For the first time in three years, high school varsity cross-country ski teams are headed to the season-ending state meet with hardly a concern for snow conditions.
The three-day state meet is set to run today through Saturday at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. Gone for now are the days in which skiers were forced into sking the same small loop several times to amass enough kilometers for an event.
This year, mother nature has finally blessed Alaska with an abundance of snow, and the opportunity to use trails that run deep into the woods at Kincaid will give prep skiers something to remember.
With legendary loops like Lekisch, Margaux’s, Elliott’s Climb and Rollercoaster thrown into the mix, racers will be getting a little variety this year.
The meet begins today with an interval-start classic technique race. The boys will race 7.5 kilometers at noon and the girls will race 5K at 1 p.m.
Friday, the fun continues with longer freestyle races that will begin mass start. Girls go first with a 7.5K event at 11 a.m. and the boys will endure 10K at 12:30 p.m.
Varsity teams will consist of six racers, with a seventh alternate waiting in the wings should one of the other six run into health problems. The top four skiers’ times from each school in Thursday’s and Friday’s races will count in the overall team time that will decide the state champion, or Skimeister. The team times from the first two days will roll over into the third day’s finale, which consists of a frantic relay race.
The four-member relays on Saturday will feature the girls at 11 a.m., in which each racer skis 3K, and the boys at 12:30 p.m., with each skier completing 5K. The relay races feature a classic-classic-skate-skate combo for each leg.
In the history of the state meet, no skier from the Kenai Peninsula has won the overall Skimeister championship, and no peninsula school has won the team award.
Looking to end that streak are the Soldotna boys, who won their second straight Region III championship last week in Wasilla. The Stars put three skiers in the top 10 in the Friday, Feb. 17 race, and had four in the top 10 in Saturday’s event to win the title on depth. Koby Vinson led SoHi with a second-place result in the overall region individual standings, racking up finishes of fourth and second between the two days.
Last year, the SoHi boys finished seventh, the top team from the peninsula, nearly 15 minutes behind the state champion West Anchorage boys.
Last week, Kenai Central’s Karl Danielson won his first Region III Skimeister crown with a two-day total that was better than anyone else in the boys field. Danielson finished 29th individually at last year’s state meet, but has made long strides of improvement this winter.
Last week, the Kenai Central girls came up short in their bid to three-peat at the Region III meet, finishing second to the Colony girls. Kenai junior Riana Boonstra finished second both days to Colony’s Annika Hannestad, and enters this weekend’s state meet as the favorite among the peninsula teams on an individual level to break the stranglehold of Anchorage and Fairbanks racers winning the overall state Skimeister title.
Last year at the state meet, Boonstra finished highest among peninsula girls skiers with a two-day result of 16th overall. The Kenai girls finished seventh in the team race, 14 minutes, 25 seconds, behind the state champion West Eagles.