The Kenai Central cross-country team swept a dual meet from Soldotna on Wednesday at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna.
The two teams were originally supposed to attend the Homer Invitational on Friday. Todd Boonstra, Kenai’s cross-country coach, said the meet was recently moved from Saturday to Friday. The two schools were unable to come up with the buses to attend.
With flatter and shorter races coming up on the schedule, like the Anchorage Christian Schools Invite and Palmer Invite, a 3.5-kilometer dual race was put together on some of the flattest trails Tsalteshi has to offer.
Jayna Boonstra led the Kenai girls to a 23-32 victory by taking first place, while Jack Laker won to pace the Kenai boys to a 26-29 win.
Boonstra, a junior, and Soldotna senior Jordan Strausbaugh have raced many times over the years, with Boonstra usually winning.
“I came into this thinking it was going to be really close,” Strausbaugh said. “Every time we race, she usually ends up passing me about 3K.”
When told of Strausbaugh’s prerace notion, Boonstra, who prefers longer and hillier races, said: “I was thinking the same thing.”
Both were right.
The duo was together the entire race, exchanging the lead the whole time. Boonstra was able to edge Strausbaugh at the finish, with both getting times of 13 minutes, 43 seconds.
“It was nice being able to run together,” Boonstra said. “To push each other meant a lot.”
Both runners agreed the distance was perfect to encourage speed. Strausbaugh said she finished with a pace of 6:20 per mile, far better than her best of 6:45 per mile this season in a 5K.
“I think it was actually a really good learning experience,” Strausbaugh said. “My pace was so much faster than a 5K, and this was only a kilometer and a half shorter.”
Like Boonstra, Laker said he prefers the 5K distance. His strategy was to get out in front as quick as possible and avoid sprint finishes with the talented closers behind him.
Laker won at 12:09. That meant he had no part in the three-man dash for second place involving Soldotna’s Nathanael Johnson, and Kenai’s Joe Hamilton and Tyler Hippchen.
Johnson, who won the 400 meters at the Division I state track meet last spring, took second at 12:26, while Hamilton was third at 12:27 and Hippchen was fourth at 12:31.
“It was better than a 5K for me,” Johnson said. “I could open up my stride a little more.”
Johnson said he is using cross-country mostly to stay in shape to try and achieve some big goals in track.
“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I don’t want to lose a race,” said Johnson, also fifth in the 800 at state. “I’m not saying I should win every race, that’s just my goal.”
Johnson said he has a winter plan of weight lifting, swimming, running on a treadmill and flexibility exercises to try and meet his goal.
Kenai-Soldotna dual meet
Wednesday at Tsalteshi Trails
Kenai girls 23, Soldotna 32
1. Jayna Boonstra, Ken, 13 minutes, 43 seconds; 2. Jordan Strausbaugh, Sol, 13:43; 3. Leah Fallon, Ken, 14:31; 4. Emilee Wilson, Ken, 14:55; 5. Summer Foster, Ken, 15:01; 6. Jordan Ruffner, Sol, 15:18; 7. Kaytlin McAnelly, Sol, 15:34; 8. Kaidence Shaeffer, Sol, 16:10; 9. Sonia Montague, Sol, 16:42; 10. Mya Taylor, Ken, 16:48; 11. Megan Wittom, Sol, 16:49; 12. Gabbie Tews, Ken, 16:52; 13. Carson Dement, Sol, 16:57; 14. Ariana Cannava, Sol, 17:15; 15. Avery Cuifo, Sol, 17:23; 16. Ashley Dahlman, Sol, 17:54; 17. Adele Tacey, Sol, 17:59; 18. Leanne Gordon, Sol, 18:49; 19. Lynnea Hack, Ken, 20:28; 20. Elia Ortiz Diez, Ken, 22:50; 21. Haewon Hong, Sol, 30:19; 22. Dady Thisakulwong, Sol, 30:40; 23. Katie Nye, Sol, 41:22.
Kenai boys 26, Soldotna 29
1. Jack Laker, Ken, 12:09; 2. Nathanael Johnson, Sol, 12:26; 3. Joe Hamilton, Ken, 12:27; 4. Tyler Hippchen, Ken, 12:31; 5. Quinn Cox, Sol, 12:42; 6. Jonathan Gordon, Sol, 12:44; 7. Levi Mickelson, Sol, 13:05; 8. Armands Vekjses, Ken, 13:05; 9. Avery Willets, Sol, 13:14; 10. Nathan Haakenson, Ken, 13:30; 11. Trenton Boots, Sol, 13:40; 12. Robert Carson, Ken, 13:47; 13. Zane Tews, Ken, 14:05; 14. Andrew Cox, Sol, 14:05; 15. Carter Cannava, Sol, 14:36; 16. Zane Pellegrom, Ken, 14:43; 17. Finnley Loop, Sol, 14:54; 18. Tusstin Keller, Sol, 15:03; 19. Gauge Gunning, Sol, 15:26; 20. Elijah Cooper, Ken, 15:41; 21. Elliot Hanson, Ken, 17:50; 22. Trenton Towarak, Sol, 17:51; 23. Joe Holt, Sol, 17:52; 24. Eli Castro, Ken, 18:26; 25. Ollie Boersma, Sol, 18:42; 26. Caleb Wohlers, Sol, 18:43; 27. Carter Kincaid, Sol, 19:00; 28. Ryan Jennissen, Sol, 20:57.