Rowe, Daigle take first in Candy Cane Scramble

Lack of snow for training early in the season hasn’t slowed down Homer Mariner cross country skiers Brian Rowe and Aspen Daigle. In the Candy Cane Scramble Dec. 19, with skiers from Kenai Central, Skyview, Soldotna and Homer competing, Rowe took first in the boys competition and Daigle took first in the girls race.

“(Daigle) and (Rowe) are very hard-workers and super fit,” said Homer Head Coach Eric Groth. “They skied great, smart races.”

Nearing the finish line of the seven-kilometer course on Soldotna High’s Star Trails, Daigle was in third place, trailing two Kenai skiers, “then one Kenai girl fell and she outsprinted the other one at the line,” said Groth.

Daigle’s finish time was 19:30. Mikaela Salzetti of Kenai had a close second with 19:31. Alex Bergholtz of Kenai was third at 19:38.

Rowe’s 15 minute, 56 second finish also was an exciting one, after he paced himself “well and stayed behind a Kenai boy for the first lap, biding his time, then turned on the jets on the second lap to win,” said Groth.

In second place, Fox Michaud of Kenai crossed the finish line in 16:19, with Nate Mole of Kenai in third at 16:33.

In spite of his first-place finish, Rowe said lack of snow had definitely had an impact on his skiing. He pointed to his 44th finish in the Lynx Loppett at Kincaid Park, Dec. 13-14.

“One of my disadvantages was that we hadn’t been on skis for two weeks before that race because there was no snow in Homer. That definitely hurt us some,” said Rowe.

The freestyle Candy Cane Scramble was only the second time skiers have raced on that trail. A fresh layer of snow that fell the night before the race made for a good cover.

“I originally thought it was going to be solely on the fields around the school, but they have a small chunk of woods where the trail zig-zags through. Quite nice,” said Groth. “The conditions were cold, but not very slow. (It) was a nicely groomed course.”

Rowe had a short break before skiing in the first of three Besh Cup competitions. Saturday’s race was a one-kilometer spring at Chugiak High School. Sunday’s race was a 15-kilometer course at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. 

“This is an event outside of the high school racing season, so usually only the best skiers do it, at their own expense,” said Groth. (Rowe) has been training with Jan Spurkland and the Kachemak Nordic racing development team and they often assist with waxing, lodging etc. for these events.”

Besh Cup competitors include youth and adults, including college students, and serves as an opportunity for skiers to qualify for the Arctic Winter Games or the Junior Olympics. Rowe used it as an opportunity to “get better at racing so I’ll be better at state,” he said.

He was one of several skiers from the Homer area to enter the mass-start, freestyle event. He placed 51st in Saturday’s one-kilometer dash. In Sunday’s 15-kilometer race, Rowe placed 64th, with Jan Spurkland finishing 65th. In the women’s race, Megan Spurkland finished 20th.

The second Besh Cup race will be organized by the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club and held in Homer Jan. 18-19. The final Besh Club event is Feb. 1-2 in Fairbanks.

The next scheduled varsity cross-country skiing event is the Kenai races, Jan 17-18.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at

Candy Cane Scramble

Soldotna High School, Dec. 19

Homer results BOYS

Individual seven-kilometer
freestyle results:

1. Brian Rowe, 15 minutes, 56 seconds; 9. Josh Vantrease, 18:31; 16.
Hoxie Parks, 19:45; 17. Tadhg Scholz, 20:00;  30. Chris Lynn, 36:35.

Homer results GIRLS

Individual seven-kilometer freestyle results: 1. Aspen Daigle, 19:30; 7. Rachel Ellert, 20:50; 9. Audrey Russell, 21:11.