The Soldotna relay team of Quinn Cox, Cameron Blackwell, Erika Arthur and Bradley Walters won the Kenai Peninsula Borough Nordic ski championships at Tsalteshi Trails on Saturday.
On a sunny day with snow hanging in the trees, two boys and two girls made up each relay team. The relay was two 2.5-kilometer classic legs, followed by two 2.5-kilometer skate legs.
The teams travel to the state meet Thursday through Saturday at Kincaid Park in Anchorage.
“It was a quick, intense hit,” said Kenai’s Tyler Hippchen, who was on the relay team that finished third. “It was really fun. It was a chance to rev your motor and get everyone fired up before going to state.”
The top relay team finished in 27 minutes, 29 seconds, while the SoHi team of Jordan Ruffner, Jack Harris, Katie Delker and Ryder Geisler was next at 28:23 and Kenai’s Josh Foster, Jayna Boonstra, Julia Anderson and Hippchen were third at 28:43.
The relay legs were used to figure out a number of other borough awards. The Soldotna boys took the team award, while the Kenai boys were second. For the girls, Soldotna was first and Homer was second.
The top boys skate leg was turned in by Walters at 5:41, while Hippchen was next at 6:04. Homer’s Autumn Daigle had the top girls skate leg at 7:01, while SoHi’s Katie Delker was next at 7:06.
The top boys classic leg went to SoHi’s Quinn Cox at 6:32, while SoHi’s Jack Harris was next at 6:41. Homer’s Brita Restad had the top girls classic leg at 7:45, while Kenai’s Jayna Boonstra was next at 7:50.
Cox led off the winning relay and tagged Blackwell in the lead. Blackwell knew Boonstra was coming for her.
“I felt like this was one of my better races,” Blackwell said. “I’m better at short distances.
“I definitely expected to get passed, but I was happy to keep the lead for my team.”
Blackwell also likes the added pressure of skiing for a relay team.
“That’s one of the reasons I like doing this,” she said. “It’s fun to incorporate the team aspect of things.”
Arthur skied the third leg. She was worried about Delker catching her. While the classic leg had just one major hill, the skate leg had three major hills.
“I do well at hills, I just don’t like them,” Arthur said.
Arthur gave Walters a big cushion to work with, but he still pushed hard enough for the skate win.
“I just wanted to have fun and not take it too seriously,” Walters said. “I still wanted to do good enough that I felt I raced well.”
Like many seniors, Walters was racing at Tsalteshi for the last time.
“It’s been a fun four years,” he said.
Hippchen also gave credit to the groomers for packing down the recent snow.
“It was a lot faster than it’s been,” he said.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Ski Meet
Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
Top 10 relay teams
1. Soldotna (Cox, Blackwell, Arthur, Walters), 27 minutes, 29 seconds; 2. Soldotna (Ruffner, Harris, Delker, Geisler), 28:23; 3. Kenai (Foster, Boonstra, Anderson, Hippchen), 28:43; 4. Soldotna (Grinestaff, Strausbaugh, Dement, Boze), 30:18; 5. Kenai (Sorensen, Foster, Danielson, Haakenson), 30:35; 6. Kenai (Caranza, Hall, Tews, Grzybowski), 30:39; 7. Homer (McDounough, Stonorov, Briscoe, Daigle), 30:51; 8. Soldotna (Strom, Reese, Boots, Saleva), 32:23; 9. Mixed (Restad, Mueller, Cline, Brennan), 33:01; 10. Seward (Peterson, Walker, Bryden, Hankins), 33:44.