Mariner senior captain Aspen Daigle led her team with a 10th place personal finish at the Region III cross-country skiing championships last weekend at the Government Peak trails in Hatcher’s Pass, near Palmer.
The team pushed off on tracked, well-groomed trails for a 5K classic race on Friday, and again on Saturday for 5 and 7.5K free-style loops. The Mariner girls placed fifth, the boys sixth, overall.
Well practiced at skiing on less-than-ideal snow after this winter’s abysmal snowfall, the Mariners were excited to finally find good conditions and well-manicured trails up north.
“The snow conditions were superb,” said the Mariner Head Coach, Alan Parks. “We saw fabulous skiing, and our athletes showed incredible skill, performance and sportsmanship.”
The event began Friday with a 5K classic loop of the ski trails. The temperatures rose several degrees from when the athletes’ skis had been waxed to their competition. This forced the girls, who raced later in the afternoon, to rely on their technique rather than their wax to get the kick needed for speed.
Aspen Daigle placed 10th in the classic race, which contributed to her podium finish of 10th place overall.
Saturday’s 5 and 7.5K skate races began with a mass start. In the minutes leading up to the starting gun of the boys’ race, while the athletes squeezed into formation ski to ski, freshman captain Jacob Davis called out to each of his teammates by name to wish them luck. The well wishes brought good results for the Mariner’s small contingent of varsity boys.
Davis led for the Mariner boys with an 18th place combined finish and a total time of 35:41.49. Senior Ghen Sasakura finished 30 seconds behind him in 21st place. Freshman Hoxie Parks placed 28th overall, and sophomore Tadhg Scholz finished 36th. Freshman Josh Wisner also came in 13th in the JV boys race.
For the girls, Daigle posted a combined time of 31:41.59 to secure her 10th place finish. Junior Rachel Ellert placed 17th, followed just three seconds later by freshman Sarah Wolf in 18th place. Sophomore Audrey Russell took 28th and junior Miriah Vantrease came in 33rd.
The Kenai Kardinals took home first place team finishes for both boys and girls. Soldotna came in second for the girls, followed by Colony in third, Palmer fourth, Homer fifth and Grace sixth.
For the boys, Colony followed Kenai in second place, with Grace in third, Soldotna fourth, Palmer fifth and Homer sixth.
The Mariner skiers have continually had to test their mettle this season as they adapted to the varying conditions, worked around race cancellations, and focused through extensive weeks of dry-land training. Parks says he feels his athletes have been on snow the least of any team in the region, but through it all their spirits have stayed strong.
“I think the season went spectacularly well, given everything we dealt with with the snow. We maintained a core group of athletes dedicated to their sport and their team,” said Parks.
The varsity Mariners will compete, starting today, in three days of racing at the 2015 State Championships in Kincaid Park in Anchorage.
Due to forecasted warm temperatures, it’s expected the races will be held on machine-made snow.
Bad snow is better than no snow, however, and Parks remains optimistic about the weekend.
“Going into State, I couldn’t feel happier about it. We have a great varsity lineup on the girls team and a small but strong boys varsity, and we’re going to have a good time,” said Parks.
Up to date information about the Mariners’ race times can be found on their Facebook page, “Mariner Nordic Ski Team.”
Lindsay Olsen is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.