A senior’s desire and a skier’s aerobic engine has Kenai Central’s Addison Gibson ready to put her junior season of cross-country behind her.
As a sophomore, Gibson finished 11th at the Class 4A state meet to help the Kardinals to the first state team title in program history, but last season Gibson slipped to 35th as the Kards lost their hold on the crown.
But on a sun-splashed Monday, Gibson started her senior season by winning the junior-senior race at the Nikiski Class Races at Nikiski High School.
Other race winners were Kodiak’s Brenden Thompson for the junior-senior boys, Homer’s Brooke Miller for the freshmen-sophomore girls and Kenai Central’s Maison Dunham for the freshmen-sophomore boys.
Kodiak swept the boys team championships, while Kenai won the junior-senior girls and Soldotna won the freshmen-sophomore girls.
Gibson finished the punishing 5K — commonly mentioned as the toughest course of the season — at 21 minutes, 58 seconds.
Teammate Jaycie Calvert was runner-up at 22:32, while Homer’s Alex Moseley was third at 22:52 and Kenai’s Brooke Satathite gave the Kards three of the top four by running 23:31.
“I know last year I wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Gibson said. “It’s my senior year and I want to go out with a bang.”
Gibson focused on cross-country ski training this summer, going to Alaska Nordic Racing sessions in Chugiak and even attending a Regional Elite Group Camp in July at Hatcher Pass.
“It definitely has carried over into running,” Gibson said. “I wasn’t expecting it to that much, but it definitely helped a lot.”
Calvert said it’s nice to see Gibson back with the top runners.
“It’s always great to have teammates pushing each other,” she said.
With all the scoring runners back from the state title team two years ago, the Kards are ready to chase a third straight Region III title and make a run at a state title.
If the performances of Riana Boonstra and Ithaca Berholtz in the community race are included, Kenai’s next four runners were all within a minute and 33 seconds of Gibson.
“We are hoping to do that again,” Gibson said of winning state. “We really want to fight for it.
“Everyone is planning on going really hard this season.”
Kenai’s fight to get on top and stay on top for just a few years helps to put the success of the Kodiak boys in perspective.
The Bears have won 15 straight Region III team titles and 11 straight individual boys championships.
Monday, Kodiak showed it has every intention of continuing the streaks with Thompson’s win in the junior-senior boys race and the sweep of the boys team titles.
“We’re just a different breed of people down there,” Thompson said. “We’re always going to get out there and work hard, whether it’s raining or snowing, though I guess you could say that of Alaska in general.”
Homer’s Jacob Davis jumped to the early lead, but midway through the race, Thompson noticed Davis was struggling on an uphill.
“I went by him and thought, ‘This is my chance,’” Thompson said.
Davis said he is normally fine on uphills, but that Monday was different.
“He found my weak spot,” Davis said. “He got by me and I couldn’t make it up.”
Like Kodiak, Homer is trying to replace key runners and maintain a tradition of excellence. The girls won their third straight Class 1-2-3A state title last season, while the boys won their first.
The Mariners also have a new coach in Annie Ridgely.
“There’s a lot of new faces, for sure,” Davis said. “There will be some adjustments, but we want to keep having success.”
Fresh talent like Miller will help with that. Miller, a freshman, won the freshmen-sophomore girls race in 22:55, defeating runner-up Carly Glover of Kodiak by 50 seconds.
Miller said she didn’t win any big races in middle school, so Monday’s result was a surprise.
“I was just going to try and run as well as I could, and try not to stop and walk,” she said. “Don’t look behind me, just keep running.”
Miller’s teammates had her ready for the course.
“It was pretty hilly and hard,” she said. “A lot of people were telling me it was the worst course, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected.”
Unlike Miller, Kenai freshman Maison Dunham earned some running fame in middle school, so Dunham said he felt a little pressure to perform Monday.
In the spring, Dunham broke both the 800- and 1,600-meter records at the Kenai Peninsula Borough middle school track meet.
After doing some Salmon Run Series events this summer, Dunham figured he would run about 19:30 on Monday and possibly lose to Soldotna’s Bradley Walters, but Dunham ran 18:25 to the 18:58 of Walters.
“We’ve been running hard the last two weeks of practice and that helped a lot,” he said.
Nikiski Class Races
Friday at Nikiski High School
Team champion — Soldotna.
Five-kilometer results — 1. Brooke Miller, Hom, 22 minutes, 55 seconds; 2. Carly Glover, Kod, 23:45; 3. Shine Carey, Hom, 24:46; 4. Cameron Blackwell, Sol, 25:03; 5. Erika Arthur, Sol, 25:44; 6. Isabella Dammeyer, Sol, 27:05; 7. Sonora Martin, Sol, 27:58; 8. Kaya Cox, Ken, 29:02; 9. Irina Ivanov, Voz, 29:47; 10. Acacia Birbilas, Kod, 32:20; 11. Eve Downing, Sol, 34:23; 12. Harmony Davidson, Hom, 35:27; 13. Anahi Ochoa, Hom, 35:30; 14. Shaylyn Stroman, Nik, 35:55.
Team champion — Kenai Central.
Five-kilometer results — 1. Addison Gibson, Ken, 21:58; 2. Jaycie Calvert, Ken, 22:32; 3. Alex Moseley, Hom, 22:52; 4. Brooke Satathite, Ken, 23:31; 5. Maddie Christiansen, Kod, 23:38; 6. Kellie Arthur, Sol, 25:24; 7. Sarah Drury, Ken, 25:31; 8. Chandra Christiansen, Kod, 25:37; 9. Maria Salzetti, Ken, 25:41; 10. Ella Raisley, Kod, 26:24; 11. Dareena Doyle, Ken, 27:15; 12. Sophie Thomas, Sol, 28:03; 13. Sarah Teuber, Kod, 28:13; 14. McKenna Foster, Sol, 29:02; 15. Hannah Villaroya, Kod, 29:22; 16. Naomi Daniher, Kod, 30:00; 17. Ashleigh Herr, Ken, 31:42; 18. Elizabeth Lisenby, Sol, 31:49; 19. Kyaran Matturro, Ken, 32:48; 20. Faena Basargin, Voz, 37:32; 21. Suzanne LaBelle, Port Graham, 37:33.
Team champion — Kodiak.
Five-kilometer results — 1. Maison Dunham, Ken, 18:25; 2. Bradley Walters, Sol, 18:58; 3. Braxton Gruner, Kod, 19:36; 4. Riley Birbilas, Kod, 20:26; 5. Noah Blackmon, Kod, 20:47; 6. Tucker Mueller, Ken, 21:28; 7. Lars Hanson, Kod, 21:39; 8. Keith Bruce, Kod, 21:51; 9. Colt Hubert, Kod, 22:25; 10. Travis Coffey, Hom, 22:42; 11. Michael Hardy, Kod, 23:05; 12. Malachi Joseph, Port Graham, 23:34; 13. Tristen Klier, Kod, 23:35; 14. Brian McCollum, Nik, 23:43; 15. Omar Llamos, Kod, 24:05; 16. Andrew Bezdecny, Ken, 24:46; 17. Tristan Summers, Ken, 24:52; 18. Eyoab Knapp, Hom, 25:25; 19. Gareth Jones, Kod, 27:01; 20. Cole Scott, Kod, 27:41.
Team champion — Kodiak.
Five-kilometer results — 1. Brenden Thompson, 18:30; 2. Jacob Davis, Hom, 18:50; 3. Sean Verg-in, Sol, 19:04; 4. Camrin Yturbe, Kod, 19:10; 5. Youji Seto, Kod, 19:11; 6. Paul Winegeart, Kod, 19:16; 7. Denver Waclawski, Hom, 19:21; 8. Karl Danielson, Ken, 19:38; 9. Gabe Nummer, Kod, 19:41; 10. Bechler Metcalf, Sol, 20:49; 11. Rafael Bitanga, Kod, 20:50; 12. Josh Alonzo, Kod, 23:30; 13. Matthew Wald, Kod, 24:51; 14. Aaron McCollum, Nik, 25:11; 15. Joseph Dammeyer, Sol, 25:14; 16. Andy Super, Hom, 25:32; 17. Hunter Fitt, Ken, 26:47; 18. Ben Wilson, Sol, 27:38; 19. Brock Kant, Sol, 27:55; 20. Jacob Nabholz, Ken, 32:42; 21. Solomon Himelbloom, Kod, 32:57.