A summer of hard work paid dividends when Kenai Central senior Jaycie Calvert left the field in her dust to claim a state crown.
Calvert captured her first Division II state cross-country title with a dominant victory Saturday afternoon under brilliantly sunny skies at the Bartlett Trails in Anchorage. Calvert’s individual victory fueled the Kenai girls to the state team championship, capping a season of fine form by the Kardinals.
“It’s amazing, I guess,” said a humbled Calvert. “It’s a special feeling to have the team here with me.”
Head coach Maria Calvert, Jaycie’s mother, said her daughter put in the necessary work this summer to reach her goal after having placed in the top-10 in each of the previous three years. At the Division I level, Calvert notched finishes of fifth as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore and eighth as a junior.
Now, as a senior, Calvert finally reached the top.
“Jaycie showed how hard work can pay off,” coach Calvert said.
In other races, Kendall Kramer of West Valley defended her Division I girls title with a time of 17:52, the second-fastest girls time on the Bartlett state course only to Allie Ostrander’s 2014 record of 17:06. Juneau-Douglas claimed the girls Division I team title with 71 points to Service’s 77.
In the Division II boys race, Tristian Merchant of Anchorage Christian dominated with a time of 15:56 but Grace Christian won the team title with 46 points to runner-up Sitka’s 58.
The Division I boys race went to Chugiak’s Daniel Bausch, whose time of 15:30 was not only the fastest time of the day, but the second-fastest course time, looking up only to three-time Kodiak state champ Levi Thomet’s 2014 record of 15:09.
KENAI GIRLS RECLAIM TEAM GLORY
Calvert’s win led a slew of four Kenai girls in the top eight, which helped Kenai win the team title with 36 points, while runner-up Grace Christian finished with 63. Kenai sisters Logan and Brooke Satathite finished fifth and sixth, respectively, while freshman Leah Fallon took eighth.
Calvert’s winning time of 19 minutes, 22 seconds, beat out defending Division II girls champ Autumn Daigle of Homer. Last year, Daigle relied on a furious finishing kick to beat Seward’s Ruby Lindquist at the line for her state title, but Saturday, the Homer junior was not close enough in the finishing stretch to catch Calvert. Daigle finished second in 19:46.
“I haven’t beat her this year, like last year I was with Ruby,” Daigle said. “(Calvert) really took off.”
Calvert became the first individual champion from Kenai since Allie Ostrander won the last of her three straight in 2014.
The team championship is also the first crown for the Kardinal girls since they won it all in 2015 at the Division I level, Calvert’s freshman year.
Calvert has come a long way since then, and as she entered the weekend undefeated against Division II competition this fall, she made sure to stamp her name with authority. The seasoned runner said she bided her time in the top five, running with Grace Christian’s Mazzy Jackson and Daigle until about the 3K mark, when she moved into the lead and steadily began to open a gap.
When she broke into full view of the sunlit stadium, about 100 meters from the finish, there was no one else in sight.
“I race with my heart,” Calvert said. “I was trying to pull away, because Autumn’s a great runner and she has a crazy kick.”
Calvert praised the effort of her teammates, including a trio of impressive freshmen in the top 16 — Logan Satathite in fifth, Leah Fallon in eighth and Summer Foster in 16th.
“It’s just super special to celebrate it with the team,” she said. “The guys team made it too.”
Grace finished second in the standings after Jackson slipped to fourth at the finish and her next three teammates finished 13th, 14th and 15th.
Daigle said while it was sad to see her reign as state champion end, she was happy to see a peninsula rival like Calvert take the throne.
“I told her in the race, ‘Jaycie this is yours, let’s go’,” Daigle said. “She sped up from there.”
SOLDOTNA YOUTH SHINES
Led by the 16th-place finish by freshman Jordan Strausbaugh, the Soldotna girls came home with an eighth-place team finish, beating Region 3 rival Colony in the process.
Strausbaugh hit the tape at an even 20 minutes, and was followed across the line by scoring teammates Erika Arthur in 21:09, Tanis Lorring in 21:44, Ellie Burns in 22:06 and Cameron Blackwell in 22:24.
Strausbaugh, 14, said her first time experiencing the big show left her wanting a little more after getting swallowed up by the ferocious pack in the final kilometer.
“I was 13th the whole time,” she said. “And I finished 16th.”
Nevertheless, Strausbaugh said she reached her goal of finishing top 20, which she credited to head coach Ted McKenney’s help.
“He’s a great coach,” Strausbaugh said. “Every practice he pulls everyone aside and talks to them, makes sure they’re not hurt, makes sure they’re healthy.”
McKenney said Strausbaugh is one of the runners on his team who demonstrates a very smooth gait in races, which he believes gives her good potential in future years.
“She has wheels,” McKenney said. “She has a natural smoothness in her stride.”
HOMER, KENAI TOP 5 IN BOYS
Highlighted by a photo finish for sixth place in the Division II boys race, the Kenai Central and Homer boys staged a peninsula fight within the race.
The Mariners ultimately came away the winners with a third-place team finish, securing 80 points to beat Anchorage Christian’s 99 and Kenai’s 107.
“It was a fast race, fast up front,” Homer senior Luciano Fasulo said. “I felt like we were running for second in such a tight pack.”
No one had anything for ACS junior Tristian Merchant, who took the lead about 1.5 kilometers in and stayed there the rest of the way to pick up a 37-second victory.
Kenai’s Maison Dunham and Fasulo finished in identical times of 16:46, but Dunham was credited with sixth after out-leaning his peninsula rival at the line.
Last year as a freshman, Dunham finished 11th among Division I competition with a time of 16:38. After a summer of minimal training left him unprepared heading into the season in August, Dunham said he was happy to see the improvements as his sophomore campaign wore on.
“I felt good at first, but I started getting a sideache at about (halfway in),” Dunham said. “I was losing to him at the beginning of the year but I beat him at boroughs and regions.”
Fasulo said he received a lot of motivation from his Homer teammates along the way, including the vocal leader of the group Eyoab Knapp, who finished nine seconds behind Fasulo in eighth.
“I was saying, ‘C’mon guys, let’s go!” Knapp said. “Like, ‘Let’s pass this guy.’”
Homer senior Bill Rich nipped Seward sophomore Max Pfeiffenberger for 16th place, both with identical times of 17:27. Kenai freshman Joe Hamilton was 22nd in 17:47, beating Seward sophomore Neil Lindquist for the spot, and Kenai junior Tucker Mueller took 25th in 17:58.
SOLDOTNA BOYS FINISH STRONG
Mekbeb Denbrock led the SoHi boys to a seventh-place team finish, beating out Region 3 rival Colony by a scant two points.
Chugiak senior Daniel Bausch won convincingly, beating runner-up Santiago Prosser of Dimond by 33 seconds.
Denbrock finished 16th with a time of 16:57, and credited his uphill speed in breaking 17 minutes.
“I wish it was a little faster,” Denbrock said. “But I’m pretty happy.
Denbrock was followed close across the line by junior teammate Bradley Walters in 23rd. Walters crossed in 17:08.
McKenney said his boys team extracted all the speed they could among a fast pack of racers.
“It was a flat-out pace,” he said. “It was a nasty pack, and (Denbrock) ran well. … There was nothing more they could give.”
2018 ASAA state cross-country championships
Saturday at Bartlett High School
Division II Girls
Team scores — 1. Kenai Central, 36 points; 2. Grace Christian, 63, 3. Homer 75; 4. Monroe Catholic, 121; 5. Petersburg, 171; 6. Galena, 178; 7. Anchorage Christian, 197; 8. Sitka, 209; 9. Nome, 225; 10. Bethel, 272; 11. Nenana, 285; 12. Haines, 292; 13. Cordova, 327.
Top 15 — 1. Jaycie Calvert, Kenai Central 19:22 2. Autumn Daigle, Homer 19:46 3. Katie Bast, Monroe Catholic 19:51 4. Mazzy Jackson, Grace Christian 19:51 5. Logan Satathite, Kenai Central 19:54 6. Brooke Satathite, Kenai Central 19:55 7. Lauren White, Monroe Catholic 20:08 8. Leah Fallon, Kenai Central 20:23 9. Brooke Miller, Homer 20:36 10. Kendra Conrad, Petersburg 20:42 11. Maia Cowan, Petersburg 20:50 12. Grace Hodges, Monroe Catholic 20:53 13. Sophia Coverdell, Grace Christian 21:03 14. Grace Annett, Grace Christian 21:04 15. Laura Ellis, Grace Christian 21:05
Other peninsula finishers — 16. Summer Foster, Kenai Central 21:17; 18. Kaylin Anderson, Homer 21:27; 19. Fiona Hatton, Homer 21:39; 30. Nia Calvert, Kenai Central 22:22; 33. Kara Super, Homer 22:24; 35. Katia Holmes, Homer 22:27; 42. Shelbie Naylor, Kenai Central 22:50; 44. Sienna Carey, Homer 22:54; 72. Isabelle Hickman, Nikolaevsk 24:36.
Division I Girls
Team scores — 1. Juneau-Douglas, 71; 2. Service, 77; 3. West Valley, 95; 4. South Anchorage, 96; 5. West Anchorage, 98; 6. Chugiak, 110; 7. Palmer, 172; 8. Soldotna, 203; 9. Colony, 232; 10. Lathrop, 268.
Top 15 — 1. Kendall Kramer, West Valley 17:52 2. Sadie Tuckwood, Juneau Douglas 18:18 3. Emily Walsh, Eagle River 18:31 4. Ava Earl, South Anchorage 18:39 5. Allison VanPelt, Wasilla 18:51 6. Katey Houser, Palmer 18:51 7. Adrianna Proffitt, Chugiak 18:56 8. Grace Fahrney, Service 19:08 9. Tatum Witter, Service 19:22 10. Aubrey LeClaire, West Anchorage 19:26 11. Naomi Bailey, West Valley 19:43 12. Anna Iverson, Juneau Douglas 19:45 13. Kylie Judd, Dimond 19:54 14. Lucy Young, South Anchorage 19:54 15. Breanna Day, Chugiak 20:00.
Other peninsula finishers — 16. Jordan Strausbaugh, Soldotna 20:00; 41. Erika Arthur, Soldotna 21:09; 53. Tanis Lorring, Soldotna 21:44; 61. Ellie Burns, Soldotna 22:06; 63. Cameron Blackwell, Soldotna 22:24; 68. Jordan Ruffner, Soldotna 22:33; 74. Ryann Canna Denison, Soldotna 23:39.
Division II Boys
Team scores — 1. Grace Christian, 46; 2. Sitka, 58; 3. Homer, 80; 4. Anchorage Christian, 99; 5. Kenai Central, 107; 6. Haines, 203; 7. Bethel, 210; 8. Monroe Catholic, 217; 9. Petersburg, 223; 10. Galena, 223; 11. Kotzebue, 306; 12. Cordova, 364.
Top 15 — 1. Tristian Merchant, Anchorage Christian 15:56 2. Gabe Martin, Grace Christian 16:33 3. Luke Fritzel, Grace Christian 16:37 4. Skyler McIntyre, Sitka 16:41 5. Dominic Baciocco, Sitka 16:44 6. Maison Dunham, Kenai Central 16:46 7. Luciano Fasulo, Homer 16:46 8. Eyoab Knapp, Homer 16:55 9. Lucas Echenique, Galena 17:04 10. Joe Pate, Sitka 17:07 11. Seth Kniegge, Grace Christian 17:09 12. William Parks, Anchorage Christian 17:16 13. Amos Sage, Noatak 17:16 14. Coleson Voran, Port Alsworth 17:21 15. Paul Kopp, Grace Christian 17:24.
Other peninsula finishers — 16. Bill Rich, Homer 17:27 17. Max Pfeiffenberger, Seward 17:27; 22. Joe Hamilton, Kenai Central 17:47 23. Neil Lindquist, Seward 17:47; 25. Tucker Mueller, Kenai Central 17:58 26. Daniel Reutov, Homer 18:00; 36. Corbin Mattingly, Homer 18:19; 41. Justin Trail, Nikolaevsk 18:26; 42. Samuel Roberts, Kenai Central 18:29 43. Evan Stockton, Kenai Central 18:30; 51. Luke Cross, Kenai Central 18:49; 56. Ocean Matley, Kenai Central 18:54; 69. Clayton Beachy, Homer 19:23; 73. Austin Cline, Homer 19:29; 87. Michael Trail, Nikolaevsk 19:55.
Division I Boys
Team scores — 1. Dimond, 38; 2. Chugiak, 75; 3. West Anchorage, 86; 4. West Valley, 100; 5. South Anchorage, 130; 6. Juneau-Douglas, 158; 7. Soldotna, 193; 8. Colony, 195; 9. Kodiak, 210; 10. Lathrop, 274.
Top 15 — 1. Daniel Bausch, Chugiak 15:30 2. Santiago Prosser, Dimond 16:03 3. Alexander Maurer, Service 16:12 4. Ethan Davis, West Anchorage 16:20 5. Arne Ellefson-Carnes, Juneau Douglas 16:25 6. Niko Latva-Kiskola, Dimond 16:38 7. Everett Cason, West Anchorage 16:38 8. Lane Meier, Colony 16:41 9. Kaleb Beloy, South Anchorage 16:42 10. Fred Rygh, Dimond 16:42 11. George Cvancara, Dimond 16:43 12. Jack Cater, West Valley 16:46 13. Dallin Gardiner, Dimond 16:51 14. Zanden McMullen, South Anchorage 16:51 15. Michael Earnhart, Chugiak 16:56.
Other peninsula finishers — 16. Mekbeb Denbrock, Soldotna 16:57; 23. Bradley Walters, Soldotna 17:08; 58. Jack Harris, Soldotna 18:10; 63. Lance Chilton, Soldotna 18:16; 64. Anchor Musgrave, Soldotna 18:17; 77. Logan Shane, Soldotna 19:12; 79. Maleda Denbrock, Soldotna 19:22.