The Class Races returned to Nikiski High School on Monday after not being held last season.
Nikiski lost its cross-country program in 2022, so the Kenai Central and Soldotna programs put together a dual meet at Tsalteshi Trails in place of the Class Races, which traditionally kick off the high school cross-country season on the Kenai Peninsula.
Kenai Central head coach Anna Widman, a former head coach at Nikiski, said she wanted to keep having the Class Races at Nikiski last year, but didn’t have enough time to make it happen.
“These trails are beautiful and amazing,” Widman said of the trails near Nikiski High School. “This is kind of a tradition for a lot of runners to have this course be the first race of the year.
“I thought we should definitely use these trails and take advantage of them.”
Widman thanked the Nikiski Community Recreation Center and Nikiski athletic director Dylan Hooper for assistance in holding the event.
Hooper said the Bulldogs do have athletes on a club team that ran in Monday’s community race. Hooper said the hope is that Nikiski restore the program for next season.
The victories went to Soldotna sophomore Tania Boonstra in the freshman-sophomore girls race, Homer sophomore Johannes Bynagle in the freshman-sophomore boys race, Soldotna junior Annie Burns in the junior-senior girls race and Kenai senior Greg Fallon in the junior-senior boys race.
Both Boonstra and Burns led a deep Soldotna girls team.
Boonstra ran the top girls time of the day at 21 minutes, 17 seconds, as SoHi claimed eight of the top 10 finishers in the freshman-sophomore girls race.
Freshman Katie DeBardelaben was second at 23:36, while sophomore Sophia Jedlicki was third at 23:52.
Boonstra won her first girls title at the Mount Marathon Race in Seward on July 4 and she said she kept up her training since then.
“I think we have a really good team this year,” she said. “We have a lot of new incoming freshmen, which is really fun.”
Burns won the junior-senior race in 24:34 as four of the top six were from Soldotna. SoHi senior Kaytlin McAnelly was second at 25:06, while Kenai senior Emily Moss was third at 25:25.
Even after doing three races in the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails this summer, Burns said she still was not ready for the sharp, constant hills of Nikiski.
She took it out conservative behind Moss. After Burns took the lead, McAnelly caught up for a bit before Burns pulled away late.
Burns said the race at Nikiski should help with the Ted McKenney Invitational coming up Saturday at Tsalteshi.
“That’s why I was grateful for this race, because I feel like it’s definitely harder than the Ted McKenney race,” she said.
Fallon finished at 17:13 in the junior-senior race to run the top boys time of the day. The next five runners were from Soldotna, led by Elijah Jedlicki at 20:20 and Finnley Loop at 20:24.
After finishing seventh in late May at the Division II state track meet in the bid to defend his 800-meter title, Fallon said he was motivated to train this summer like he’s never trained before.
“Also last cross-country season at state, I didn’t feel too good about,” Fallon said. “This year is just my redemption season.”
Fallon said he’s looking forward to seeing how he stacks up with other runners in the state Saturday at Tsalteshi, but the season is off to a good start.
“It’s a good time for Nikiski, because this course is really hilly,” he said.
In the freshman-sophomore boys race, Bynagle led a promising crop of young Mariners runners by winning at 19:09. Mariners sophomore Ethan Styvar was second at 19:40 as Homer put four in the top eight.
Seward freshman Ridge Conant posted the top finish for the Seahawks on the day by taking third in 20:30.
Bynagle said the race suited him perfectly, with his long legs easily eating up the downhills.
“I would definitely say our team is going do pretty well,” Bynagle said. “We don’t have a whole lot of upperclassmen, but we have a large chunk of sophomores and a couple speedy freshmen seem to be coming in.”
Homer coach Bob Ostrom added the boys have been consistent about coming to group runs this summer and some even attended Steens Mountain Running Camp in Oregon.
Class Races at Nikiski
Freshman-sophomore girls — 1. Tania Boonstra, Sol, 21 minutes, 17 seconds; 2. Katie DeBardelaben, Sol, 23:36; 3. Sophia Jedlicki, Sol, 23:52; 4. Sasha Brott, Sol, 25:11; 5. Juniper Ingalls, Sew, 25:19; 6. Valarie McAnelly, Sol, 25:26; 7. Kathryn Cox, Sol, 25:27; 8. Kylie Dickson, Sol, 25:42; 9. Indigo Leslie, Sew, 26:08; 10. Delanie Wagers, Sol, 26:30; 11. Claira Booz, Hom, 26:44; 12. Lucy Bamford, Sew, 27:22; 13. Campbell Kincaid, Sol, 27:43; 14. Shiloh Zichko, Sol, 27:46; 15. Teresa Fallon, Ken, 28:21; 16. Maren Bickling, Sew, 28:24; 17. Selah Brueckner, Sew, 29:06; 18. Dianna Wright, Ken, 29:33; 19. Nicole Dammeyer, Sol, 29:37; 20. Emily Anger, Sew, 32:40; 21. Amara Ransom, Sew, 33:45; 22. Lucia Carson, Ken, 34:21; 23. Aislyn Downum, Sol, 37:03; 24. Amanda Redman, Sol, 39:58; 25. Afton Roberts, Ken, 49:44; 26. Keria Larson, Sol, 52:56.
Freshman-sophomore boys — 1. Johannes Bynagle, Hom, 19:09; 2. Ethan Styvar, Hom, 19:40; 3. Ridge Conant, Sew, 20:30; 4. Isaiah Dickson, Sol, 20:38; 5. Jai Badajos, Hom, 20:39; 6. Tom Schwartz, Sol, 20:40; 7. Parker Richards, Sol, 20:48; 8. Tait Ostrom, Hom, 21:20; 9. Chase Laker, Ken, 22:05; 10. Olin Liljemark, Sew, 23:07; 11. Braze Cassidy, Sol, 23:19; 12. Lukas Renner, Hom, 23:21; 13. Paxton Roach, Sol, 23:23; 14. Riley Wagers, Sol, 23:38; 15. Aaron Fletcher, Sol, 24:47; 16. Johnny Wardas, Sol, 24:59; 17. Logan Cartwright, Ken, 25:08; 18. Landon Tinsley, Hom, 25:19; 19. Will Klein, Sol, 25:35; 20. Alex Fink, Sew, 25:38; 21. Joel Moss, Ken, 25:47; 22. Brody Linton, Sol, 25:48; 23. Briggs Cheeseman, Sol, 26:08.
Junior-senior girls — 1. Annie Burns, Sol, 24:34; 2. Kaytlin McAnelly, Sol, 25:06; 3. Emily Moss, Ken, 25:25; 4. Stella Dow, Sew, 25:35; 5. Anaulie Sedivy, Sol, 29:57; 6. Adele Tacey, Sol, 29:59; 7. Mya Taylor, Ken, 31:24; 8. Fox Coyle, Ken, 31:44; 9. Ainsley Boss-Harmon, Hom, 40:53.
Junior-senior boys — 1. Greg Fallon, Ken, 17:13; 2. Elijah Jedlicki, Sol, 20:20; 3. Finnley Loop, Sol, 20:24; 4. Levi Mickelson, Sol, 20:27; 5. Noble Cassidy, Sol, 21:03; 6. James Innes, Sol, 21:27; 7. Zane Tews, Ken, 21:39; 8. Harold Rudstrom, Sol, 22:19; 9. Jeren Nash, Sol, 23:05; 10. Alex Van Meter, Hom, 23:20; 11. Brendon Jones, Sol, 24:48; 12. Zachary Altringer, Hom, 25:43; 13. William Roberts, Ken, 25:51; 14. Lance Sego, Sol, 25:58; 15. Robert Carson, Ken, 27:15; 16. Benjamin Roberts, Ken, 27:51; 17. Elliot Hanson, Ken, 27:56; 18. Elias Bouschor, Sol, 28:27; 19. Hayden Hortsman, Sol, 39:15.