The location and the weather changed, but the winners stayed mostly the same Tuesday at the Kenai Peninsula Borough cross-country meet in Seward.
The sunny, mountainous backdrop in Seward was a far cry from the persistent pour that saw puddles reach 1 foot deep one year ago at Tsalteshi Trails as Seward senior Hunter Kratz, Kenai Central junior Riana Boonstra and the Homer boys all repeated as borough champs.
The Kardinals nipped defending champ Homer by one point for the girls crown.
The boys race saw dominant victories by Kratz and the Homer boys team. Both finished second at the Class 1-2-3A state meet last season and have their eyes on the top prize this year.
Kratz pulled away from a pack of Homer runners after the first lap of a two-lap course that totaled three kilometers.
To comments in the finish chute like, “He just floats,” and, “He makes it so easy, you think you can do it, but you can’t,” the Seward senior came home in 10 minutes, 28 seconds. Jordan Beachy of Homer was second at 10:47.
Kratz said he was using the race to check his fitness heading into regions Sept. 26 and state on Oct. 1.
“My fitness is where it needs to be,” Kratz said. “It’s a mental game now.”
Kratz has gotten a huge assist this season from Matt Adams, the 2004 Class 1-2-3A champ for Seward. Adams is working in Cooper Landing, but Kratz said that on most days Adams drives all the way to Seward to run with the team.
“He’s been a great addition to the team,” Kratz said. “He’s probably the best runner to ever come out of Seward. It’s great he’s willing to drive 80 miles round-trip to help us out.”
Beachy led a string of four Mariners across the line, with Luciano Fasulo third in 10:52, Jared Brant fourth in 10:53 and Jacob Davis fifth in 10:54.
Charlie Menke then came in seventh for a tidy team score of 21 that topped runner-up Soldotna by 41 points.
The Mariners were second to Sitka at state last season. Because Homer and the Wolves never match up on the trails until state, and because it’s impossible to compare times on differing courses, the Mariners are left to battle amongst themselves.
The top four runners from Homer have all been finishing close together lately, and Beachy came out on top of the group Tuesday for just the second time all season.
“We’re trying to keep working hard in practice because we know what happened last year,” Beachy said. “It’s hard to compare times, but we know Sitka is going to be a strong team.”
Kenai Central’s Karl Danielson and Braden Olsen got in the top 10 with a sixth and an eighth, respectively, while Soldotna’s Josh Shuler and Koby Vinson were ninth and 10th, respectively. Aaron McCollum paced Nikiski at 25th.
While Kratz and Homer controlled the boys action, the girls race was marked by a big lead pack and a tight race for the team crown. As many as 10 runners were able to hang on to the front group for the first lap.
“Usually, there’s only three or four,” Boonstra said. “It felt like all the girls were running up there.”
Eventually, the field thinned to just three — Boonstra, Kenai Central sophomore Jaycie Calvert and Seward junior Ruby Lindquist.
Boonstra won the sprint to the finish at 12:33, with Calvert two seconds behind and Lindquist three seconds off the pace.
The race was similar to Friday’s Frank Diekgraeff Invitational in Seward, where Lindquist came out on top. In that five-kilometer race, Boonstra, with an eye on race strategy for state, went out hard and took the lead. But Lindquist steadily reeled her in, then passed her for good on an uphill less than a kilometer from the finish.
Tuesday, Boonstra went out slower, but again Lindquist executed a pass on that uphill. This time, Boonstra recovered to win the sprint finish for the sixth straight individual borough title for a Kenai runner.
“It was right where she passed me a few days ago,” Boonstra said. “I knew I had to stay with her because she has a good sprint finish.
“Winning that sprint at the end was a boost for my confidence.”
Lindquist also said the race continued to bolster her self-belief. Heading into the Friday race, she said she didn’t think she belonged in the class of Boonstra, who was runner-up at Class 4A state one year ago.
But pulling off the win Friday and the near miss Tuesday have her thinking differently.
“I’m super excited for regions and state,” she said. “I feel as good as I’ve ever felt.”
The Kenai girls bid to repeat as Class 4A state champs got a boost when the Kards edged Homer 33-34 for the borough title. Kenai hadn’t won boroughs since 2011. Other scorers for the Kardinals were Brooke Satathite in seventh, Ithaca Bergholtz in eighth and Addison Gibson in 15th.
The two-time defending Class 1-2-3A state champion Mariners received a fourth from Megan Pitzman, fifth from Audrey Rosencrans, sixth from Autumn Daigle, ninth from Haley Knott and 10th from Lauren Evarts.
Soldotna was paced by Kellie Arthur in 13th place.
Kenai Peninsula Borough
Tuesday in Seward
Team scores: 1. Homer, 21; 2. Soldotna, 62; 3. Seward, 72; 4. Kenai Central, 91.
Individual 3-kilometer results
1. Hunter Kratz, Sew, 10 minutes, 28 seconds; 2. Jordan Beachy, Hom, 10:47; 3. Luciano Fasulo, Hom, 10:52; 4. Jared Brant, Hom, 10:53; 5. Jacob Davis, Hom, 10:54; 6. Karl Danielson, Ken, 11:06; 7. Charlie Menke, Hom, 11:07; 8. Braden Olsen, Ken, 11:08; 9. Josh Shuler, Sol, 11:09; 10. Koby Vinson, Sol, 11:17; 11. Bill Rich, Hom, 11:19; 12. Denver Waclawski, Hom, 11:23; 13. John-Mark Pothast, Sol, 11:25; 14. Addison Downing, Sol, 11:30; 15. Zen Petrosius, Sew, 11:44; 16. Lance Chilton, Sol, 11:50; 17. Brendon McMurry, Sew, 11:58; 18. Bradley Walters, Sol, 12:00; 19. Jaden VanDyke, Sew, 12:13; 20. Sullivan Hause, Sol, 12:19; 21. Sean Verg-in, Sol, 12:19; 22. Bjorn Nilsson, Sew, 12:23; 23. Roman Hamner, Sew, 12:25; 24. Cy Dull, Ken, 12:26; 25. Aaron McCollum, Nik, 12:27.
26. Jaycob Goff, Ken, 12:39; 27. Alden Bookey, Ken, 12:56; 28. Ryder Butler, Ken, 13:04; 29. Bryan McCollum, Nik, 13:08; 30. Gavin Wallis, Nik, 13:15; 31. Joseph Yourkoski, Nik, 13:21; 32. Luke Beiser, Ken, 13:36; 33. Tucker Mueller, Ken, 14:23; 34. Triston Summers, Ken, 15:12; 35. Billy Morrow, Ken, 17:22; 36. Jacob Nabholz, Ken, 18:18.
Team scores: 1. Kenai Central, 33; 2. Homer, 34; 3. Seward, 72; 4. Soldotna, 97.
Individual 3-kilometer results
1. Riana Boonstra, Ken, 12:33; 2. Jaycie Calvert, Ken, 12:35; 3. Ruby Lindquist, Sew, 12:36; 4. Megan Pitzman, Hom, 12:48; 5. Audrey Rosencrans, Hom, 12:51; 6. Autumn Daigle, Hom, 13:01; 7. Brooke Satathite, Ken, 13:06; 8. Ithaca Bergholtz, Ken, 13:15; 9. Haley Knott, Hom, 13:23; 10. Lauren Evarts, Hom, 13:23; 11. Alex Moseley, Hom, 13:29; 12. EmmaLee Moore, Sew, 13:39; 13. Kellie Arthur, Sol, 13:41; 14. Katie Davis, Hom, 13:46; 15. Addison Gibson, Ken, 13:57; 16. Sadie Lindquist, Sew, 13:59; 17. Molly Erickson, Sol, 14:05; 18. Cameron Blackwell, Sol, 14:19; 19. Julie Wilson, Ken, 14:20; 20. Coral Petrosius, Sew, 14:27; 21. Tanis Lorring, Sew, 14:43; 22. Mackenzie Lindeman, Ken, 14:58; 23. Sophie Thomas, Sol, 15:24; 24. Emma Armond, Sew, 15:35; 25. Ally Chryss, Sew, 16:26.