Coach Bill Steyer knew the Mariner girls could do it, but was careful what he said before the cross-country regions competition in Kodiak on Saturday. He was right. The girls were crowned the Class 3A champions. In addition, athlete Megan Pitzman was named “girl athlete of the year” and Steyer received the “coach of the year” award.
Boy athlete of the year went to Michael Todd of Anchorage Christian.
“I assumed (region champion) would be something pretty obtainable, but didn’t want to stick my foot in my mouth,” said Steyer. “I didn’t want to walk around acting cocky, like it would be no contest. Anything can happen. Someone can get sick, People can have bad races. All those things.”
Up to the night before the region competition, Steyer said he was nervous, recognizing the years of hard work that preceded Saturday’s race.
“We have been working pretty hard at this with the core group of girls for the last three years,” he said. “But they put it all together and did what they were expected to do.”
That puts the girls team into the chute for state competition in Anchorage this Saturday. As the third-place boys team, the Mariner XC boys team also will compete at state.
This is the second year in a row for Steyer to be named “coach of the year.”
“Homer hasn’t had much of a running program for a long while,” said Steyer. “People are noticing now and that recognition is great to see.”
Drawing the attention away from himself, Steyer noted this year’s girls team is “just so strong. The fact that we had two — Megan Pitzman and Molly Mitchell — that went first and second was a good demonstration of their strength in 3A. It’s awesome.”
Pitzman’s finish time was 20:30; Mitchell finished in 20:39. Reflecting the depth of the team, Steyer noted Alex Moseley’s finish time of 21:24. She was the third Mariner girl to finish and in seventh place overall. Rounding out the team, Aurora Waclawski finished 12th overall in 22:00; Ziza Shemet Pitcher in 13th with 22:01; Lauren Evarts in 15th with 22:19; and Audrey Rosencrans in 19th with 23:49.
“The top 15 get medals and we had six runners in the top 15,” said Steyer. “That’s pretty cool. We’re six deep which is pretty nice to see.”
The core of the girls team are Mitchell, Waclawski and Shemet Pitcher.
“They’re the foundation that helped turn the corner because of their hard work ethic, talent and determination,” said Steyer. “Everybody that joins the team follows suit. So, this was cool for them. They’re the foundation of this championship team.”
Strengthening that foundation are young runners like Moseley, a freshman. She was inspired by her older sister, Danelle, 32, who ran during her high school years. Moseley gave running a try when she was in the sixth grade and found she liked distances, the downtime it gives her mind and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards.
“My goal is to just keep beating my time and be as close to first as I can,” said Moseley, who hoped to have a time less than 20 in the Kodiak competition, something she achieved at the Homer Invite on the Spit on Sept. 20.
Steyer also credited the Mariners boys team for running “really well. … Jared Brant had a really strong run. He was our top-place finisher, coming in fifth.”
Brant’s finish time was 18:21. Jordan Beachy was the next Mariner to finish in overall eighth place with a time of 18:36. Jacob Davis had a 15th-overall finish in 19:09, Brandon Berachy was 20th in 19:25; Jaime Rios was 24th in 19:38; Denver Waclawski was 25th in 19:39 and Elan Carroll was 33rd in 20:49.
Jordan Beachy and Davis were the only freshmen in the top 15.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Steyer.
While Steyer said he and the Mariner runners are “happy with how they did, both the boys and girls and me, Coach Bill, think we can even crank it up a notch and that’s what we’re hoping to do for state and have some better performances.”
Representing Homer at state will be two teams of seven varsity runners.
The trip to Kodiak gave Steyer an opportunity to appreciate the athletes in other ways than finish times on the course. Staying in a church, the runners had the opportunity to entertain each other on a piano that was available.
“Most of them are straight-A students but what we found out at this church is that more than half of them are really good pianists, too,” said Steyer.
“They’re like concert pianists. Mosley plays like five instruments. They’re the cream of the crop.”
Moseley has high regard for the Mariners XC team.
“I think we’re really a great team. We’re strong, but we’re also young which is really good,” said Moseley. “We all cooperate with each other really well, all know each other really well, agree on strategies and encourage each other a lot which helps so much.”
Asked how she thinks she and the team will do at state, Moseley refers to preparations the Mariners are making.
“I think I’m going to do pretty good at state. I’ve been training really hard at practices. The whole team has,” she said. “I give it my all. I don’t slack off. I do what I’m supposed to do.”
Doing what she’s supposed to do extends beyond running. There’s staying hydrated, eating properly and getting enough rest. And there’s paying attention to Steyer.
“He’s a wonderful coach, a very good trainer,” said Moseley. “He helps us all extremely well and is very positive.”
Nikolaevsk runners traveled to Su-Valley for Region 2 competition on Saturday. In the boys competition Greg Trail pulled a second-place finish in 18:38.79 and his teammate Jonah Fefelov took fifth in 20:11.85. Running in the girls competition, Megan Hickman took sixth place in 23:46.87.
Nikolaevsk also will compete at the state level this weekend, said Coach Steve Klaich.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Class 3A competition
Sept. 27 — Kodiak
Team results (boys): 1. Seward 38; 2. Grace Christian 62; 3. Homer 72; 4. Anchorage Christian 84; 5. Houston 130.
Individual results (Homer boys): 5. Jared Brant, 18:21; 8. Jordan Beachy, 18:36; 15. Jacob Davis, 19:09; 20. Brandon Beachy, 19:25; 24. Jaime Rios, 19:38; 25. Denver Waclawski, 19:39; 33. Elan Carroll, 20:49.
Team results (girls): 1. Homer 35; 2. Seward 50; 3. Grace Christian 70; 4. Anchorage Christian 92.
Individual results (Homer girls): 1. Megan Pitzman, 20:30; 2. Molly Mitchell, 20:39; 7. Alex Moseley, 21:24; 12. Aurora Waclawski, 22:00; 13. Ziza Shemet Pitcher, 22:01; 15. Lauren Evarts, 22:19; 19. Audrey Rosencrans, 23:49.