Before she burst out of the forest and onto the football field for her finishing kick at the Nikiski Class Races on Monday at Nikiski, Soldotna senior Olivia Hutchings actually had to run under a spectator who had strung a hammock from a tree on each side of the trail.
One would think Hutchings would remember that, but it’s an indication of how hard she ran — and how hard Nikiski’s roller-coaster course is — that the last thing she recalls in the 5-kilometer race is looking at her watch and seeing she had run 3.8 kilometers.
“I was so worn out,” Hutchings said. “I was just playing the stupid game — right, left, right, left, pick your foot up and put it down.”
Hutchings collapsed at the finish line, but had victory in the junior-senior girls race in hand with a time of 21:10.
Homer’s Megan Pitzman was second at 22:13, while Homer’s Audrey Rosencrans was third at 22:37. The Mariners, the defending Class 1-2-3A champs, also won the team title in the junior-senior girls race.
The team title is determined by adding the places of each team’s top three finishers.
It took Hutchings a few minutes to steady herself after the race, but the experience didn’t dim her enthusiasm.
“I love the sport,” she said. “I’m just so happy to be racing with my team again. I’m glad my teammates were there to help me at the end.”
Hutchings’ teammates also made quite the statement at the meet by winning the team title in the freshman-sophomore boys and junior-senior boys race.
In the freshman-sophomore boys race, Homer sophomore Charlie Menke ran 18:50 to hold off Soldotna sophomore Koby Vinson by two seconds. SoHi’s Josh Shuler (19:25) and David Michael (19:27) were next across the line to clinch the team title.
Menke was running in his first cross-country race. He came out for the team this season to get in shape for hockey in the winter and soccer in the spring.
Does winning his first race change Menke’s perception of the sport to more than something used for physical fitness?
“Not really. Those are still my sports,” he said of hockey and soccer. “I just wanted to do what I could to help my team.”
Menke opened up a bit of a gap on the last few hills, then hung on as Vinson nearly stole the victory with a sprint on the football field.
“He just got too much of a gap on me,” Vinson said. “I’m usually pretty good at the end, but I let him go too much.”
In the junior-senior boys race, Soldotna senior Aaron Swedberg used a midrace spurt to open up the winning gap on Homer’s Jared Brant. Swedberg finished in 18:19, while Brant was at 19:10.
Last season, Swedberg qualified for state as an individual, but this season he is hoping to take his team with him. The Stars boys haven’t been to state since 2008, but SoHi showed off its potential Saturday by taking second at the Colony Invite.
“It feels really good,” Swedberg said. “The SoHi boys haven’t done much in a while. To go and get second at the Colony Invite gives us confidence.”
The Stars also have senior Levi Michael, who didn’t have enough practices to run in a timed race. Michael instead did the community race and finished second to Homer’s Jacob Davis.
The Kenai girls finished third at state last season, but lost two of their scoring runners. The Kards showed they will be able to reload a bit when freshman Jaycie Calvert took the freshman-sophomore girls race in 21:47, with Kenai sophomore Addy Gibson right behind at 22:11 to help the Kards to the team title in the race. Homer’s Alex Mosley was third.
Kenai also had the top two girls high school finishers in the community race in sophomores Riana Boonstra and Ithaca Bergholtz.
“We’re close, we’re young, and we’re really excited,” Calvert said of her team.
Calvert said she likes running hills, so going beyond the mile and a half contested in middle school was not a problem for her.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” she said. “I was just looking to go hard.”
2015 Nikiski Class Races
Team winner: Kenai Central.
Homer/Voznesenka individual results — 3. Alex Mosley, Hom, 22:21; 4. Katie Davis, Hom, 24:18; 7. Ali McCarron, Hom, 26:22; 9. Brenna McCarron, Hom, 28:16; 11. Sophia Ivanov, Voz, 28:50; 12. Samantha Martin, Hom, 29:30; 14. Sarah Wolf, Hom, 29:41.
Team winner: Soldotna.
Homer individual results: 1. Charlie Menke, Hom, 18:50; 5. Luca Fasulo, Hom, 19:29; 7. Denver Waclawski, Hom, 19:45; 8. Elan Carroll, Hom, 20:25; 9. Dexter Lowe, Hom, 20:30; 11. Caleb Rausch, Hom, 21:09; 13. Wayne Newman, Hom, 21:29; 20. Andy Super, Hom, 24:41; 23. Cody Bond, Hom, 29:12.
Team winner: Homer
Homer individual results: 2. Megan Pitzman, Hom, 22:13; 3. Audrey Rosencrans, Hom, 22:37; 5. Ziza Shemet Pitcher, Hom, 22:53; 7. Lauren Evarts, Hom, 23:19;
Team winner: Soldotna
Homer individual results: 2. Jared Brant, Hom, 19:10.
Watch the Mariners play
XC Running @ Tsalteshi Trails
JV and Varsity Volleyball Jamboree
Voz Football vs. Monroe
JV and Varsity Football vs. Eielson
1 p.m., 4 p.m.