By MEGAN PACER
Kenai runners persevered through a hill-laden course to sweep the individual titles at the Homer Invitational cross-country meet on Friday.
Kenai sophomore Jayna Boonstra claimed first place in the varsity girls 5-kilometer race with a time of 20 minutes, 45 seconds, while Kenai junior Joe Hamilton took first for the varsity boys with a time of 17:40. Soldotna swept the team titles.
Homer sophomore Seamus McDonough took second place for the varsity boys just a few seconds behind Hamilton at 17:44, and freshman Frida Renner was the top varsity girls finisher for Homer, claiming fourth place with a time of 23:24.
The annual invitational meet has been held for the last few years along the Homer Spit, but was moved this year to the Lookout Mountain Trails off Ohlson Mountain Road outside of town. A notoriously hilly course, the 5K route winds through trails used for cross-country skiing in the winter.
Several athletes, including those from Homer, noted the additional challenge the hills posed on Friday. McDonough said he had only run that particular course a few times before the meet. Renner said she had been able to get some hill training in a few times in a week leading up to the event, but that it was still challenging.
“There’s definitely a lot of holes and it’s super hilly, but it’s definitely a good course,” Boonstra said after her first-place finish. “It was definitely tough, the hills — especially big, long 1K (hill). It was definitely hard, but it’s a good course to push yourself on.”
This was the second meet of the season for runners from Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski, whose sports and in-person education were shut down in August when the central peninsula rose into a high-risk level for community spread of COVID-19. Homer and Seward sports programs played against each other for the first weeks of the season before the central peninsula schools were able to engage in sports.
Boonstra said it feels good to be racing again.
“It’s super fun to have people around you and push yourself,” she said.
The long hill Boonstra referenced didn’t pose as much of a problem for Hamilton, though he said he thought going into the race that it would be much harder.
“It went way better than I thought,” he said of his first-place finish.
Hamilton started out battling with McDonough near the lead, but trailing behind Soldotna’s Maleda Denbrock, who took an early first-place lead. Then came the big hill.
“I just cruised up that, took first (place) on that (hill),” Hamilton said. “And I just kept going with it.”
McDonough said his race with Hamilton was close all the way through.
“Maleda had a big lead on the uphill, but by the top both me and Joe reeled him in,” he said.
McDonough said having the competition the central peninsula runners bring is helping him improve.
“I feel I can do better now because I have more pacing,” he said.
Renner said she hadn’t expected to do as well as she did now that the central peninsula runners are back in the mix. Larger races are more nerve-wracking, she said.
“I was further in the back in the beginning of the race, but then later I caught up just because I was trying to keep up a good mile time,” she said of earning fourth place.
For Homer head coach Bob Ostrom, seeing his runners finish strong was a positive of the day.
“I like to see they’re running as a team,” he said. “… We’re getting used to it and they’re hitting (personal records) on a hard course, so that’s great.”
Girls JV team places: 1. Soldotna, 15 points.
Girls JV 5 kilometer race: 1. Summer Foster, Kenai Central, 25:51; 2. Megan Whittom, Soldotna, 27:21; 3. Carson Dement, Soldotna, 27:34; 4. Kaytlin McAnelly, Soldotna, 27:46; 5. Cecilia Fitzpatrick, Homer, 27:47; 6. Bryce Glidden, Homer, 28:20; 7. Avery Ciufo, Soldotna, 28:46; 8. Liberty Miller, Soldotna, 28:55; 9. Leah Dunn, Homer, 29:46; 10. Keegan Lorring, Soldotna, 32:17; 11. Betsy Moffett, Soldotna, 32:50; 12. Sonora Martin, Soldotna, 32:58; 13. Emily Hufford, Nikiski, 34:32; 14. Katie Nye, Soldotna, 46:40.
Boys JV team places: 1. Soldotna, 15 points; 1. Kenai Central High School, 43 points
Boys JV 5 kilometer race: 1. Finnley Loop, Soldotna, 20:57; 2. Alexander Dammeyer, Soldotna, 21:22:10; Carter Cannava, Soldotna, 21:22:66; 4. Trenton Boots, Soldotna, 22:09; 5. Andrew Cox, Soldotna, 22:12; 6. Jonah Mershon, Homer, 22:14; 7. Ben Boersma, Kenai Central, 22:50; 8. George Wright, Kenai Central, 23:41; 9. Jonathan Gordon, Soldotna, 23:49; 10. Robert Carson, Kenai Central, 25:26; 11. Koen Pace, Kenai Central, 25:46; 12. Lliam Boss-Harmon, Homer, 26:17; 13. Matthew Grybowski, Kenai Central, 26:18. 14. Boden Quiner, Nikiski, 28:03; 15. Blaine Hayes, Soldotna, 29:16; 16. Rory Gilmartin, Nikiski, 29:22; 17. Gavin Brennan, Soldotna, 29:23; 18. Nico Walker, 29:48; 19. Carter Kincaid, Soldotna, 30:25; 20. Garrett Ussing, Soldotna, 31:26.
Girls varsity team places: 1, Soldotna, 32; 2. Homer, 44; 3. Kenai, 48
Girls varsity 5 kilometer race: 1. Jayna Boonstra, Kenai Central, 20:45; 2. Erika Arthur, Soldotna, 21:41; 3. Jordan Strausbaugh, Soldotna, 23:07; 4. Frida Renner, Homer, 23:24; 5. Eryn Field, Homer, 23:29.190; 6. Emilee Wilson, Kenai Central, 23:29.640; 7. Elena Badajos, Homer, 23:34; 8. Sonia Montague, Soldotna, 24:20; 9. Katie Delker, Soldotna, 24:37; 10. Lucy Dammeyer, Soldotna, 24:42; 11. Emily Moss, Kenai Central, 25:00; 12. Leah Fallon, Kenai Central, 25:34; 13. Adelyn McCorison, Homer, 25:42; 14. Kaidence Schaeffer, Soldotna, 25:54; 15. Sylvia Clemens, Homer, 26:26; 16. Kara Super, Homer, 26:41; 17. Maddox Berg, Homer, 27:44; 18. Lynnea Hack, Kenai Central, 28:18; 19. Ashley Dahlman, Soldotna, 28:22; 20. Kaya Cox, Kenai Central, 28:42; 21. 11 Gabriella Tews, Kenai Central, 30:52.
Boys varsity team places: 1. Soldotna, 37; 2. Kenai, 38; 3. Homer, 50
Boys varsity 5 kilometer race: 1. Joe Hamilton, Kenai Central, 17:40; 2. Seamus McDonough, Homer, 17:44; 3. Maleda Denbrock, Soldotna, 17:53; 4. Gregory Fallon, Kenai Central, 18:11; 5. Nathanael Johnson, Soldotna, 18:31; 6. Quinn Cox, Soldotna, 18:38; 7. Jack Laker, Kenai Central, 18:53; 8. Tyler Hippchen, Kenai Central, 19:02; 9. Lance Seneff, Homer, 19:27.020; 10. Austin Cline, Homer, 19:27.390; 11. Sean Babitt, Soldotna, 19:30; 12. Tytus Gilbert, Soldotna, 19:34; 13. Adams Veldstra, Homer, 19:42.600; 14. Jeren Nash, Soldotna, 19:42.680; 15. Avery Willets, Soldotna, 19:56; 16. Garrett Briscoe, Homer, 20:05; 17. Damon Weisser, Homer, 20:21; 18. Ky Calvert, Kenai Central, 20:46; 19. Nathan Haakenson, Kenai Central, 20:53; 20. Zane Tews, Kenai Central, 21:35; 21. Mylan Johnson, Homer, 25:12.