Local SST program attracts Outside attention

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna senior Annie Quinn makes her mark in the vertical challenge Wednesday night at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna senior Annie Quinn makes her mark in the vertical challenge Wednesday night at Kenai Central High School.

The rising success of the Speed and Strength Training program among the local Kenai Peninsula high schools has begun to grow and attract Outside attention from fitness professionals.

The cameras and tweaked format Wednesday night on Cliff Massie court at Kenai Central High School were proof of that.

With some of the best athletes that Kenai Central, Soldotna and Nikiski have to offer, Wednesday’s competition provided another reason why SST is the best thing since sixth-grade P.E. class.

“Kids love it, they get competitive, they eat it up,” said Todd Widman from the sidelines of the event.

Widman, a 38-year-old from Missoula, Montana, is a Crossfit HQ Seminar staff member who first visited Alaska several years ago when the SST program was in its infancy.

With the help of David Tittle of Boulder, Colorado, Widman has provided a hand in bringing the sport of CrossFit into the SST competitions, and was in attendance Wednesday as he watched the various coaches from Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski encourage their athletes.

The SST curriculum is the brainchild of Soldotna coach Eric Pomerleau and Kenai Central coach Jeff Baker. Pomerleau arrived at Skyview High School in 2009 and brought with him the idea of SST, which was already loosely based on the CrossFit concept.

Since 2013, the program has increasingly turned adolescent heads to fitness.

“It’s disgusting how the first thing to go with budget cuts is usually P.E. class,” Widman said about the state of physical education in the country. “Then we wonder why obesity is such a problem.

“My goal is to have every school doing this.”

Widman has helped teach the procedures of coaching CrossFit to both young and old people, using the CrossFit platform to bring many coaches on the peninsula to a Level 1 certification. The highest level is 4.

Tittle roamed the court Wednesday at Kenai getting footage for a promotional video expected to be produced online in a few short months, and he was able to catch a lot of action.

In one corner of the gym, athletes tried to outdo each other in the vertical leap, reaching high to a towering bar filled with plastic appendages, while another corner saw them competing in the standing broad jump, measured with tape on the floor.

On the opposite side of the gym were the kneel jumps, which challenges kids to jump onto a stack of weights from a praying position, and in the middle of the gym was the “I” test, a timed challenge which imitates the “suicides” routine that measures acceleration and agility. Athletes must sprint to touch a spot on the ground, then reverse course to touch another spot several meters away, then return to the original starting point.

The 40-yard dash was being held in the Kenai hallway as well.

The final event of the night brought the popular “Fight Gone Bad” challenge. This time, it included two separate events on each side of the gym. On one end was a line of weighted plates that athletes had to fall and touch their hands in a plank position, then leap up and touch their toes to.

After a set of toe touches, the participants had to run across the gym to the far wall, where they were met with heavy medicine balls that they tossed into the air, connecting on a spot high up on the wall.

The overall boys winner of the Fight Gone Bad, Kenai sophomore Jacob Anderson, said the SST curriculum has helped to sculpt him into a better wrestler.

“It definitely helps to build a greater explosiveness,” Anderson said. “It’s a lot more cardiovascular exercise so it helps with my endurance.”

Anderson nearly won the Fight Gone Bad challenge the previous time in the biannual SST series, but missed first place after he had trouble finding the right medicine ball to use.

“This one was better tonight,” he said.

Jarett Wilson of Kenai finished second among the 9th- and 10th-graders, while Jace Kornstad of Nikiski was third.

Brenner Furlong of Soldotna, hot off a five-touchdown performance in the medium-schools state football championship, won the 11th- and 12th-grade Fight Gone Bad, while Kenai’s Braden Olsen was second and Nikiski’s Jakob Schmidt was third.

Nikiski sophomore Bethany Carstens won the overall girls title in Fight Gone Bad, while Kenai’s Pauline Catacutan and SoHi’s Sydney Juliussen was third among the lowerclassmen. Among the 11th- and 12th-graders, Melanie Sexton of Nikiski was first, Julianne Wilson of Kenai was second and Abby Kruse of SoHi was third.

Nikiski’s Jack Sullinger put on a performance in the boys standing broad jump, leaping to an eye-popping length of 10 feet from a standing start.

Sullinger, a tall, lanky junior, is ramping up for the prep basketball season, and said the SST curriculum with the CrossFit flair is working well.

“I like that it’s not all just weightlifting,” he said. “There’s running and jumping involved, but it gives you a bit of everything to help you with the mechanics.”

Sullinger, who also competes in the long and triple jumps during the track season, said he was hoping to reach double digits in the standing broad jump, but also noted that he has hit 10-foot-4 before.

The closest anyone was able to get to Sullinger was Nikiski’s Sawyer Tugan, who won the 9th- and 10th-grade competition with a leap of 9-2. Kenai’s Luke Beiser reached 8-11 on his last two attempts to finish second among 11th and 12th graders.

Julianne Wilson of Kenai hit 7-foot-10 on three different occasions to top the 11th and 12th grade girls, while SoHi’s Danica Schmidt beat out the competition in the 9th- and 10th-grade girls with a leap of 7-5.

In the 40-yard dash, Kenai sophomore Hayley Maw turned out the fastest girls time with a 4.94-second sprint, besting Kardinals teammate Alyssa Bucho in the girls 9th and 10th grade class, who ran five seconds flat.

Kenai’s Brenna Eubank ran 5.69 seconds to top the girls 11th- and 12th-graders, while Nikiski senior Patrick Perry and SoHi underclassman Chris Gilbert both ran 4.65 seconds to lead the boys. Kenai junior Rykker Riddall had two attempts of 4.68 seconds to threaten the top spot.

Maw of Kenai was the only girl among 9th- and 10th-graders to complete the kneeling jump, reaching a height of four weights stacked up, while Julianne Wilson topped the 11th- and 12th-grade girls with four stacked weights.

Trevor Witthus of SoHi reached seven stacked weights among the 11th- and 12th-grade boys in the kneeling jump, while Tugan and Jacob Wiley, both of SoHi, tied for the win in the 9th- and 10th-grade class with five stacked weights.

In the boys vertical leap, SoHi’s Austin Schrader and Sullinger of Nikiski tied for the high mark, both touching 29 plastic markers. Jarett Wilson of Kenai and SoHi’s Caleb Matson both tied among the 9th and 10th grade boys by reaching 28 each.

Among girls, Kenai’s Tovia Wilson hit 26 markers on all four tries to win the 11th and 12th grade class, and Nikiski’s Kelsey Clark hit 24 markers to top the 9th and 10th grade girls.

In the “I” test, Kenai freshman Titus Riddall finished with a fast split of 4.19 seconds to top all competitors. Perry of Nikiski ran fastest among the upperclassmen boys with a time of 4.22 seconds. For the girls, Maw was once again fastest with a time of 4.48 seconds in the 9th and 10th grade class, while Ella Stenga was fastest among 11th and 12th graders at 4.61.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski sophomore Jace Kornstad (foreground) and Soldotna sophomore Braxton Urban compete in the Fight Gone Bad competition Wednesday evening at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski sophomore Jace Kornstad (foreground) and Soldotna sophomore Braxton Urban compete in the Fight Gone Bad competition Wednesday evening at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski sophomore Emma Wik sprints to the line in the "I-test" challenge Wednesday night at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski sophomore Emma Wik sprints to the line in the “I-test” challenge Wednesday night at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski senior Michael Meyers reaches high in the vertical jump challenge Wednesday night at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski senior Michael Meyers reaches high in the vertical jump challenge Wednesday night at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Kenai Central sophomore Jarrett Wilson (in red) works hard among a line of boys competing in the Fight Gone Bad competition Wednesday night at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Kenai Central sophomore Jarrett Wilson (in red) works hard among a line of boys competing in the Fight Gone Bad competition Wednesday night at Kenai Central High School.

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