Sticky enough to stride up the steepest uphills and slick enough to power through everything else.
That’s the type of skis Alaska Winter Stars coach Jan Buron gave to the two big winners Sunday at Besh Cup 4 at Tsalteshi Trails.
Eli Hermanson, a 17-year-old AWS skiers and senior at Service High School, posted the fastest 10-kilometer classic time for the men, while Marion Woods, a 23-year-old coach for the Alaska Winter Stars, had the fastest five-kilometer time for the women.
“Our skis were really good and I credit that to coach Jan,” Hermanson said. “I’ve skied with him seven or eight years and he’s been a mentor to me. He taught me to ski, really.”
Tsalteshi hosted Besh Cup 3 on Saturday and Besh Cup 4 — which had 196 finishers — on Sunday. The six Besh Cup races are used to choose Team Alaska for Junior Nationals, which this year will be March 9 to 17 at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. For those older or younger than the Junior Nationals age limits, or for local skiers looking to see what it’s like to race against the best in the state, the Besh Cups also are a golden opportunity.
“A lot of young kids were just impressed with the level of skiing,” Kenai Central coach Brad Nyquist said. “It was pretty fun to watch a couple of kids get the energy it takes to really improve.”
Woods, 23, graduated from the University of Vermont 1 1-2 years ago. She just started competing again and is a member of the Anchorage Biathlon Club looking to start making waves in that sport. She is not eligible for Junior Nationals — she finished her career in that event with six golds — but wants to stay sharp and be able to relate to the athletes she coaches.
“It’s always a good opportunity to jump in with the juniors,” she said. “Right now in the U.S., there are so many fast juniors.”
Woods finished the 5K in 14 minutes, 34.70 seconds. Runner-up was Aubrey Leclair of the Alaska Pacific University program in 14:45.66.
Part of the reason for hosting the Besh Cup is to show off Tsalteshi Trails, and it worked with Woods. This is her fourth time racing Besh Cups here.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s a really interesting trail system. It definitely favors the stronger, bigger skiers that can put a lot of weight through the snow.”
Woods said Tsalteshi is constantly rolling, and strong double-poling is essential to powering through the slight inclines. But the hills also get steep, and that’s where Buron’s testing on the kick wax was pivotal, because Woods was able to stride up the tracks.
Woods also won Saturday’s sprint race, and gave the Tsalteshi sprint course kudos as well.
“It’s so spectator-friendly,” she said. “I loved watching as much as I loved racing.
“I really liked the open area and everyone cheering. It felt a little like Europe. The people were alive and the stadium was alive.”
Hermanson wanted to be competing in the U18 Scandinavian Championships in Otepaa, Estonia, from Sunday to Wednesday, but an accident on the Hillside Trails near Service in late November thwarted those plans.
The trails were icy and Hermanson, who has won two Besh Cups in a row at his age group, caught an edge while carrying a lot of speed down a hill. Hermanson was skiing alone, but some skiers behind him were able to direct him back to Service when he became wobbly and disoriented.
He had a broken nose, facial lacerations and a concussion that would keep him off of skis for a month. As Sunday’s victory would indicate, Hermanson now feels fine skiing, but he said boisterous periods in school still have him searching out a quiet room.
Hermanson’s first races back were at the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Championships in Craftsbury, Vermont, from Jan. 3 to 8. He said he felt only 50 to 70 percent.
So Sunday’s victory was a big turning point as he shoots for a top performance at Junior Nationals. He skied the 10K in 27:33.31, while Alexander Maurer of AWS was second at 27:43.22 and Karl Danielson was third at 27:43.43. Danielson is a 2018 Kenai Central graduate redshirting his first year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“I’m pretty pleased,” Hermanson said of his victory. “I knew it was a possibility. I’m just trying to stay positive and I keep getting better and better.”
Hermanson also is a fan of Tsalteshi Trails, pointing out the system has enough variety and length to make a great 10K course without having to do multiple loops.
“It’s got fast downhills and steep uphills,” he said. “It definitely separates out the men from the boys.”
Besh Cup 4
Men (Top 5, plus local finishers)
U18 10K — 1. Eli Hermanson, AWS, 27 minutes, 33.31 seconds; 2. Alexander Maurer, AWS, 27:43.22; 3. Joel Power, AWS, 27:49.75; 4. Everett Cason, APUNSC, 28:08.74; 5. Dale Baurick, FXC, 28:23; 20, Bradley Walters, ANR (Soldotna), 31:40.16; 29. Jack Harris, Soldotna, 33:43.80; 34. Joshua Foster, Kenai, 35:53.06; 35. Joseph Dammeyer, Soldotna, 37:55.14.
U20 10K — 1. Karl Danielson, Kenai Central grad, 27:43.43; 2. Ari Endestad, FXC, 28:06.87; 3. Kai Meyers, APUNSC, 28:24.65; 4. Josiah Alverts, 28:49.12; 5. Patrick Marbacher, 29:10.53; 9. Jeremy Kupferschmid, ANR, 30:12.50.
Senior men 10K — 1. Julian Bordes, APUNSC, 28:11.75; 2. Adam Loomis, Team AK Ski Jumping, 30:52.45; 3. Matthew Muffoletto, The Other Guys, 33:45.10; 4. Maksim Mayer, The Other Guys, 34:21.45.
Masters 2 Men 10K — 1. Gavin Kentch, APUNSC, 31:51.31.
Masters 5 Men 10K — 1. Scott Amy, AWX, 49:22.53.
U14 5K — 1. Murphy Kimball, AWS, 15:45.26; 2. Skyler Amy, AWS, 15:56.82; 3. Aven Elsberg, APUNSC, 16:56.98; 4. Elias Engman, FXC, 16:59.58; 5. Paul Hlasny, AWS, 17:11.25;
U16 5K — 1. Josh Baurick, FXC, 13:29.08; 2. Aaron Maves, APUNSC, 13:40.01; 3. Porter Blei, ANR, 13:47.61; 4. Eli Merrill, FXC, 14:00.91; 5. Konrad Renner, ANR, 14:10.97; 18. Tyler Hippchen, Kenai, 16:11.57; 27. Quinten Cox, Kenai, 20:40.30.
U12 3K — 1. Kieran Kaufman, FXC, 12:29.65; 2. Basile Plattet, FXC, 12:41.25; 3. Wade Harry, FXC, 12:46.63; 4. Dylan Amy, AWS, 12:53.41; 5. Logan Cuddy, AWS, 13:31.39.
U10 1K — 1. Si Hanestad, Mat-Su Ski Club, 3:59.10; 2. Bridger Petersen, Fairbanks Jr. Nordic, 4:01.46; 3. Wilson Rasic, Fairbanks Jr. Nordic, 4:27.56; 4. Kyle Foster, Kenai, 5:33.49.
Women (Top 5, plus local finishers)
U18 5K — 1. Annika Hanestad, APUNSC, 14:51.66; 2. Garviey Tobin, APUNSC, 14:57.20; 3. Annie Gonzales, APUNSC, 15:05.76; 4. Ivy Eski, APUNSC, 15:06.02; 5. Tjarn Bross, FXC, 15:31.93; 13. Maria Salzetti, Kenai, 17:12.65; 15. Cameron Blackwell, Soldotna, 18:14.79; 17. Mickinzie Ticknor, Kenai, 20:25.34.
U20 5K — 1. Aubrey Leclair, APUNSC, 14:45.66; 2. Ellie Mitchell, APUNSC, 15:38.87; 3. Emma Jerome, FXC, 16:07.93; 4. Adeline Wright, APUNSC, 16:36.67; 5. Ariana O’Harra, APUNSC, 17:45.59; 6. Hannah Delker, Soldotna, 17:58.40.
Senior 5K — 1. Marion Woods, AWS, 14:34.70.
Masters 5 5K — 1. Donna DiFolco, NSCF, 17:38.70.
U14 5K — 1. Heidi Schumacher, AWS, 17:15.20; 2. Sammy Legate, APUNSC, 17:23.51; 3. Piper Sears, APUNSC, 18:29.04; 4. Berit Meyers, AWS, 19:11.62; 5. Krista Fern Leclair, APUNSC, 19:14.90.
U16 5K — 1. Quincy Donley, AWS, 15:00.50; 2. Victoria Bassette, FXC, 15:02.03; 3. Meredith Schwartz, AWS, 15:26.90; 4. Neena Brubaker, AWS, 16:00.10; 5. Katey Houser, ANR, 16:12.90; 17. Sonora Martin, ANR (Soldotna), 17:44.69; 20. Erika Arthur, ANR (Soldotna), 18:00.37; 25. Isabella Dammeyer, Soldotna, 19:09.56.