With two races left in the 2014 prep cross-country running season (only one for some runners), the time to make a move, impress the coach, or just beat a rival is now.
Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough high school cross-country championships in Nikiski provided a golden opportunity for runners to put a season’s worth of practices to use and show off their speed in a smaller field of racers.
The Kenai Central boys and Soldotna girls teams captured the team titles, with Homer placing second in both divisions.
Kenai senior Allie Ostrander won the girls 3-kilometer race in a time of 10 minutes, 10 seconds, a hefty 82 seconds ahead of runner-up Olivia Hutchings of Soldotna in the 3-kilometer race.
“For a small race like boroughs, it’s kind of fun to run a 3K,” Ostrander said. “It’s good to sort of switch it up a bit since we run 5K’s all season.”
Most Peninsula runners are familiar with the Nikiski High trails, as many participated in the Nikiski Class Races a month ago, but it doesn’t make the trails any easier. Tuesday’s distance of three kilometers (about 1.86 miles) featured big hills and wet conditions, which Ostrander said made it difficult on the slick downhills.
“It was a hard course, really hilly, but it was over fast so it was easy to push yourself,” Ostrander said.
With the region and state meets approaching on the schedule, Ostrander said Tuesday’s event kept her optimistic heading into the final two races of her stellar high school career.
“We’re gonna have a really hard week this week,” Ostrander said. “Start a little tapering next week and finish it off at state and go into every race with the thought that it’s another chance to get a PR.”
The Soldotna girls won the team title with five runners in the top 13, led by Hutchings’ second-place finish. Dani McCormick in sixth and Daisy Nelson in ninth were the Stars’ other top-10 finishers.
The Homer girls, fresh off a team victory in the Palmer Invitational 10 days earlier, placed six runners in the top 16, led by Megan Pitzman in third, with a time of 11:42, while teammate Molly Mitchell took fourth.
“You can’t duplicate a good race for a speed workout,” said Homer coach Bill Steyer. “I think our biggest competition is Grace (Christian) and Seward, but I think we were a lot stronger today.”
Steyer said he was happy with his team’s performance in Palmer, where they beat the mighty Anchorage team of Grace Christian, a perennial favorite, and said he believes the five best girls teams in the state are Colony, West, Kenai, Soldotna and his team.
“It’s looking pretty promising, but I never wanna count my eggs before they hatch,” Steyer said.
The boys race — once again — came down to the Theisen brothers of Kenai. Jonah took his second straight boroughs title in a time of 9:37, while twin brother Jordan finished 13 seconds behind in second.
“We’re all in pretty good shape right now,” Theisen said. “We just got to transfer that to regions and state.”
Travis Cooper took fourth to give Kenai three of the top four spots. Seward’s Hunter Kratz edged Cooper for third, only two seconds ahead, and Aaron Swedberg, Soldotna’s top runner, finished fifth.
Theisen said it’s tougher to judge where the competition’s fitness level is at with a short field and a shorter race, but was still pleased with his result.
“I wanted to go sub-10 (minutes) and I got that,” Theisen said.
With senior Kodiak phenom Levi Thomet to deal with at the region and state meets, winning the next two meets will not be a cake walk.
“I’d like to beat Thomet, but I think that’s out of the question,” Theisen said. “He’s tough. Second (place) is what I’m going for.
“I know that kind of sounds bad, but it’s realistic.”
Homer is hosting a 5K time trail Saturday on the Homer Spit, Soldotna, Nikiski, Nikolaevsk and the Voznesenka-Kachemak-Kasilof team.
Borough Championships results
Team standings — 1. Soldotna, 42 points; 2. Homer, 47; 3. Kenai Central, 52.
Individual — 1. Allie Ostrander, Ken, 10:10; 2. Olivia Hutchings, Sol, 11:32; 3. Megan Pitzman, Hom, 11:42; 4. Molly Mitchell, Hom, 11:48; 5. Riana Boonstra, Ken, 11:55; 6. Dani McCormick, Sol, 12:01; 7. Brook Wedin, Sew, 12:02; 8. Ruby Lindquist, Sew, 12:03; 9. Daisy Nelson, Sol, 12:05; 10. Addison Gibson, Ken, 12:10; 11. Aurora Waclawski, Hom, 12:18; 12. Sadie Fox, Sol, 12:24; 13. Molly Erickson, Sol, 12:34; 14. Alex Mosley, Hom, 12:35; 15. Ziza Shemet-Pitcher, Hom, 12:36; 16. Lauren Evarts, Hom, 12:50; 17. Alex Bergholtz, Ken, 12:51; 18. Emily Werner, Sol, 12:52; 19. Ithaca Bergholt, Ken, 13:12; 20. Haley Knott, Hom, 13:24; 21. Kellie Arthur, Sol, 13:28; 22. Katie Cooper, Ken, 13:47; 23. Alice Pfeiffenberger, 13:52; 24. Iris Anderson, Sew, 13:59; 25. Mackenzie Lindeman, Ken, 14:00; 26. Megan Hickman, Niko, 15:10.
Team standings — 1. Kenai Central, 35 points; 2. Homer, 55; 3. Soldotna, 60; 4. Seward, 78.
Individual — 1. Jonah Theisen, Ken, 9:37; 2. Jordan Theisen, Ken, 9:50; 3. Hunter Kratz, Sew, 10:15; 4. Travis Cooper, Ken, 10:17; 5. Aaron Swedberg, Sol, 10:33; 6. Jordan Beachy, Hom, 10:34; 7. Jared Brant, Hom, 10:35; 8. Daniel Shuler, Sol, 10:39; 9. Levi Michael, Sol, 10:52; 10. Seth Brewi, Sew, 10:53; 11. Brandon Beachy, Hom, 10:54; 12. Jacob Davis, Hom, 10:55; 13. Karl Danielson, Ken, 11:00; 14. Thomas Zweifel, Sew, 11:03; 15. James Butler, Ken, 11:05; 16. Greg Trail, Niko, 11:09; 17. Ian Ashley, Ken, 11:14; 18. Josh Shuler, Sol, 11:17; 19. Denver Waclawski, Hom, 11:21; 20. Brenner Musgrave, Sol, 11:24; 21. Coltin Yancey, Sol, 11:27; 22. Brandon Moore, Sew, 11:28; 23. Jaime Rios, Hom, 11:37; 24. Tristan Landry, Ken, 11:44; 25. Shane Larrow, Sol, 11:54; 26. Jonah Fefelov, 12:14; 27. John Sarmiento, Hom, 12:26; 28. Kyle Cooper, Nik, 13:00; 29. Jonathan Kingsland, Sew, 13:16.