai Peninsula ski teams Soldotna, Kenai Central, Homer and Seward have just had the opportunity to compete against each other this season.
“That’s what they’ve been wanting all year — to have the opportunity to compare themselves to other athletes,” Nyquist said.
Added Erhardt: “We’re glad we got a state tournament. It’s nice to compete and see some of the other skiers and teams and compete against them.”
The event was moved from Anchorage’s Kincaid Park because the state ski meet didn’t comply with Anchorage’s COVID-19 regulations. It will be held at the Mat-Su venue with a mitigation plan in place. No spectators will be allowed in the start-finish area.
Today, the boys 7.5-kilometer classic race will be at 11 a.m., while the girls 5K classic will be at 2 p.m. Both races will be interval starts, with skiers sent on the course 30 seconds apart. The races are three hours apart to give the smaller parking lot at GPRA time to fully clear before the next race.
Friday will be freestyle interval starts, with the girls 7.5K at 11 a.m. and the boys 10K at 2 p.m.
The event concludes with the boys relay at 11 a.m. Saturday and the girls relay at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Kenai Central will send Tyler Hippchen, Jack Laker, Gregory Fallon, Ben Boersma, Nathan Haakenson and Zane Tews for the boys team, and Jayna Boonstra, Emily Moss, Summer Foster, Leah Fallon and Gabriella Tews for the girls team.
Nyquist said his team has the ability to win individual and team titles at the Division II level.
“We are in the small schools, and we’ll be really strong in the small schools,” Nyquist said. “We have no idea what our competition will put together.
“Every once in a while, somebody comes out of nowhere. In my experience, don’t get too confident, because there’s always somebody out there faster somewhere.”
Soldotna will send Erika Arthur, Katie Delker, Sonora Martin, Jordan Strausbaugh, Emmy Reese and Jordan Ruffner for the girls team, and Quinn Cox, Dylan Hogue, Andrew Cox, Foster Boze, Ryder Geisler and Trenton Boots for the boys team.
Even though there will be skiers at the meet from around the state, Erhardt said local competition still counts.
“I’d love to see the girls continue to lead over the rest of the borough, and I’d love to see if the boys can beat Kenai,” Erhardt said.
The Stars compete at the Division I level, so pulling any state titles against some of the best high school competition in the country will be a tall order. Erhardt did say Soldotna will look forward to measuring itself against teams in its region like Colony and Palmer.
“It won’t be a normal state meet, with a ceremony, all the people and tons of fans,” Erhardt said. “It will have a weird vibe, but in talking to the kids, they seem excited about it. At this point, they are just glad to get to do something like this.”