Homer High School skiers let their superior classic ski skills shine during the Region III Championships over the weekend, according to assistant coach Alison O’Hara.
Members of the cross-country ski team competed against five other schools in the meet at the Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The girls team placed fourth overall with a combined time of 2 hours, 14 minutes and 39 seconds, ahead of Grace Christian and Palmer. The boys took fifth place at 2:34:43, ahead of Kenai.
Katia Holmes placed fourth in Saturday’s 5-kilometer classic ski race, and placed eighth in Friday’s skate race. Jacob Davis was the first across the boys’s skate race finish line for Homer, in eighth place, followed closely by Denver Waclawski in tenth place. Davis placed sixth in Saturday’s classic race, with Waclawski again coming in tenth.
O’Hara said Homer skiers tend to have more practice and skill when it comes to classic skiing. Most high schoolers tend to prefer the skate technique, she said, as it’s faster. Classic skiing requires a few more tricks and techniques, she said, and is overall slower and more technical.
“Pretty much across the board, the Mariners do better when classic skiing,” O’Hara wrote in a race recap.
O’Hara said one thing that may have helped the Mariners is that head coach Cole Talbot decided to forgo the kind of wax that works when the snow is warm, which she described as a sticky mess. He had the Homer skiers use hard wax instead. This lead to them not having quite as much kick as other skiers during the classic race, but also kept wax from icing up under their skis.
O’Hara pointed to Holmes as an example. She had less kick than the skiers she was up against, but was able to pass both Rudy Lindquist of Seward and Colony’s Alyson Kospack in the final stretch of the classic race on a downhill, moving from sixth to fourth place.
Team member Zoe Stonorov had a successful meet during which O’Hara said things just seemed to “click.”
“She’s a total powerhouse,” O’Hara said of the Homer freshman. “She has a high tolerance for pain. It’s just so impressive. And she commercial fishes in the summer.”
Stonorov came in 13th in the skate ski and 16th in Saturday’s classic race.
Throughout the weekend there were also four adaptive sit ski races, which Homer’s Angelica Haakenson continued to dominate. The races that use skis attached to a seat for those who are injured or don’t have the use of their legs was brought to prominence on Homer’s team this season when Haakenson, who lost her legs in an accident three years ago, joined the team.
She took first in the three sit ski races she competed in. There was one race that was for boys only, as well as a race for the coaches in which Haakenson beat Talbot. That’s no easy feat, O’Hara said.
Haakenson joined the team in January, so race organizers have been adapting as they go along in terms of how long to make the sit ski races and how to ensure enough competition.
“Next year I think we’ll be a little more prepared,” O’Hara said.
According to O’Hara’s recap, Haakenson traveled to Mammoth, California for an adaptive ski camp on Wednesday to drum up some competition.
One peninsula skier, Kenai’s Maria Salzetti, has been edging closer and closer to Haakenson in the sit ski races as the season has worn on.
“The kids have really been lovely,” O’Hara said of the other peninsula teams in terms of how they’ve embraced the adaptive sport.
The Homer team now heads to the State Championships in Fairbanks this weekend, starting at noon today and continuing through Saturday.