Soldotna’s Cameron Blackwell skis to victory in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Cameron Blackwell skis to victory in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Candy Cane Scramble is Christmas on skis

Proper V2 technique and complex, expensive wax jobs can wait for the rest of the season.

The Candy Cane Scramble puts a premium on Christmas apparel and throwing beanbags into plastic garbage buckets.

The event was put on by the Soldotna ski team Friday at Tsalteshi Trails as a way for skiers to have some fun before dispersing for the holiday break.

“I think it was nice to do something involving Christmas,” said Soldotna senior Cameron Blackwell, who won the girls race. “So many people were wearing Santa hats and it was something we were doing just for fun.”

In order to avoid a penalty of 10 seconds, racers had to wear a Santa cap, holiday sweater or a Christmas costume.

The event also was about more than who could ski the three laps, amounting to a bit over 5 kilometers, the fastest.

After each of the first two laps, racers had to stop at the “shooting range,” where they had three tries to toss two beanbags into a garbage can. Racers had to ski one penalty loop if they made one beanbag, and two penalty loops if they didn’t put any in the bucket.

Boys winner Quinn Cox, a sophomore at Soldotna, used the format to his advantage.

“I didn’t miss any,” he said. “That’s the only reason I got where I did.”

Stars teammate Jack Harris just missed catching Cox at the line, but that was because Harris had to ski two penalty loops. Cox said Harris is the far better skier.

Cox won at 16 minutes, 5 seconds, while Harris was next at 16:06 and Soldotna’s Foster Boze was third at 16:32.

For all Cox knows, Harris may be the better tosser, as well.

“I think I just got lucky,” Cox said, when asked how he was able to drain all his shots.

Blackwell said she was in third place after the first lap, but avoided a penalty loop at the first tossing station and took the lead. At the second shooting station, Blackwell had to do two penalty loops, but her skiing was enough to carry the day.

Blackwell won with a time of 18:17, while Homer’s Zoe Stonorov was second at 18:43 and Kenai’s Jayna Boonstra was third at 19:03.

“They felt very fast,” Blackwell said of her skis. “I had good wax and they did a really good job of grooming the trails. It was icy a few days ago.”

Soldotna coach Isaac Erhardt said the unique format of the Candy Cane Scramble allows skiers like Cox and Blackwell to shine. Both won ski races for the first time.

While the trails were fast, the air was sitting at about 10 degrees. That meant skiers not only had to worry about dressing up for Christmas, but also dressing up to stay warm.

“I’m fine, except I can’t feel my face,” Cox told a friend immediately after crossing the finish line.

Erhardt said one of the nice things about the Candy Cane Scramble is that, although it is designed to be fun, athletes still have to learn how to race in winter conditions.

“There was a lot of learning how to race when it’s cold, even if it meant us running along going down hills telling kids to put their hands in front of their face when tucking,” Erhardt said. “Have a buff that pulls up to protect your nose and cheeks, and a hat that covers your ears.

“They also learned why it’s important to wear two pairs of long underwear under their Lycra and why it’s important to wear wind briefs.”

Erhardt said the final benefit of the Candy Cane Scramble is it shows the variety of opportunities Nordic skiing provides.

Beyond training and competition, the SoHi program tries to expose athletes to ski orienteering, biathlon and backcountry skiing. Cox even mentioned he’d like to try biathlon after high school.

Tsalteshi has a rich tradition in biathlon. Four-time Winter Olympian Jay Hakkinen got his start there, and Kenai Central graduate Travis Cooper currently competes on the World Cup circuit. Currently, the biathlon range sits unused.

“We already had a couple of parents asking after the race, ‘How come we aren’t doing biathlon at Tsalteshi?” Erhardt said.

Candy Cane Scramble

Friday at Tsalteshi Trails

Boys — 1. Quinn Cox, Sol, 16 minutes, 5 seconds; 2. Jack Harris, Sol, 16:06; 3. Foster Boze, Sol, 16:32; 4. Ryder Giesler, Sol, 16:53; 5. Nathan Haakenson, Ken, 17:02; 6. Tucker Mueller, Ken, 17:34; 7. Dylan Hogue, Sol, 17:49; 8. Jesper Strom, Sol, 17:53; 9. Johann Carranza, Ken; 10. Hunter Beck, Ken, 18:42; 11. Garrett Briscoe, Hom, 19:15; 12. Carter Cannava, Sol, 19:39; 13. Nathan Pitka, Sol, 19:40; 14. George Wright, Ken, 20:20; 15. Andrew Cox, Sol, 20:22; 16. Trenton Boots, Sol, 20:22.5; 17. Luke Cross, Ken, 20:27; 18. Matthew Grybowski, Ken, 20:58; 19. Marcus Dunham, Ken, 21:03; 20. Seamus McDonough, Hom, 21:34; 21. Kaden Matson, Sol, 22:24; 22. Jonathon Gordon, Sol, 24:11; 23. Ben Boersma, Ken, 24:16; 24. Justin Hanson, Sol, 24:21; 25. Wyatt Dement, Sol, 25:00.

26. Lorenzo Caola, 25:08; 27. Gavin Brennan, Sol, 26:01; 28. Alex Vidal, Ken, 31:10; 29. Josh Lynner, Sol, 31:38.

Girls — 1. Cameron Blackwell, Sol, 18:17; 2. Zoe Stonorov, Hom, 18:43; 3. Jayna Boonstra, Ken, 19:03; 4. Katie Delker, Sol, 19:13; 5. Leah Fallon, Ken, 19:14; 6. Jordan Ruffner, Sol, 19:15; 7. Jordan Strausbaugh, Sol, 19:38; 8. Summer Foster, Ken, 19:45; 9. Brita Restad, Hom, 20:08; 10. Gabbie Tews, Ken, 20:34; 11. Betsy Moffett, Ken, 22:32; 12. Emmy Reese, Sol, 22:34; 13. Carson Dement, Sol, 22:36; 14. Madelyn Barkman, Sol, 22:37; 15. Eryn Fields, Hom, 22:37; 16. Madison McDonald, Ken, 23:04; 17. Shelbie Naylor, Ken, 23:14; 18. Kara Super, Hom, 23:35; 19. Audrey Larson, 23:53; 20. Sonja Saleva, 25:07; 21. Alex Juliussen, Sol, 25:14; 22. Katie Creglow, Sol, 25:57; 23. Leah Dunn, 26:55; 24. Chloe Desbois, 26:56; 25. Chelsea Plagge, Ken, DNF.

Kenai Central’s Jayna Boonstra pushes to third place in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, June 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Jayna Boonstra pushes to third place in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, June 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Quinn Cox shows off the shooting form the brought him first place in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails near Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Quinn Cox shows off the shooting form the brought him first place in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails near Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Jack Harris leads racers up the first hill in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails near Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Jack Harris leads racers up the first hill in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails near Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Kata Suoer competes in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Kata Suoer competes in the Candy Cane Scramble on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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