Palmer’s Zoe Copp, Grace Christian’s Anna McLaughlin and Homer’s Autumn Daigle lead the pack at the start of the Kenai Klassic on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, at Kenai Golf Course in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Palmer’s Zoe Copp, Grace Christian’s Anna McLaughlin and Homer’s Autumn Daigle lead the pack at the start of the Kenai Klassic on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, at Kenai Golf Course in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Daigle notches Kenai Klassic win

Skiers at Friday’s Kenai Klassic at the Kenai Golf Course were able to handle the subzero cold. They had no answer for Homer’s Autumn Daigle and Soldotna’s Bradley Walters.

Daigle and Walters worked to dominant victories in the 6-kilometer skiathlon, while Soldotna swept the team titles.

In this particular skiathlon, 3 kilometers in the classic technique were followed by 3 kilometers of freestyle skiing. The skiathlon makes for a lot of work for the groomers and volunteers on setup, especially when temperatures are so cold, but the format was appreciated by the racers.

“It makes it interesting and adds diversity,” said Walters, a senior. “It gets monotonous racing one technique for 10 kilometers one day, then racing another for 5 kilometers the next day.”

Both Daigle and Walters controlled the race from the outset. Daigle won at 24 minutes, 7 seconds, while Soldotna’s Erika Arthur was second at 24:38 and Kenai Central’s Jayna Boonstra was third at 24:39.

This was actually Daigle’s first high school race of the season. Her first races of the season were the Jan. 18 and 19 Besh Cups in Homer.

Daigle missed the first half of the season because she was competing for the Homer wrestling team. Daigle is from a big wrestling family. Her brother, Simeon Daigle, won a state wrestling title back when Homer was a Class 4A school.

Autumn had always wanted to wrestle, but did not want to wrestle against primarily boys. With the growth of girls wrestling in Alaska, the two-time Division II state cross-country running champ decided to give it a shot senior year.

“I learned a lot,” Daigle said. “The training for wrestling definitely helped me with my skiing. It was easier to transition from wrestling to skiing than it was running to skiing.”

Daigle said skiing takes a lot of muscular strength and coordination, just like wrestling. She said her cardio is a bit behind, but she still has designs on being a top-three skier in the region and making a run at being the top small-schools skier in the state.

Behind Daigle, Arthur was moving up from a bad start caused by a bad lane position to take second. By the transition zone, Arthur was third. She got her skis on so quickly she left the transition zone in second.

Boonstra then passed Arthur, but took a wrong turn at the end, allowing Arthur to take the close victory.

While the Kenai course was mostly flat, with just a few hills of consequence, Arthur said the route was a challenging ski. Skis get their best glide when they melt a thin film of water to float on each stride, but that doesn’t happen with subzero temperatures.

“My skis were dragging a lot in this snow,” Arthur said. “It’s like squeaky, Styrofoam stuff.”

Walters used the race to rev his aerobic system heading into the last two Besh Cups of the season, which are currently scheduled for next weekend in Fairbanks. That could change due to the cold.

Skiers can use Besh Cups for a number of reasons — Daigle raced last weekend just to get in a few races — but Walters is racing firmly focused on trying to qualify for Junior Nationals.

“This was just a hard interval before I start tapering for next weekend,” he said. “I need to do really well at the Besh Cups in Fairbanks to qualify for Junior Nationals.”

Fairbanks is known for cold temperatures and the same squeaky snow to which Arthur referred. Thanks to persistent cold temperatures on the central Kenai Peninsula, Walters said he has adjusted to the frigid temps — mostly, at least.

“Recently, it’s been so dry it feels like my nose is on fire,” he said.

Walters won at 19:49, while Soldotna’s Jack Harris was second at 20:07 and Soldotna’s Foster Boze was third at 20:09. Walters said the strong showing by his team was encouraging as the Stars shoot for a region team title.

Before the race, Soldotna head coach Isaac Erhardt said this was the type of day Harris could have a good race.

When Harris did just that, he was asked why his coach said that.

“When the snow tends to be slower, it’s good to be efficient at skiing,” Harris said. “I like to think that I’m efficient at skiing.”

Harris proved just that when he passed Boze in the stadium to secure second place.

Saturday at the Seward Invitational at the Mile 12 Ski Trails, Daigle won again with a 5K freestyle of 16:12, while Boonstra was second at 16:55. Cole Fritzel of Grace won the boys race at 13:42, while Harris was next at 13:50.

The Kenai girls and Grace boys took the team titles.

Kenai Klassic

Friday at Kenai Golf Course

GIRLS

Team times: 1. Soldotna, 1 hour, 41 minutes, 7 seconds; 2. Homer, 1:45:51; 3. Kenai, 1:46:30; 4. Grace, 1:51:17.

6-kilometer skiathlon results — 1. Autumn Daigle, Hom, 24:07; 2. Erika Arthur, 24:38; 3. Jayna Boonstra, 24:39; 4. Zoe Copp, 24:43; 5. Katie Delker, 25:03; 6. Jordan Ruffner, Sol, 25:32; 7. Cameron Blackwell, Sol, 25:54; 8. Brita Restad, Hom, 26:00; 9. Zoe Stonorov, Hom, 26:09; 10. Abbi Voucher, Boucher, 26:10; 11. Anna McLaughlin, Gra, 26:36; 12. Elise Metzger, Gra, 26:37; 13. Leah Fallon, Ken, 26:41; 14. Summer Foster, Ken, 27:33; 15. Anya Danielson, Ken, 27:34; 16. Carson Dement, Sol, 27:35; 17. Mikaela Hall, Ken, 27:40; 18. Libbey Gionet, Gra, 27:47; 19. Gabbie Tews, Ken, 28:33; 20. Sonja Saleva, Sol, 28:55; 21. Alyana Cline, Hom, 29:31; 22. Kara Super, Hom, 30:16; 23. Megan DeVries, Gra, 30:17; 24. Megan Nelson, Gra, 31:42.

BOYS

Team times: 1. Soldotna, 1:21:25; 2. Kenai, 1:29:51; 3. Grace, 1:29:51.

6-kilometer skiathlon results — 1. Bradley Walters, Sol, 19:49; 2. Jack Harris, Sol, 20:07; 3. Foster Boze, Sol, 20:09; 4. Cole Warren, Gra, 20:22; 5. Tyler Hipchen, Ken, 21:15; 6. Ryder Giesler, Sol, 21:20; 7. Sorin Sorensen, Ken, 22:01; 8. Thomas Merritt, Pal, 22:02; 9. Warren Metzger, Gra, 22:04; 10. Quinn Cox, Sol, 22:05; 11. David Grinestaff, Sol, 22:12; 12. Josh Foster, Ken, 22:49; 13. Ben Thatcher, Gra, 23:35; 14. Johan Caranza, Ken, 23:46; 15. Zziven Witczak, Pal, 23:49; 16. Seth Kniegge, Gra, 23:51; 17. Jesper Strom, Sol, 23:56; 18. Ludovico Pinter, Pal, 23:59; 19. Ty Elliot, Gra, 24:14; 20. Tucker Mueller, Ken, 24:15; 21. Nathan Haakenson, Ken, 24:34; 22. Geremu Daggett, Gra, 26:05; 23. Mathew Grzybowski, Ken, 26:16.

Seward Invitational

Saturday at Mile 12 Ski Trails

Girls team — 1. Kenai, 45; 2. Homer, 44; 3. Grace, 30; 4. Soldotna, 26; 5. Palmer, 16.

Girls individual 5K freestyle — 1. Autumn Daigle, Hom, 16:12; 2. Jayna Boonstra, Ken, 16:55; 3. Katie Delker, Sol, 16:57; 4. Jordan Ruffner, Sol, 17:33; 5. Leah Fallon, Ken, 17:37; 6. Zoe Stonorov, Hom, 17:39; 7. Elise Metzger, Gra, 17:42; 8. Brita Restad, Hom, 17:58; 9. Anna McLaughlin, Gra, 18:01; 10. Zoe Copp, Pal, 18:01; 11. Summer Foster, Ken, 18:14; 12. Abby Boucher, Pal, 18:25; 13. Anya Danielson, Ken, 18:37; 14. Ainsley Rinner, Gra, 18:51; 15. Gabbie Tews, Ken, 18:59; 16. Carson Dement, Sol, 19:14; 17. Libbey Gionet, Gra, 19:46; 18. Aiyana Cline, Hom, 19:53; 19. Jordan Strausbaugh, Sol, 20:31; 20. Kiah Widener, Gra, 21:14; 21. Mikaela Hall, Ken, 21:36; 22. Kara Super, Hom, 22:26; 23. Megan DeVries, Gra, 22:46.

Boys team — 1. Grace, 37; 2. Soldotna, 33; 3. Kenai, 29; 4. Palmer, 14.

Boys individual 5K freestyle — 1. Cole Fritzel, Gra, 13:42; 2. Jack Harris, Sol, 13:50; 3. Warren Metzger, Gra, 14:09; 4. Tyler Hipchen, Ken, 14:18; 5. Thomas Merritt, Pal, 14:47; 6. Foster Boze, Sol, 14:50; 7. Ryder Giesler, Sol, 14:51; 8. Josh Foster, Ken, 14:57; 9. Quinn Cox, Sol, 15:04; 10. Ben Thatcher, Gra, 15:27; 11. David Grinestaff, Sol, 15:41; 12. Johan Caranza, Ken, 16:00; 13. Mathew Grzybowski, Ken, 16:01; 14. Seth Kniegge, Gra, 16:11; 15. Sorin Sorensen, Ken, 16:15; 16. Ludovico Pintor, Pal, 16:16; 17. Dylan Hogue, Sol, 16:28; 18. Ziven Witczak, Pal, 16:36; 19. Tucker Mueller, Ken, 16:41; 20. Nathan Haakenson, Ken, 16:46; 21. Ty Elliot, Gra, 16:50; 22. Geremu Daggett, Gra, 17:05.

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