Saturday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Nordic ski championships offered a small dose of redemption for the Soldotna boys team and a clutch victory for the Homer girls.
The Soldotna boys won convincingly while the Homer girls prevailed with a late pass on the final leg of the day at Tsalteshi Trails, in a meet designed just for peninsula programs Kenai Central, Soldotna, Homer and Seward.
The overcast day began with a thin layer of fresh snow that had fallen in the morning, then transitioned to near whiteout conditions by the time the boys relay was finishing up, as several inches of powder layered the trails.
The boys relay was dominated by the Stars, beginning with senior Jeremy Kupferschmid’s blazing classic leg that put SoHi out front by over a minute when he tagged to the next skier.
“Motivation was just trying to stay smooth, stay calm,” Kupferschmid said about racing up front by himself. “I just wanted to stay relaxed and breathing good.”
Kupferschmid broke his pole last week at the Region III meet at the Government Peak Ski Area in Palmer, a moment of bad luck that resulted in Kupferschmid skiing for about two full kilometers with one pole while he searched for a coach to hand him a new one from the sidelines.
At the end of the day, the SoHi boys lost the Region III team race by a slim margin of eight seconds after two days of racing, leaving the Stars lamenting what could have been a fourth straight region crown.
By the time Kupferschmid, Foster Boze and Jack Harris turned Saturday’s relay race over to anchor leg Bradley Walters, the SoHi boys had a daunting lead over the rest of the field, and all Walters had to do was bring it home, which he did in a team time of 1 hour, 17 minutes, 2 seconds, nearly eight minutes ahead of the second-place team, the Soldotna C relay.
The Kenai boys relay of Josh Foster, Samuel Roberts, Tristan Summers and Tyler Hippchen took third place with a time of 1:25:11.
“I just wanted to make sure I get the best out of these races because of how little races we’ve had this year,” Walters said about his leg.
Peninsula skiers have raced only a handful of times this year due to inconsistent snow conditions, and until last week’s region meet, no competition had featured all seven Region III programs together.
By the time the boys relay started, the snow was falling heavier and really adding to the mix, but Walters said the conditions likely helped him.
“This wet snow is good for skating, especially if you have the right wax on,” Walters said. “It was challenging but fun.”
In the girls relay, the opening classic leg was dominated by two skiers — Homer’s Katia Holmes and Soldotna’s Sonora Martin, and it was Martin reaching the end of the first lap ahead of Holmes.
The SoHi team of Martin, Cameron Blackwell, Hannah Delker and Erika Arthur held serve at the front, but Homer had one more trick up its sleeve when anchor leg Autumn Daigle took to the course.
When Homer’s Zoe Stonorov tagged off to Daigle to begin the final leg, the Mariners girls were trailing the Stars by over a minute, but Daigle immediately began to reel in Arthur.
“She’s definitely a lot faster skier than I am by far,” Arthur said. “But I just had to try my hardest and that’s all I could do.”
Daigle said she didn’t catch sight of the lead until the latter portion of the leg, which dives into the woods south of the school and onto flatter terrain.
“It’s always harder being chased,” Daigle said. “It’s so much harder to find that speed because skating is about being smooth, and if you’re tense, it’s really hard.”
“I tried to stay with her but I was so mentally and physically done,” Arthur added.
Daigle said she passed Arthur with less than a kilometer from the finish on the flatter Squirrel and Owl loops, and beat Arthur to the line by 10 seconds, racing to a total team time of 1:27:08. The Kenai girls team of Mickinzie Ticknor, Summer Foster, Leah Fallon and Maria Salzetti finished third in 1:34:21.
Daigle said she had been dealing with a sickness in the days prior to the race, which actually helped put her in the right mind-set for the event.
“I didn’t really go into the race with a lot of nerves, and I was so far behind,” Daigle said. “I think that helped because I just stayed super relaxed and focused on my technique, and I didn’t think about the competition.”
Borough Nordic ski championships
Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
Relay results — 1. Homer (Holmes, Restad, Stonorov, Daigle), 1:27:08; 2. Soldotna (Martin, Blackwell, Delker, Arthur), 1:27:18; 3. Kenai (Ticknor, Foster, Fallon, Salzetti), 1:34:21; 4. Soldotna B (Ruffner, Birch, Dement, Dammeyer), 1:36:06; 5. Soldotna C (Strausbaugh, Meijer, Mendoca, Reese), 1:45:59; 6. Kenai B (Koppes, Lopez, Moffett, Tews), 1:48:54; 7. Kenai C (Matturro, Moffett, Hall, Morton), 1:55:17; 8. Soldotna D (Barkman, Cunha-Maciel, Juliensen, Foster), 1:55:30.
Individual skate times (Top 5) — 1. Autumn Daigle, Hom, 19:27; 2. Hannah Delker, Sol, 20:05; 3. Maria Salzetti, Ken, 20:22; 4. Zoe Stonorov, Hom, 20:45; 5. Erika Arthur, Sol, 20:47.
Individual classic times (Top 5) — 1. Sonora Martin, Sol, 22:58; 2. Katia Holmes, Hom, 23:08; 3. Cameron Blackwell, Sol, 23:28; 4. Brita Restad, Hom, 23:48; 5. Mickinzie Ticknor, Ken, 24:46.
Relay results (Top 5) — 1. Soldotna (Kupferschmid, Boze, Harris, Walters), 1:17:02; 2. Soldotna C (Pritchet, Grinestaff, Boots, Martin), 1:24:52; 3. Kenai (Foster, Roberts, Summers, Hippchen), 1:25:11; 4. Kenai B (Carranza, Mueller, Gamen, Haakenson), 1:29:22; 5. Seward (Foutz, Petersen, Super, Byden), 1:30:48.
Individual times (Top 5) — 1. Jack Harris, Sol, 17:46; 2. Bradley Walters, Sol, 18:42; 3. Ryder Giesler, Sol, 19:18; 4. Trenton Boots, 19:56; 5. Tyler Hippchen, Ken, 20:03.
Individual classic times (Top 5) — 1. Jeremy Kupferschmid, 19:39; 2. Foster Boze, Sol, 20:55; 3. Joseph Dammeyer, Sol, 21:32; 4. Josh Foster, Ken, 21:39; 5. Quinn Cox, Sol, 22:00.