Mariner girls run to state XC crown

Homer gave the Kenai Peninsula a sweep of the girls cross-country team titles by repeating last season’s Class 1-2-3A triumph Saturday afternoon at the wet and muddy Bartlett High trails in Anchorage.

For the larger schools, the Kenai Kardinals captured their first cross-country team championship in school history, placing three runners in the Class 4A girls top six to edge the West Valley girls 60 points to 65. Chugiak took third with 68 points.

In the 1-2-3A races, the Homer girls placed all seven varsity members in the top 22 to win their second straight and fifth overall team title in school history, adding to crowns won in 1988, 1989, 1990 and last year.

The Mariners were led by the former Region III champion Megan Pitzman, who took third with a time of 19:40. Briahna Gerlach of Glennallen claimed her third straight 1-2-3A girls individual title with a time of 19:04, beating second-place Elizabeth Balsan of ACS by 34 seconds.

“I knew that would be a stretch,” Pitzman said about catching Gerlach. “The gap was getting big (to Balsan), and I was able to close it. Maybe I could’ve caught her at the end.”

Following Pitzman across the line for Homer were seventh-place Alex Moseley, eighth-place Audrey Rosencrans, 15th-place Aurora Waclawski, 18th-place Ziza Shemet-Pitcher, 19th-place Lauren Evarts and 22nd-place Haley Knott.

For the Mariners to beat the powerhouse programs like Grace Christian and Anchorage Christian schools, Pitzman said it took a lot of hard training and dedication in the offseason, along with a little fun.

“It’s really cool, this is like the most fun year I’ve had in cross-country,” Pitzman said.

Homer Coach Bill Steyer proudly echoed Pitzman’s thoughts, adding that last year’s state crown caused more anxiety since the current crop of Homer girls had yet to prove their mettle on the state stage. Now with a second winning trophy to place in the Homer High display case, Steyer can rest easier.

“All the girls work really hard in the off season,” Steyer said. “They’re super committed, all these runners ran in the summer, and that’s what it takes.”

Steyer also praised his Homer boys squad, which placed second in the team standings with 70 points, just 15 behind team champion Sitka. Jordan Beachy led the Homer boys with a ninth-place finish and a time of 17:18, while teammate Jared Brandt took 11th in 17:22. Charlie Menke (18th) and Luciano Fasulo (19th) added top-20 finishes for Homer as well.