Several Homer Mariner skiers took to the snow for the last time as high school athletes over the weekend at the ASAA First National Bank Alaska Nordic Ski Championships.
Held in Fairbanks at the Birch Hill ski area, the championships featured three days of skiing by small schools and top athletes in the state. Alison O’Hara, assistant coach for the cross-country ski team, said the Homer skiers performed well and that it was a good wrap up to the season.
“We had a really great season,” she said. “Overall it was really exciting. … It’s overwhelming at state, there’s so many amazing skiers up there. … Just to see those guys skiing around, you know they’re probably going to be future Olympians.”
The students on Homer’s team are generally more used to wet snow, and they buy their gear accordingly, O’Hara said. This means more stiff skis to avoid sticking in the snow. Up in Fairbanks, the snow was cold all weekend. Those conditions require slightly more flexible skies to provide more constant contact with the ground, O’Hara said.
Despite not being used to the trails or snow conditions, Autumn Daigle placed 26th overall for the girls as Homer’s top finisher. The weekend started Thursday with an interval-start, 5-kilometer freestyle, followed by a mass start classic race on Friday. The meet ended with relay races in which teams of four compete in a combined technique event with four legs (classic-classic-skate-skate). For the girls, this race was 3k. For the boys, it was a 5K.
Senior Jacob Davis finished 30 overall and was the top finisher for the boys’ team.
In the small schools division, Daigle and Katia Holmes took second and third place, respectively, in both the classic and freestyle races. For the boys, Davis took second in the skate race and the classic race, while senior Denver Waclawski took third in the classic race for the small schools.
At the championships, Homer won the award for having the team with the highest GPA out of all the participating schools, a 4.0.
“That says a lot about their commitment to athletics and to their studies as well,” O’Hara said.
Also at the small schools level, the Homer girls’ team took first place. For Homer, Davis and senior Libby Fabich won the sportsmanship award.
O’Hara said the team won’t be the same next year without it’s group of senior boys (Waclawski, Davis, Ben Kettle and Josh Wisner).
Davis has been team captain since he was a freshman, O’Hara said. She described him as humble, supportive and well-rounded.
“He’ll be really missed,” she said.
Waclawski, who skied with O’Hara as his coach in middle school, took off a few years to focus on playing basketball and only returned to the team last year.
“Considering that Denver was out for those … years, he’s just really made a huge comeback,” O’Hara said.
He’s been working to improve all season and has been inching closer and closer to Davis all the while.
“I think that having that friendly competition, that rivalry, is what really spurs them on,” O’Hara said. “I think it’s important.”
O’Hara described Kettle and Wisner as the “chill” members of the team.
“They’re kind of like the team anchors,” she said. “They’re just solid emotionally and kind of present.”
Fabich will also leave large shoes to fill as part of the girls’ team.
“She’s very supportive, and she’s very kind and thoughtful,” O’Hara said. “She’s just a lovely person.”
Like Waclawski, Fabich moved away from skiing in high school to play basketball. She made her return to the ski team only this year and still made varsity.
Next season, current junior Andy Super will be the only senior on the boys’ team, and O’Hara said the team may have to do some scouting for more older members. Several of the top Homer girl skiers, like Daigle and Holmes, will still be around. O’Hara said she’s looking forward to what the girls’ team will be able to do next year.
For full results from the state championships, see the weekly sports highlights.