Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion James Butler (right) tags off to Kenai Central teammate Riana Boonstra to begin the second leg of Saturday's Kenai Klassic relays at the Tsalteshi Trails. Butler and Boonstra teamed up with Michaela Salzetti and Liam Floyd to win the 20-kilometer relay race.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion James Butler (right) tags off to Kenai Central teammate Riana Boonstra to begin the second leg of Saturday's Kenai Klassic relays at the Tsalteshi Trails. Butler and Boonstra teamed up with Michaela Salzetti and Liam Floyd to win the 20-kilometer relay race.

Kenai A team win Kenai Klassic ski relays

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

That phrase became reality last year when Liam Floyd and Riana Boonstra ended up as teammates on the Kenai Central cross-country running and skiing teams together after competing against each other as rivals in the Bering Strait School District.

During his middle school years, Floyd lived with his family in Nome while Boonstra lived with hers in Galena, and the two regularly raced against each other in their early years.

“We raced when we were in sixth and seventh grades, and she was really good then, too,” Floyd admitted.

Friday afternoon at the Tsalteshi Trails, Floyd and Boonstra teamed up with James Butler and Michaela Salzetti to score a dominating victory at the Kenai Klassic relays. The quartet covered the 20-kilometer course — five kilometers per skier — in a time of 1 hour, 10 minutes, 12 seconds, almost six minutes ahead of the runner-up Kenai team of Eric Kempf, Patrick Michaels, Ithaca Bergholtz and Katie Cooper.

The coed teams took off in one mass start, and by the time Butler came back into view on the first pass by on the Porcupine loop, the gap had already widened considerably. The course took racers out on Wolverine loop, made the bypass onto Porcupine, then returned back to Wolverine before heading up the difficult Goat hill. After cresting Goat and making the plunge back down, skiers finished off the course on Wolverine before tagging off to the next competitor.

With a thin snowpack groomed to the most ideal conditions possible, the trails were fast with 20-degree temperatures and a hard-packed base.

“The kick was good, I was able to stride all the way up Goat,” Boonstra said.

Boonstra was racing for the third time this year with full power under her. The Kenai sophomore suffered a severe allergic reaction around the Thanksgiving holiday that caused her right hand to swell to the point that surgery was required. The result was a hand that resembled more of a club that was unable to grip a ski pole.

Boonstra lost the bandaging shortly after Christmas, and since then has finished second on the high school circuit on two occasions to teammate Addison Gibson.

Being a coed relay, the event gave Floyd and Boonstra the opportunity to race with each other, not against each other. Floyd said he remembers seeing Boonstra show up at Kenai Central last year as a freshman, and the two instantly recognized each other.

“We got (to Kenai), and my sister and I were like, ‘Whoa! We remember you!’” Floyd recalled.

Floyd said the two never talked or hung out outside of ski meets, but the competition during races was fierce nonetheless.

The competition Friday? Not as fierce when dealing with the winning relay team. The third member of the squad, Salzetti, chalked up the win to a competitive but balanced Kardinals team.

“Kenai just has a lot of depth this year, there’s no one or two stars,” Salzetti said.

“We’ve all been on varsity for most of our high school careers,” Floyd added.

Butler opened the race by posting the fastest classic leg of the day, a 16 minute, 57 second, split that was a staggering 97 seconds quicker than the closest competitor, Hoxie Parks of Homer.

Boonstra then followed that up with the fastest girls classic leg of the day with a time of 19:23.

When Boonstra tagged off to Michaela Salzetti to commence the freestyle portion of the relay, the Kenai A team had built up a massive lead. With no other competition in sight, Salzetti skied a skate split of 18:51. The fastest girls skate leg was covered by Kenai teammate Katie Cooper in 18:01. Cooper was part of the runner-up team.

Salzetti then tagged off to Floyd, who recorded the fastest freestyle leg of the day in 15:01. SoHi sophomore Josh Shuler skied the second-fastest freestyle split with a 16:36.

With a few of the top names not racing Friday due to the upcoming Besh Cup races held in Homer on Saturday and Sunday, it also forced a few of the teams to mix with other schools in order to be able to field a full relay squad.

Homer’s A team finished third overall, just two minutes behind the second-place Kenai team, and Soldotna’s top relay came home fourth in 1:20:47, led by Mieka Chythlook, Jode Sparks, Brianna Bennett and Josh Shuler.

2016 Kenai Klassic

Friday at Tsalteshi Trails

1. Kenai A, 1:10:12 (Butler 16:57, Boonstra 19:23, Salzetti 18:51, Floyd 15:01); 2. Kenai B, 1:16:07 (Kempf 19:06, Bergholtz, 22:04, Michaels 16:52, Cooper 18:05); 3. Homer A, 1:18:08 (Ellert 22:33, Parks 18:34, Vantrease 19:00, Alward 18:01); 4. Soldotna A, 1:20:47 (Chythlook 23:15, Sparks 20:35, Bennet 20:21, Shuler 16:36); 5. Seward A, 1:23:04 (Kingsland 23:48, Lindquist 19:58, Estes 18:44, Lindquist 20:34); 6. Kenai C, 1:23:24 (Torkelson 19:45, Michaud 24:59, Lindeman 20:16, Debnum 18:24); 7. Homer B, 1:26:54 (Holmes 23:13, Kettle 23:01, Davis 19:57, Schultz 20:43); 8. Kenai D, 1:26:55 (Dull 21:27, Hollers 26:41, Olson 18:40, Floyd 20:07); 9. Soldotna C, 1:30:33 (Herr 23:06, Noetzold 26:03, Hendricks 22:44, Verg-in 18:40); 10. Soldotna B, 1:30:55 (Dammeyer 20:41, Delker 25:19, Hill 24:04, Wilson 20:51); 11. Kenai E, 1:38:14 (Thomas 25:16, Morrow 24:55, Janecek 24:37, Morton 23:26).

Mixed teams — 12. Homer/Kenai, 1:34:17 (Rauch 18:59, Doyle 30:17, Super 23:12, Pollock 21:49); 13. Seward/Kenai, 1:42:21 (Broughton 23:18, Moore 30:50, Cameron 20:09, Ticknor 28:05); 14. Kenai/Homer/Soldotna, 1:43:37 (Christianson 26:12, Salzetti 25:17, Syth 27:28, Altini 24:40); 15. Nikiski/Kenai, 1:57:19 (Minium 20:03, Young 31:35, Davis 36:04, Bowers 29:37).

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Kenai's Liam Floyd rounds a turn at Friday's Kenai Klassic relays at the Tsalteshi Trails. Floyd teamed up with James Butler, Riana Boonstra and Michaela Salzetti to win the relay race.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Kenai’s Liam Floyd rounds a turn at Friday’s Kenai Klassic relays at the Tsalteshi Trails. Floyd teamed up with James Butler, Riana Boonstra and Michaela Salzetti to win the relay race.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion A Soldotna skier arrives in the exchange zone at Friday's Kenai Klassic relays at the Tsalteshi Trails.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion A Soldotna skier arrives in the exchange zone at Friday’s Kenai Klassic relays at the Tsalteshi Trails.

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