Soldotna’s Ariana Cannava skis her team to third place in the 4-by-3-kilometer relay at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Danika Winslow)

Soldotna’s Ariana Cannava skis her team to third place in the 4-by-3-kilometer relay at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Danika Winslow)

State skiing: Kenai girls, boys take DII honors

The Kenai Peninsula had plenty to shout about Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.

Both Kenai Central coach Brad Nyquist and Soldotna coach Isaac Erhardt were hoarse as they talked about the meet Monday.

“It was among the most exciting I’ve been at,” Erhardt said. “It was pretty fun.”

Both the Kenai girls and boys earned awards as the top Division II teams at the meet. The Kardinals started competing at Division II in 2021 and have won every team award since then except the boys in 2023.

The Kenai girls were 11th overall in the team times, while Soldotna was fourth and Homer was 13th.

The Kenai boys were seventh overall in the team times, while the Stars were 10th and the Mariners were 11th.

Nyquist said he’s very proud of how his squad responded at the meet.

“They’re not just comparing themselves to other Division II kids,” he said. “They ski with a lot of kids in Division I and other kids at the Besh Cup.

“The fact that they want to ski at a higher level helps push them to where they end up in Division II.”

In Thursday’s 5-kilometer individual start freestyle, Kenai’s Greg Fallon was the top Division II skier in 20th overall at 13 minutes, 43 seconds. Kenai’s Jack Laker was the second Division II skier in 22nd overall at 13:52, while Kenai’s Chase Laker was the third Division II skier and 29th overall at 14:13.

Zane Tews was the other scoring skier in Kenai’s race to the Division II title, finishing 54th in the two-day team times.

In Thursday’s girls race, which was the same distance and technique as the boys, Kenai’s Emily Moss was the top Division II skier at 18th overall at 16:45. Homer’s Daisy MossWalker was the second Division II skier and 29th overall at 17:42, while Grace Christian’s Sydney Mondeel was the third Division II skier and 56th overall at 18:51.

In Friday’s 7.5-kilometer mass start classic race, Fallon was the top Division II skier and 24th overall at 21:34. Homer’s Jody Goodrich was the second Division II skier and 30th overall at 21:59, while Jack Laker was the third Division II skier at 36th overall at 22:23.

Nyquist said Fallon and Jack Laker both had a great final meet as seniors.

“Those two came in as freshmen and they were always neck-and-neck,” Nyquist said. “They were pushing each other all the time.

“They’re good friends and they always wanted each other to get better.”

The coach added that Chase Laker, only a sophomore, was able to keep up with the seniors this season, only making the group better.

In Friday’s girls race, which was the same distance and technique as the boys, Moss was the first Division II skier and 29th overall at 27:03, MossWalker was the second Division II skier and 38th overall at 27:19, and Kenai freshman Isla Crouse was the third Division II skier and 44th overall at 27:53.

Nyquist also said Moss, a senior, had a great final meet.

“The one thing that stands out all the time with Emily is her leadership,” Nyquist said. “As the leader on that girls team, she helps keep the team calm, prepped and warmed up — doing the right things at the right time.

“She goes out so focused in all of her races and skis with the top kids.”

In addition to Moss, the other scoring skiers for the Kards were Crouse in 50th, Ruby Davis in 74th and Teresa Fallon in 76th.

Soldotna got off to a tough start when top boys skier Michael Davidson was hurt previewing the course Wednesday and missed the state meet.

Erhardt said that turned out to be the one bad part of a meet where his team excelled.

“As coaches, we talk to them about when it’s time to ski conservatively, and when it’s time to go out and take risks,” he said. “You could tell the girls skied and took risks and tested themselves.

“I think they even surprised themselves by how well they did. It was fun to see them race with a lot of guts.”

Erhardt said the fourth-place finish at state matches the best finish at state for the Soldotna girls.

The Stars capped it off by finishing third in Saturday’s 4-by-3-kilometer relay, which had classic the first two legs and skate the second two legs.

Erhardt said sophomore Tania Boonstra got the Stars off to a great start, then freshmen Kathryn Cox and Karalyn Veihdeffer did a great job keeping the team in the mix.

Junior Ariana Cannava was then able to bring home third with a stirring anchor leg. Erhardt said Cannava started very fast and the coach worried about whether she would be able to hold that pace.

“When I saw the heads come up the hill, Ariana was still in the lead,” the coach said of the battle for third. “She went all the way to the finish line in a super strong V2.

“I haven’t yelled like that maybe ever. I maybe even cried a little bit, or a lot, when she crossed the line.”

Erhardt said another highlight of the meet was when Boonstra led Friday’s 7.5K classic race for a stretch. Boonstra eventually finished third.

“It was amazing to see that,” Erhardt said of Boonstra leading. “She had the biggest grin on her face. She was grinning ear to ear and all the girls were chasing her.”

Boonstra was sixth in the two-day team times, while Cannava was 11th.

Erhardt said his boys struggled Thursday, but moved up five places in the team times on Friday for their highlight of the meet.

The scoring boys for the Stars in the two-day overall were Parker Richards in 45th, Noble Cassidy in 48th, Levi Mickelson in 55th and Ethan Anding in 67th.

Indigo Leslie led the Seward girls by finishing 72nd in the two-day overall.

State Nordic ski meet

Thursday, Friday, Saturday at Kincaid Park, Anchorage

GIRLS

Team times: 1. West, 3 hours, 15 minutes, 48 seconds; 2. Service, 3:18:30; 3. South, 3:23:10; 4. Soldotna, 3:28:45; 5. Colony, 3:33:16; 6. East, 3:37:04; 7. West Valley, 3:39:43; 8. Chugiak, 3:43:16; 9. Juneau-Douglas, 3:44:33; 10. Dimond, 3:46:18; 11. Kenai, 3:54:09; 12. Eagle River, 3:56:34; 13. Homer, 4:00:27; 14. Palmer, 4:03:02; 15. Lathrop, 4:11:34; 16. Grace, 4:16:07; 17. Thunder Mountain, 4:51:42; 18. North Pole, 5:19:08.

Two-day individual times

1. Olivia Soderstrom, Ser, 38:37; 2. Mia Stiassny, Sou, 38:45; 3. Miyana Kam-Magruder, 38:46; 4. Piper Sears, 38:50; 5. Merridy Littell, Wes, 38:59.

Peninsula finishers

6. Tania Boonstra, Sol, 39:19; 11. Ariana Cannava, Sol, 41:26; 26. Emily Moss, Ken, 43:48; 30. Kathryn Cox, Sol, 44:50; 31. Karalyn Veihdeffer, Sol, 44:51; 33. Daisy Walker, Hom, 45:02; 50. Isla Crouse, Ken, 46:48; 57. Leanna Gordon, Sol, 48:23; 68. Jaela Marchbanks, Hom, 49:33; 70. Cassidy Carroll, Hom, 49:50; 72. Indigo Leslie, Sew, 50:15; 74. Ruby Davis, Ken, 50:23; 76. Teresa Fallon, Ken, 51:05; 78. Kathryn Van Buskirk, Sew, 51:27; 79. Fox Coyle, Ken, 51:42; 85. McKenna Black, Hom, 53:20; 87. Avery Ciufo, Sol, 53:44; 92. Mya Taylor, Ken, 55:53.

Thursday’s 5-kilometer interval start freestyle (top 5)

1. Olivia Soderstrom, Ser, 14:49; 2. Mia Stiassny, Sou, 14:57; 3. Miyana Kam-Magruder, Ser, 15:02; 4. Piper Sears, Wes, 15:08; 5. Merridy Littell, Wes, 15:17.

Friday’s 7.5-kilometer classic mass start (top 5)

1. Merridy Littell, Wes, 23:41; 2. Piper Sears, Wes, 23:42; 3. Tania Boonstra, Sol, 23:43; 4. Miyana Kam-Magruder, Ser, 23:43; 5. Elliot Sensabaugh, Col, 23:47.

Saturday’s 4-by-3-kilometer relay

1. West, 36:13; 2. Service, 37:06; 3. Soldotna (Tania Boonstra, Kathryn Cox, Karalyn Veihdeffer, Ariana Cannava), 38:18; 4. South, 38:20; 5. Colony, 39:26; 6. West Valley, 40:22; 7. East, 40:30; 8. Chugiak, 41:05; 9. Juneau-Douglas, 41:35; 10. Dimond, 41:50; 11. Kenai (Emily Moss, Isla Crouse, Teresa Fallon, Ruby Davis), 42:09; 12. Homer (Daisy MossWalker, Jaela Marchbanks, Cassidy Carroll, McKenna Black), 42:40; 13. Eagle River, 42:45; 14. Palmer, 44:51; 15. Lathrop, 46:36; 16. Grace, 47:19; 17. Thunder Mountain, 54:12; 18. North Pole, 56:09.

BOYS

Team times: 1. West, 2:42:52; 2. Service, 2:45:28; 3. Colony, 2:46:39; 4. South, 2:51:07; 5. West Valley, 2:56:26; 6. East, 2:58:31; 7. Kenai, 3:00:53; 8. Dimond, 3:02:54; 9. Chugiak, 3:08:24; 10. Soldotna, 3:11:28; 11. Homer, 3:11:31; 12. Juneau-Douglas, 3:12:26; 13. Eagle River, 3:12:36; 14. Palmer, 3:13:06; 15. Lathrop, 3:18:56; 16. Grace, 3:24:14; 17. Valdez, 3:46:36; 18. North Pole, 4:02:44.

Two-day individual times

1. Vebjorn Flagstad, Sou, 32:12; 2. Cole Flowers, Wes, 32:41; 3. Oskar Flora, Ser, 32:49; 4. Murphy Kimball, Wes, 32:51; 5. Coby Marvin, Col, 33:26.

Peninsula finishers

24. Greg Fallon, Ken, 35:17; 29. Jack Laker, Ken, 36:16; 34. Jody Goodrich, Hom, 36:48; 37. Chase Laker, Ken, 36:59; 45. Parker Richards, Sol, 37:49; 48. Noble Cassidy, Sol, 38:06; 50. Johannes Bynagle, Hom, 38:20; 54. Zane Tews, Ken, 38:45; 55. Levi Mickelson, Sol, 38:48; 61. Logan Cartwright, Ken, 39:49; 63. Rockwell Bates, Hom, 40:09; 67. Ethan Anding, Sol, 40:53; 68. Leif Jaworski, Hom, 41:10; 74. Caleb Wohlers, Sol, 41:44; 77. Nels Dahl, Sol, 42:01; 86. Levi Strong, Ken, 43:43; 89. Tait Ostrom, Hom, 45:31.

Thursday’s 5-kilometer interval start freestyle (top 5)

1. Oskar Flora, Ser, 12:35; 2. Vebjorn Flagstad, Sou, 12:37; 3. Cole Flowers, Wes, 12:41; 4. Weston Sensabaugh, Col, 12:54; 5. Elias Oswald, Ser, 12:55.

Friday’s 7.5-kilometer classic mass start (top 5)

1. Murphy Kimball, Wes, 19:34; 2. Vebjorn Flagstad, Sou, 19:34; 3. Cole Flowers, Wes, 20:00; 4. Coby Marvin, Col, 20:05; 5. Blake Hanley, Wes, 20:13.

Saturday’s 4-by-3-kilometer relay

1. West, 30:17; 2. Colony, 31:06; 3. Service, 31:36; 4. South, 32:08; 5. West Valley, 32:41; 6. Kenai (Jack Laker, Greg Fallon, Zane Tews, Chase Laker), 33:35; 7. East, 33:53; 8. Dimond, 34:12; 9. Chugiak, 34:47; 10. Eagle River, 34:55; 11. Homer (Johannes Bynagle, Rockwell Bates, Leif Jaworski, Jody Goodrich), 35:03; 12. Juneau-Douglas, 35:16; 13. Palmer, 35:18; 14. Soldotna (Levi Mickelson, Noble Cassidy, Ethan Anding, Parker Richards), 35:50; 15. Lathrop, 36:48; 16. Grace, 37:42; 17. Valdez, 41:06; 18. North Pole, 45:20.

Soldotna’s Levi Mickelson skis in the 7.5-kilometer classic race at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Danika Winslow)

Soldotna’s Levi Mickelson skis in the 7.5-kilometer classic race at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Danika Winslow)

Soldotna’s Tania Boonstra skis in the 5-kilometer skate race at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Danika Winslow)

Soldotna’s Tania Boonstra skis in the 5-kilometer skate race at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Danika Winslow)

The Kenai Central girls and boys teams earned top Division II honors at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo provided)

The Kenai Central girls and boys teams earned top Division II honors at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo provided)

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