Kenai's James Butler works hard on the second leg of Saturday's boys 4-by-5K relay at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.

Kenai's James Butler works hard on the second leg of Saturday's boys 4-by-5K relay at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.

Peninsula ski teams finish season at wet, sloppy state meet

Max Donaldson captured his third-straight state Skimeister title Friday afternoon at a wet and sloppy Kincaid Park in Anchorage, denying Kenai Central’s Travis Cooper a shot at becoming the Kenai Peninsula’s first state ski champion.

Trailing Cooper by 20 seconds after Thursday’s opening day 7.5-kilometer classic race, Donaldson won Friday’s 10K freestyle event by nearly 10 seconds over Hunter Wonders of South, skiing to a time of 24 minutes, 26.6 seconds, while Cooper finished 63 seconds adrift in 11th place.

“He skied a hard race,” said Kenai coach Brad Nyquist. “The boys skate race is very competitive, and he just went as hard as he could.

“He’s a little disappointed, but he’s also excited and happy for a good overall finish. We’re all proud of him.”

Cooper ended up fifth in the overall Skimeister results, which is the first top-10 result for a Peninsula boys skier in 12 years.

Throughout the weekend, racers dealt with temperatures that soared into the upper-30s at times, which nearly erased what was an already minimal snowpack. Saturday’s relay course was set entirely on manmade snow, which wound its way across nearly snowless fields of dirt and grass and puddles of water.

To put an appropriate cap on a strange winter season, it was raining on Saturday.

“It was the perfect end to a very challenging season,” said Soldotna coach Dan Harbison. “It’s the perfect end to a dismal season.”

Donaldson’s performance was more than enough to earn him the Skimeister award, which combines the times of the first two individual races of the three-day meet and determines the fastest boys and girls skier in the state.

Cooper also anchored the Kenai boys 4-by-5K freestyle relay on Saturday that finished sixth, picking up a position by passing the Colony team on his leg. Joining him were teammates Karl Danielson, James Butler and Jordan Theisen. The Kardinals ultimately placed sixth in the team standings, which combined all skiers times from the three days of competition.

Nyquist added that in an individual start race like Friday’s event, Cooper — along with every other skier — had no solid way of knowing where they stand among the race’s leaders. Slower traffic and technical turns also didn’t help.

“But he’s a realist, he knows the competition he’s going up against,” Nyquist said. 

The Soldotna boys finished eighth in Saturday’s relay, with John-Mark Pothast, Daniel Shuler, Koby Vinson and Levi Michael teaming up to help the Stars to an overall three-day result of ninth in the team standings. Michael — who led the Soldotna boys in the individual Skimeister standings with a 30th-place result — picked up three positions on his anchor leg, skiing from 11th to eighth at the end of his 5K loop.

Lydia Blanchet of West won Friday’s 7.5K girls freestyle race by nearly 30 seconds, winning in a time of 18:58.6 to capture her second Skimeister championship, adding to the one she won in 2013.

Soldotna senior Sadie Fox finished 16th Friday, which was enough for ninth place in the final Skimeister results.

“We’re all happy she made it in the top 10,” Harbison said. “The girls that were ahead of her yesterday just had great races.”

Fox started Saturday’s relay strong by storming into the exchange zone at the end of her opening leg in fourth place. However, the Stars slipped to ninth place at the end of the day. Fox was joined by teammates Olivia Hutchings, Hannah Pothast and Kellie Arthur.

Kenai freshman Addison Gibson topped Peninsula girl skiers Friday with a 10th-place finish, which landed her a 10th place in the overall Skimeister results, five seconds behind Fox.

Gibson’s teammate Riana Boonstra, also a freshman, finished 21st in the overall Skimeister standings, and anchored the Kenai girls relay to a sixth-place finish, picking up two spots on her relay leg. Gibson and Boonstra were also joined by senior Alex Bergholtz and Mikaela Salzetti.

Both coaches said the challenging season of weather forced everybody to think outside of the box to come up better ways of waxing and finding grip and glide.

“This was the most creative season we’ve had,” Nyquist said. “We’ve been trying to figure out which workouts to run and which skis and wax to use.”

“It threw all the teams off a little,” Harbison added in reference to Saturday’s relays.



Overall team results — 1. Service, 3 hours, 50 minutes, 37.6 seconds; 2. South, 3:51:03.7; 3. West Valley, 3:51:52.3; 4. West, 3:54:30.3; 5. Dimond, 4:04:09.1; 6. Kenai, 4:05:03.3; 7. Colony, 4:08:38.9; 8. Grace Christian, 4:14:55.8; 9. Soldotna 4:16:16.3; 10. East, 4:18:32.7; 11. Eagle River, 4:26:29.8; 12. Chugiak, 4:27:10.1; 13. Lathrop, 4:37:26.3; 14. Palmer, 4:39:16.8; 15. Homer, 4:42:37.9; 16. Bartlett, 5:09:37.9.

Overall Skimeister results — 1. Max Donaldson, WV, 45 minutes, 11.0 seconds; 2. Hunter Wonders, Sou, 45:23.1; 3. Gus Schumacher, 45:36.4; 4. Conner Truskowski, Ser, 45:52.4; 5. Travis Cooper, Ken, 45:54.1; 6. Canyon Tobin, Ser, 46:25.9; 7. Will Balcao, Sou, 46:31.4; 8. Matthew Hoefler, Sou, 46:34.3; 9. Luke Jager, Wes, 46:51.5; 10. Will Mans, Wes, 47:00.4.

Other Peninsula finishers — 30. Levi Michael, Sol, 49:37.8; 31. Karl Danielson, Ken, 49:40.4; 33. John-Mark Pothast, Sol, 50:11.6; 37. James Butler, Ken, 50:37.6; 38. Jordan Theisen, Ken, 50:52.7; 44. Koby Vinson, Sol, 51:37.2; 61. Jacob Davis, Hom, 54:55.9; 65. Daniel Shuler, Sol, 55:14.1; 67. Aaron Swedberg, Sol, 55:31.9; 68. Ghen Sasakura, Hom, 55:55.3; 71. Tanner Best, Sol, 56:16.6; 79. Hoxie Parks, Hom, 57:05.5; 81. Liam Floyd, Ken, 57:10.1; 89. Tadhg Scholz, Hom, 1:00:45.4; 92. Patrick Michaels, Ken, 1:03:47.2; 96. Hunter Kratz, Sew, 1:06:42.5; 97. Logan Smith, Sew, 1:07:41.2.

Saturday relays — 1. South Wolverines (Wolfe, Hoefler, Balcao, Wonders), 44:47.4; 2. Service Cougars, 44:47.7; 3. West Valley Wolfpack, 44:49.6; 4. West Eagles, 45:59.8; 5. Dimond Lynx, 47:34.6; 6. Kenai Kardinals (Danielson, Butler, Theisen, Cooper), 47:58.5: 7. Colony Knights, 48:21.9; 8. Soldotna Stars (Pothast, Shuler, Vinson, Michael); 49:37.2; 9. Grace Christian Grizzlies, 49:48.3; 10. East Thunderbirds, 50:00.5; 11. Eagle River Wolves, 51:16.2; 12. Chugiak Mustangs, 51:32.9; 13. Lathrop Malamutes, 52:00.4; 14. Homer Mariners (Davis, Parks, Scholz, Sasakura), 53:55.8; 15. Palmer Moose, 54:03.6; 16. Bartlett Bears, 1:01:12.6.


Overall team results — 1. West, 2:56:06.2; 2. South, 3:01:11.4; 3. Service, 3:02:05.2; 4. East, 3:04:17.7; 5. Chugiak, 3:06:24.0; 6. Kenai, 3:10:17.1; 7. Dimond, 3:14:54.0; 8. Soldotna, 3:17:32.2; 9. West Valley, 3:17:53.6; 10. Colony, 3:22:20.7; 11. Homer, 3:31:10.7; 12. Palmer, 3:31:36.0; 13. Eagle River, 3:40:20.5; 14. Valdez, 3:54:00.2; 15. Grace, 3:54:09.3.

Overall Skimeister results — 1. Lydia Blanchet, Wes, 33:39.3; 2. Emma Tarbath, Ser, 34:50.2; 3. Taryn Hunt-Smith, Ser, 35:10.9; 4. Annika Flynn, Sou, 35:15.1; 5. Molly Gellert, Wes, 35:30.3; 6. Magdalen York, Wes, 35:36.3; 7. Anna Darnell, Sou, 35:54.5; 8. Abby Amick, Eas, 35:58.7; 9. Sadie Fox, Sol, 36:09.6; 10. Addison Gibson, Ken, 36:14.2.

Other Peninsula finishers — 21. Riana Boonstra, Ken, 37:43.0; 23. Hannah Pothast, Sol, 37:53.0; 27. Alex Bergholtz, Ken, 38:42.8; 41. Aspen Daigle, Hom, 40:40.6; 42. Mikaela Salzetti, Ken, 40:41.5; 44. Katie Cooper, Ken, 41:03.3; 49. Olivia Hutchings, Sol, 42:06.8; 50. Rachel Ellert, Hom, 42:07.1; 55. Kellie Arthur, Sol, 43:14.1; 56. Ruby Lindquist, Sew, 43:14.5; 57. Emily Werner, Sol, 43:24.0; 59. Sara Wolf, Hom, 43:29.0; 61. Audrey Russell, Hom, 43:44.8; 63. Ithaca Bergholtz, Ken, 43:52.3; 66. Mariah Vantrease, Hom, 44:47.4; 71. Mia Alexson, Hom, 45:21.5; 73. Meika Chythlook, Sol, 45:50.0.

Saturday relays — 1. West Eagles (Gellert, York, Hancock, Blanchet), 34:37.2; 2. South Wolverines, 35:19.0; 3. East Thunderbirds, 35:26.1; 4. Chugiak Mustangs, 36:13.0; 5. Service Cougars, 36:18.0; 6. Kenai Kardinals (Gibson, Bergholtz, Salzetti, Boonstra), 37:33.5; 7. Dimond Lynx, 38:04.0; 8. West Valley Wolfpack, 38:11.0; 9. Soldotna Stars (Fox, Hutchings, Pothast, Arthur), 38:20.9; 10. Colony Knights, 39:44.3; 11. Palmer Moose, 40:14.0; 12. Homer Mariners (Daigle, Russell, Wolf, Ellert), 41:09.2; 13. Lathrop Malamutes, 42:07.6; 14. Eagle River Wolves, 43:01.6; 15. Grace Christian Grizzlies, 44:02.7; 16. Valdez Buccaneers, 44:13.6.

Soldotna senior Sadie Fox leads Kenai freshman Addison Gibson in Saturday's girls 4-by-3.3K relay at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.

Soldotna senior Sadie Fox leads Kenai freshman Addison Gibson in Saturday’s girls 4-by-3.3K relay at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.

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