Grace Christian senior Gabe Martin finishes off a victory in the junior-senior boys race at the Nikiski Class Races on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Grace Christian senior Gabe Martin finishes off a victory in the junior-senior boys race at the Nikiski Class Races on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Grace Christian sweeps Nikiski Class Races

Grace Christian is back at the Nikiski Class Races, and the Grizzlies are still really good.

The last time the perennial Division II state title contenders appeared at the meet at Nikiski High School was in 2012, when the Grizzlies took three of the four team titles.

On a windy Monday, Grace Christian took all four of the team titles.

The Grizzlies also had the top runner in the junior-senior boys race in senior Gabe Martin, but Kenai Peninsula schools did much better on the individual level. Soldotna freshman Jordan Strausbaugh won the freshman-sophomore girls race, Seward sophomore Max Pfeiffenberger won the freshman-sophomore boys race and Kenai Central senior Jaycie Calvert won the junior-senior girls race.

Grace Christian head coach Tara Edwards said a school event has been falling on the same day as the class races in recent years, but a shift in schedule allowed the Grizzlies to come this year.

The relentlessly hilly Nikiski course provides the toughest test runners will see all year, but Edwards said starting with such a trial plays right into her program’s strengths.

Edwards said her program sees being able to run as a gift from God, and the Grizzlies want to be good stewards of that gift.

“That translates into great work ethic,” she said.

Runners keep training logs with mileage goals based on gender and class, and this summer Edwards said 10 or 11 runners were able to meet their full mileage.

Martin capitalized on a solid summer of training to win the 5K junior-senior boys race in 17 minutes, 39 seconds, with teammate Luke Fritzel runner-up at 18:10.

After taking a week and a half off after track, Martin trained for the Mount Marathon Race in Seward, where he took 21st among junior boys. He then took a week off before training for cross-country.

Monday, Martin said he started conservatively before pulling ahead at about two kilometers.

“It’s pretty hilly,” Martin said of the Nikiski course. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. When we walked it, it was a lot worse.”

Calvert also used a solid summer of training to win her race in 20:47, with Grace’s Mazzy Jackson second at 21:38.

“I ran a lot and put in a lot of work this summer,” Calvert said. “I just want to have the best senior year possible for the team.”

This will be Kenai’s first season at Division II after dropping down from Division I, so the Grizzlies are now a rival for region and state supremacy.

“They’re awesome,” Calvert said. “They’re great competitors and great people to run with. We’ll have to work hard to compete with them.”

Seward also made a rare appearance at the class races, allowing Pfeiffenberger to take his title. Seahawks coach Aaron Sorensen said the program got off to a late start after he replaced Dan Marshall, who had led the team for 23 years.

The Seahawks would normally go to the Colony Invitational, which was Saturday, but waited until Monday to start their season, instead.

Pfeiffenberger also waited to take command of the race, moving swiftly through the pack in the middle portion to win at 19:09, while Grace’s Preston Wethington was second at 19:21. The Seward sophomore said he made his decisive move three kilometers into the race.

“I was just taking it easy the first K,” Pfeiffenberger said. “With all those hills, I conserved energy a little bit so I could push at the end.”

If one purpose of the class races is to put a microscope on summer training, another purpose is to let talented freshmen break out and shine. Strausbaugh filled that role Monday.

“I just wanted to get top eight,” she said. “I wanted to get a ribbon.”

Instead, she used short strides to conserve energy on the uphills, leaving her able to put time on the field on the downhills. She won at 22:17, while teammate Erika Arthur was second at 22:53.

The win had Strausbaugh looking at herself in a different light.

“I think I would like to make it to state,” she said. “I think I could be really good. I think I’m going to run for a long time.”

Nikiski Class Races

Monday at Nikiski High School

Freshman-sophomore girls

Team champion — Grace Christian.

5K results — 1. Jordan Strausbaugh, Sol, 22 minutes, 17 seconds; 2. Erika Arthur, Sol, 22:53; 3. Leah Fallon, Ken, 23:34; 4. Sophia Coverdell, Gra, 23:42; 5. Tessa Binder, Gra, 23:51; 6. Logan Satathite, Ken, 23:52; 7. Kiah Widener, Gra, 24:32; 8. Zaida Baldwin, Kotzebue, 24:46; 9. Ellie Burns, Sol, 25:06; 10. Reagan Lash, Gra, 25:25; 11. Hana Cooney, Sew, 25:29; 12. Gaia Casagranda, Sew, 25:40; 13. Melita Efta, Ken, 26:19; 14. Katie Stockton, Ken, 26:33; 15. Nia Calvert, Ken, 26:36; 16. Leah Hatch, Kot, 26:38; 17. Kaila Short, Kot, 27:10; 18. Gabbie Tews, Ken, 27:28; 19. Grace Gallahom, Kot, 27:51; 20. Faith Annett, Gra, 28:06; 21. Shelbi Naylor, Ken, 28:19; 22. Libbey Gionet, Gra, 28:51; 23. Carson Dement, Sol, 29:49; 24. Caitlin Crabb, Ken, 32:20; 25. Alexandra Martin, Kot, 33:57.

26. Emily Hufford, Nik, 37:39; 27. Starr Thomas, Kot, 39:39.

Freshman-sophomore boys

Team champion — Grace Christian.

5K results — 1. Max Pfeiffenberger, Sew, 19:09; 2. Preston Wethington, Gra, 19:21; 3. Anchor Musgrave, Sol, 19:47; 4. Cole Fritzel, Gra, 20:03; 5. Zachary Burns, Sol, 20:30; 6. Jonas Foster, Gra, 21:06; 7. Nate Johnson, Sol, 21:07; 8. Joe Hamilton, Ken, 21:16; 9. Aiden Zingone, Gra, 21:23; 10. Sam Koster, Sew, 21:37; 11. Levi DeBoard, Sew, 21:47; 12. Quinn Cox, Sol, 21:54; 13. Ezra Jones, Kot, 21:55; 14. Tytus Gilbert, Sol, 22:00; 15. Wyatt White, Ken, 22:42; 16. Connor Kiebs, Gra, 22:58; 17. Trenton Boots, Sol, 23:15; 18. Zakari Schwartz, Sol, 23:28; 19. Dom Wendall, Sol, 23:31; 20. Kenan Metzger, Gra, 23:43; 21. Eli Atkins, Kot, 24:10; 22. Garren Magestro, Gra, 24:20; 23. Johann Carranza, Ken, 24:22; 24. Keith Conwell, Kot, 24:23; 25. Coltrane Chase, Kot, 24:35.

26. Kaleb Boyce, Gra, 24:38; 27. Sam Paperman, Sew, 24:44; 28. Cody Bryden, Sew, 24:57; 29. Rory Nelson, Sol, 25:24; 30. Dylan Hogue, Sol, 26:09; 31. Blaine Hayes, Sol, 26:38; 32. Ryan Troyer, Kot, 27:02; 33. Adam Snow, Gra, 28:33; 34. Gavin Brennan, Sol, 29:17; 35. Ryan Crapps, Ken, 35:31; 36. Brady Evoy, Nik, 35:44.

Junior-senior girls

Team champion — Grace Christian.

5K results — 1. Jaycie Calvert, Ken, 20:47; 2. Mazzy Jackson, Gra, 21:38; 3. Grace Annett, Gra, 22:15; 4. Laura Ellis, Gra, 22:39; 5. Tanis Lorring, Sol, 22:55; 6. Brooke Satathite, Ken, 24:16; 7. Victoria Denison, Sol, 24:21; 8. Cameron Blackwell, Sol, 24:48; 9. Anna McLaughlin, Gra, 25:04; 10. Haley Buckbee, Sol, 27:00; 11. Alanna Conwell, Kot, 28:55; 12. Hayley Unrein, Sew, 29:13; 13. Kalista Rodriguez, Sew, 29:47; 14. Sophia Dow, Sew, 31:10; 15. Belle Wilson, Kot, 35:11.

Junior-senior boys

Team champion — Grace Christian.

5K results — 1. Gabe Martin, Gra, 17:39; 2. Luke Fritzel, Gra, 18:10; 3. Lance Chilton, Sol, 18:15; 4. Bradley Walters, Sol, 18:21; 5. Seth Kniegge, Gra, 18:59; 6. Paul Kopp, Gra, 19:22; 7. Warren Metzger, Gra, 19:40; 8. Vincent Coverdell, Gra, 19:41; 9. Kevin Leach, Gra, 20:26; 10. Jack Harris, Sol, 20:48; 11. Alvin Werneke, Kot, 20:50; 12. Luke Schaezlein, Gra, 21:02; 13. Jonathan Whitt, Gra, 21:13; 14. Evan Stockton, Ken, 21:36; 15. Trenton Nazuruk, Kot, 21:51; 16. Kaiden Conwell, 22:00; 17. John Moriarity, Sew, 22:37; 18. Tyler Neill, Sol, 23:16; 19. Wyatte Ricks, Gra, 23:54; 20. Kelly Thomas, Kot, 24:02; 21. Joseph Dammeyer, Sol, 24:08; 22. Wyatt Dement, Sol, 24:27; 23. Andrew Bezdecny, Ken, 24:35; 24. Tim Cashman, Sol, 24:50; 25. Romia (Kyler) Pritchett, Sol, 24:55.

26. Brian Stalker, Kot, 25:56; 27. Brock Kant, Sol, 25:57; 28. Erik Mills-Bain, Kot, 27:33; 29. Draven Olson, Sol, 27:40; 30. Jeremy DeVries, Gra, 28:26; 31. Michael Griesbaum, Gra, 41:48.

Seward sophomore Max Pfeiffenberger flows down a hill Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, en route to winning the freshman-sophomore boys race at the Nikiski Class Races at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward sophomore Max Pfeiffenberger flows down a hill Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, en route to winning the freshman-sophomore boys race at the Nikiski Class Races at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna juniors Lance Chilton and Bradley Walters relax at the front of the lead pack early in the boys junior-senior race Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at the Nikiski Class Races at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna juniors Lance Chilton and Bradley Walters relax at the front of the lead pack early in the boys junior-senior race Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at the Nikiski Class Races at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna freshman Jordan Strausbaugh leads a pack up a hill early in the freshman/sophomore girls race Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at the Nikiski Class Races at Nikiski High School. Strausbaugh would go on to win the race. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna freshman Jordan Strausbaugh leads a pack up a hill early in the freshman/sophomore girls race Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at the Nikiski Class Races at Nikiski High School. Strausbaugh would go on to win the race. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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