The short Alaska summers don’t leave a lot of time for golf on the local courses of the central Kenai Peninsula, but Friday’s Kenai Klassic high school skiing event at Kenai Golf Course amidst whiteout conditions made use of two things — the new snow and the greens.
On the heels of three consecutive paltry winters, the 2016-17 season has not disappointed, and Friday afternoon gave snow geeks something for which to cheer. The Kenai Central, Soldotna, Nikiski, Homer and Seward ski teams all convened on the Kenai Golf Course to battle against each other and the elements, which featured near-blizzard conditions at times.
In the end, Kenai Central junior Ithaca Bergholtz and Soldotna junior Josh Shuler emerged victorious. Bergholtz crossed the line 90 seconds ahead of Homer’s Katie Holmes to win the 8.8-kilometer girls varsity race, while Shuler won the 10K varsity boys race by 48 seconds over Kenai’s Eric Kempf, who just nipped teammate Patrick Michels at the finish line for second place.
“The skate skiing was a little harder because the snow was on top of your skis,” Bergholtz said of the challenging conditions. “For the classic skiing, I was done and I just started running it.”
The race was completed in skiathlon format, meaning a pit stop midway through the race was required for racers to make a switch from classic-prepared skis to skate skis. Once racers entered the exchange zone, they were directed to their respective zone marked by signs with their school name.
Bergholtz overcame a slower stop in the exchange zone to win the girls race. Bergholtz hit the halfway point to change into her skate skis ahead of Kardinals teammate Katie Cooper, but it was Cooper who got out of the exchange area first and back out onto the powdery trails first.
Bergholtz eventually reeled Cooper back in and passed her.
“The snow was getting in my face at some points so I couldn’t actually tell where the trail was,” Bergholtz said.
In the boys race, Shuler simply bided his time before making his move. As the fat snowflakes continued to saturate the course, the boys field had to slog through an even deeper snowpack than the girls traversed.
After the start, Shuler sat in third place, behind the Kenai duo of Patrick Michels and Eric Kempf. It wasn’t until well into the second half of the classic portion that Shuler decided to make a bid for the lead.
“That was one of the most strategic races,” Shuler said. “We had to let other people break trail for you, and it was a long race so pacing really mattered.”
Shuler entered the exchange zone with a pack of four other racers in tow, and got out in front with a quick change.
Shuler also said that several teammates of his that opted to skip Friday’s race were on hand to help. When the varsity racers decided to skip Friday’s event to prepare for the weekend’s Besh Cup races at the Tsalteshi Trails, it gave them a new job. Guinea pig. The Besh Cup racers that were not racing Friday at the golf course helped prepare the skis of fellow teammates.
Shuler praised his teammates’ hand in tackling the tricky conditions.
“It was just (came down to) lifting your skis up and it was a little slower because of the new snow,” he said. “There were some spots you broke through with your poles.”
SoHi graduate Fox finishes 2nd at Besh Cup sprint
Soldotna High School graduate and current University of Alaska Anchorage skier Sadie Fox finished second in the 16 and over women’s freestyle sprint Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna.
Fox, who won her seminal and quarterfinal and had the second-fastest qualifying time, was second behind Heidi Booher. In the B final, Kenai Central’s Addison Gibson was able to claim fourth place. Also from the area, Kenai Central’s Riana Boonstra was 29th and Soldotna’s Kellie Arthur was 39th.
In the 16 and over men’s final, Tracen Knopp notched the victory, while Kenai Central’s Karl Danielson was fourth. Soldotna’s Koby Vinson, Jeremy Kupferschmid and Addison Downing were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Danielson qualified fourth, Vinson qualified 12th, Kupferschmid qualified 16th, Downing qualified 24th, Kachemak’s Caleb Rauch qualified 43rd, Homer’s Jacob Davis qualified 51st, Soldotna’s Joseph Dammeyer qualified 65th and SoHi’s Tyle Owens qualified 77th.
Rauch was fourth in the 16 and under A final.
Besh Cup racing continues Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails with interval classic races beginning at 11 a.m.
Friday at Kenai Golf Course
GIRLS — 1. Ithaca Bergholtz, Ken, 42 minutes, 3 seconds; 2. Katie Holmes, Hom, 43:33; 3. Katie Cooper, Ken, 43:44; 4. Cameron Blackwell, Sol, 44:01; 5. Maria Salzetti, Ken, 44:35; 6. Sadie Lindquist, Sew, 44:46; 7. Autumn Daigle, Hom, 45:15; 8. Molly Erickson, Sol, 45:25; 9. Hannah Delker, Sol, 47:40; 10. Mia Alexson, Hom, 48:04; 11. Anya Danielson, Ken, 48:22; 12. Selby Hill, Sol, 48:55; 13. Sophie Thomas, Sol, 54:29; 14. Kealy Hendricks, Sol, 54:31.
BOYS — 1. Joshua Shuler, Sol, 43:52; 2. Eric Kempf, Ken, 44:40; 3. Patrick Michels, Ken, 44:40; 4. Denver Waclawski, Hom, 45:30; 5. Jode Sparks, Sol, 45:40; 6. Jack Harris, Sol, 46:12; 7. Joseph Dammeyer, Sol, 46:51; 8. Bradley Walters, Sol, 47:00; 9. Trevor Debnam, Ken, 47:08; 10. Cooper Nelson, Sol, 48:18; 11. Matthew Minium, Nik, 48:54; 12. Tyle Owens, Sol, 48:55; 13. Logan Smith, Sew, 49:14; 14. Cy Dull, Ken, 50:49; 15. Josh Foster, Ken, 51:37; 16. Billy Morrow, Ken, 52:43; 17. Egor Sturdy, Sew, 56:41; 18. Eric Super, Hom, 57:47.