The top two finishers in each race of Saturday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough School District skiing championships were well acquainted with each other prior to the start. The event was just another chapter in the seasonlong battle for supremacy.
The borough ski races, held at a sun-splashed but cold Tsalteshi Trails, featured two tightly contested races, with the boys varsity event coming down between Soldotna junior Koby Vinson and Kenai Central junior Karl Danielson, and the girls varsity race contested by juniors Riana Boonstra of Kenai and Ruby Lindquist of Seward.
In the end, Vinson and Boonstra claimed victory.
Vinson’s triumph spurred the SoHi boys to the team championship with a total team time of 1 hour, 35 minutes, 52 seconds, almost eight minutes ahead of the Kenai boys. The Stars packed in five racers in the top nine, as Jeremy Kupferschmid finished third, Addison Downing took fourth, Josh Shuler was sixth, Jack Harris was ninth, Joseph Dammeyer was 11th and Jode Sparks was 14th.
Boonstra’s win helped the Kenai girls win the team race with a total time of 2:05:05, over 11 minutes ahead of SoHi. The Kardinals placed three skiers in the top eight. Boonstra was followed by fifth-place Katie Cooper, eighth-place Maria Salzetti, 12th-place Dareena Doyle and 16th-place Mickinzie Ticknor.
With a full winter’s worth of solid skiing on bountiful snow and six rounds of Besh Cup races — which hold longer endurance races — under their belt, the fastest skiers of the peninsula are raring to go as the high school begins to wrap up.
“I’ve gotten a good feel with some of the longer races,” Vinson said. “Today actually felt easier.”
Both Vinson and Danielson, as well as Boonstra and Lindquist, have racked up top finishes throughout the ski season.
Vinson won the boys varsity race by 4.9 seconds over Danielson, a fellow Besh Cup racer. Vinson completed the 7.4-kilometer course in 22 minutes, 58 seconds, waging a war the entire time with a Kenai rival that has lasted most of the season.
Vinson said the colder temperatures that moved in over the previous few days made for a slower snow surface, as colder snow tends to gain friction and lose slipperiness compared to warmer snow.
“It kind of changed the structure of the snow, it made it pretty slow,” Vinson said. “Instead of a longer stride, you have to make it a bit more choppy. It just takes more endurance.”
Boonstra broke open a close race with Lindquist with a healthy surge up the Goat uphill, a long slog that made life difficult for skiers in the second half of the race. Boonstra opened up a gap and beat Lindquist to the finish line by 42.2 seconds, winning with a time of 27:29.
“Ruby’s been doing really good this year, so it was really fun to have her with me most of the way,” Boonstra said.
Lindquist, a natural runner who has made large strides in her ski racing this season, said the revamped focus on skiing has explained her burst in performance.
Boonstra, meanwhile, lost an additional week after the prep cross-country season to race at the George Fox Invitational in Oregon.
It helped keep Lindquist within striking range of Boonstra for much of the race, until the daunting Goat climb appeared.
“I tried to keep her in sight until then,” Lindquist said. “I was thinking of that the entire time, don’t waste my energy for the big hill, and the hill came and I forgot how big it actually was.”
Boonstra said once she was able to shake Lindquist, the lead was more manageable.
“In Seward, she was pretty close to me too, so I wanted to keep the lead the whole time,” Boonstra said. “(The) Seward (course) was more up, down, up, down. This course has steeper uphills.”
Once the two leaders reached the Goat uphill in the boys race, Vinson said that’s where Danielson pounced. The Kenai racer passed his SoHi rival and kept the lead until the two hit the last big uphill on the Beaver loop, when Vinson surged back into the lead just half a kilometer from the finish.
From there, Vinson warded off any last-gasp effort from Danielson to win.
With the region and state meets approaching, Vinson said he would like to help the SoHi boys team win a third straight Region III crown, then finish as high as they can at the state meet.
The Kenai girls are also looking for a third straight Region III title, which Boonstra said she believes the team can attain.
Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
Team scores — 1. Soldotna, 1:35:52; 2. Kenai Central, 1:43:23; 3. Homer, 1:51:39.
Individual — 1. Koby Vinson, Sol, 22:58; 2. Karl Danielson, Ken, 23:02; 3. Jeremy Kupferschmid, Sol, 23:58; 4. Addison Downing, Sol, 24:04; 5. Jacob Davis, Hom, 24:05; 6. Josh Shuler, Sol, 24:50; 7. Patrick Michels, Ken, 24:53; 8. Eric Kempf, Ken, 25:42; 9. Jack Harris, Sol, 27:21; 10. Hoxie Parks, Hom, 28:31; 11. Joseph Dammeyer, Sol, 28:31; 12. Logan Smith, Sew, 28:41; 13. Denver Waclawski, Hom, 29:03; 14. Jode Sparks, Sol, 29:09; 15. Josh Foster, Ken, 29:44; 16. Eric Super, Hom, 29:59; 17. Matthew Minium, Nik, 30:00; 18. Billy Morrow, Ken, 30:18; 19. Jedidiah Christianson, Sew, 35:28.
Team scores — 1. Kenai Central, 2:05:05; 2. Soldotna, 2:16:17.
Individual — 1. Riana Boonstra, Ken, 27:29; 2. Ruby Lindquist, Sew, 28:11; 3. Katie Holmes, Hom, 29:07; 4. Autumn Daigle, Hom, 29:26; 5. Katie Cooper, Ken, 30:43; 6. Katie Davis, Hom, 30:48; 7. Sadie Lindquist, Sew, 30:56; 8. Maria Salzetti, Ken, 31:23; 9. Kellie Arthur, Sol, 31:40; 10. Cameron Blackwell, Sol, 32:40; 11. Hannah Delker, Sol, 34:54; 12. Dareena Doyle, Ken, 35:27; 13. Selby Hill, Sol, 37:01; 14. Emmalee Moore, Sew, 38:07; 15. Eve Downing, Sol, 38:45; 16. Mickinzie Ticknor, Ken, 38:53; 17. Kealy Hendricks, Sol, 41:50.