A Region 3 cross-country meet at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna is such a pleasant experience in these autumn colors, another region is coming along just for the ride.
“Region 2 asked us if they could come down and race because they get tired of having just 25 kids at their region race,” Soldotna head coach Krista Arthur said.
Saturday, the Division II girls varsity race for Regions 2 and 3 will be at 11:30 a.m., the Division I/Region 3 girls varsity race will be at noon, the Division II boys varsity race for Region 2 and 3 will be at 12:30 p.m. and the Division I/Region 3 boys varsity race will be at 1 p.m.
While Region 2 does not have any Kenai Peninsula runners, there will be plenty on the line for area athletes in the Region 3 races.
Arthur is hoping the home course pays off big for her squads in the Division I race.
“I want to get both teams to state for sure,” she said.
In Division I, the top three teams go to state, as do the top 15 finishers in the individual race.
Arthur said her young girls squad will battle it out with Colony for first place, so the Stars should be able to get a team berth.
SoHi is led by freshmen Sophia Jedlicki and Tania Boonstra, plus sophomore Annie Burns. Arthur said Jedlicki is young and inexperienced, but also has the ability to run to the region crown.
The Stars also will run freshmen Delanie Wagers and Laurel Johnson, and juniors Kaytlin McAnelly and Megan Whittom.
“They are young and it’s exciting,” Arthur said of the girls. “Our program is building. We have 48 kids this season and that’s pretty big numbers for cross-country. We’re trying to get the number of runners up in the area.”
The SoHi boys are expected to have a tougher fight on their hands for a state berth. Colony, led by senior Matthew Rongitsch, and Kodiak are expected to take the top two slots. That will leave SoHi, Palmer and Wasilla to battle for the state berth.
The Stars are led by Jacob Strausbaugh, who Arthur said should get the individual finish it takes to go to state. Also running are Levi Mickelson, Jonathan Gordon, Elijah Jedlicki, Noble Cassidy, Andrew Cox and Alex Dammeyer.
In Division II/Regions 3, the top 15 finishers go to state, as well as the top four teams.
In the Division II/Region 3 girls race, a battle for the individual crown is expected between Seward junior Hailey Ingalls and Kenai senior Jayna Boonstra, the two-time defending Division II state champion.
Kenai head coach Anna Widman said Ingalls has defeated Boonstra in some races this season, but Boonstra has been putting in extra time and effort in practice.
“She is extremely driven and I know she will definitely fight for that title,” the coach wrote.
Boonstra, Emilee Wilson, Emily Moss and Mya Taylor will run for the Kards. That’s not enough for a team score, but Widman said she’d like more runners to qualify individually.
Arthur said she expects Seward, Homer, Grace Christian and Anchorage Christian Schools to qualify on the girls side.
In the boys race, Homer senior Seamus McDonough will battle a number of strong runners for the title.
Greg Fallon, Jack Laker, Chase Laker, Zane Tews, Robert Carson, Logan Cartwright and Vail Coots will run for Kenai.
“Our boys team would love to finish in the top three in our region,” Widman wrote. “A top four place will get them to state but a place in the top three would show the hard work they have put in this season.”
Arthur said the Grace boys are the clear favorite to win, while Homer, Kenai and ACS also should qualify.