Karl Kircher nears the finish of the 40-kilometer freestyle race at the Tour of Tsalteshi on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Karl Kircher nears the finish of the 40-kilometer freestyle race at the Tour of Tsalteshi on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Tour of Tsalteshi sees record turnout

In its fourth year at the trail system just outside of Soldotna, the Tour had record turnout of 136 finishers.

The new coronavirus pandemic has come in waves. Sunday, thanks to that pandemic, so did the Tour of Tsalteshi.

In its fourth year at the trail system just outside of Soldotna, the Tour employed 15 waves each two minutes apart in order to keep the record turnout of 136 finishers as spread out as possible.

“I definitely felt from a COVID standpoint that it was well thought out and well planned,” said Mary Krusen, a 2002 graduate of Kenai Central who won the women’s 40-kilometer freestyle race. “It was a safe way to be out in the community and that was really refreshing and nice.”

Steve Cothran, race director, said it’s hard to say why the race broke the previous record of 96 finishers in 2019.

“Just naturally, the event is going to grow due to word of mouth around the community, around the peninsula and in Anchorage,” Cothran said. “It’s hard to evaluate the effects of COVID. It’s hard to know if that encouraged participation.”

In addition to quantity, the field also had a lot of quality, with records falling in three of the six races.

With temperatures in the teens and fresh, sharp snow having fallen over the course of the week, conditions were not nearly as fast as the races’s first year in 2018.

That didn’t stop a pair of Kenai Central graduates from setting new records in winning the 40-kilometer freestyle races.

Krusen, who now lives in Anchorage, finished in 2:31:56 to better Jacqueline Klecka’s 2018 mark of 2:34:04. Aliza Segal of Anchorage was second in 2:45:11.

Last year, Krusen set the 20K classic record at 1:29:58. There was no post-race social at Kenai River Brewing this year, but last year Krusen was at the gathering when she got an idea.

“I do remember sitting at the brewery after the race and seeing those girls who did the 40K,” Krusen said. “They were so brave and strong and I thought, ‘I want to be like them.’”

She said she added in some longer skis and some sessions at Anchorage’s hilly Spencer Loop to get ready for 40K.

Even with the training, Krusen was not confident of victory. Krusen skis with the Nunaka Valley Ski Alliance. Her coach and teammate, Laura Mcnown, was in the race but ended up finishing third.

“I think I went out faster for the first lap and that helped,” Krusen said. “The second lap the snow was a little slower and I got tired working though it.”

Krusen said she’d love to be back at the Tour. She just isn’t sure which race she will do.

Karl Danielson, a 2018 graduate of Kenai, skied for the University of Alaska Fairbanks after high school before transferring to Alaska Pacific University in the fall.

APU is home to some of the top skiers in the nation.

“I like skiing, and just looking around that’s the place to really go for it and see how far I can get,” Danielson said. “It’s been really good. I’ve been improving a lot.”

Danielson finished in 2:06:44 to better Charles DiMarzio’s 2018 record of 2:09:24. DiMarzio was second Sunday in 2:21:36. Kenai’s Jason Parks started a wave back from the leaders but still managed third in 2:21:37.

Normally, Danielson said his racing schedule would have him traveling right now. With some of his APU teammates doing the 30K Sven Johansson in Anchorage, Danielson came down to see his parents and get in a long freestyle race of his own.

“I saw it was happening and I’d never done it before,” he said. “I thought it’d be fun because those are the trails I grew up on. It lined up well with my training plan.”

Danielson, who is pursuing a health science degree with the aim of joining a physical therapy program when he graduates in two years, said he would love to do the race again if it lines up with his schedule.

The final record to fall came in the men’s 20-kilometer classic. Daniel Serventi, a 2014 graduate of Grace Christian in Anchorage, finished at 1:12:50 to better Jordan Chilson’s mark of 1:23:15 in 2020. Soldotna’s Adam Reimer was second at 1:16:43.

Serventi won a Class 3A cross-country running title while at Grace. He also picked up 10 individual or relay Class 3A state skiing titles before going on to ski three years at UAF.

Now working at an engineering company in Kenai, Serventi has shifted his focus to running but a hamstring injury has him skiing more this winter.

Serventi said he started racing at Tsalteshi in middle school, but hadn’t had that chance in six or seven years.

“I really enjoyed the event and thought it was really well organized,” Serventi said. “The trails are maintained really well and the tracks they set were immaculate. The groomers did a really great job.”

Serventi said he’d be open to doing the race again, but that will depend on his training schedule for running.

Jaime Bronga won the 20K women’s classic in 1:35:02, with Homer’s Alison O’Hara second at 1:46:26.

The 20K freestyle titles went to Kelli and Todd Boonstra of Kenai. Kelli, who nearly qualified for the 1998 Winter Olympics in cross-country skiing, also won the 20K freestyle in 2018 and 2019. Todd, a three-time Winter Olympian in cross-country skiing, also won the 20K freestyle in 2019.

Kelli and Megan Corazza had the closest race of the day, with Boonstra finishing in 1:14:20 to beat Corazza by 28 seconds.

“I’ve only raced this twice and both times I raced by myself,” Boonstra said. “It was so fun to have somebody to ski with and draft off of.”

Just after the 15K mark, Boonstra put on a surge on the big Lynx loop uphill and finally opened up a gap.

“When I was on the Moose (loop) at the end, I finally looked back and thought I could maybe hang on,” Boonstra said. “She was really tough.”

Boonstra also coaches the Kenai Middle School cross-country ski program. She said it was great seeing so many ski families, and even some of her middle school skiers, at the event. Chase Laker, a seventh grader, finished fourth in the men’s 20K freestyle at 1:12:53.

Todd Boonstra was the coach at Kenai Middle when Danielson came through. While Boonstra joked that he taught Danielson everything he knows, Boonstra was glad Danielson chose the 40K on Sunday.

“I’m happy Karl wasn’t in my race,” Boonstra said. “He’s fast and he trains a lot.”

Boonstra finished at 1:07:33 to top the 1:09:38 of 2020 20K champ Mitchell Andrew of Soldotna.

After taking control of his wave early in the race, Boonstra said he still couldn’t relax.

“It was hard with all the wave starts,” he said. “There could be someone in a different wave and you don’t know how they’re doing. That made me push harder than I normally would skiing all by myself.”

Cothran said about 20 people volunteered over the course of the weekend. He thanked them for their time and energy.

Fourth Tour of Tsalteshi

Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails

Men’s 20-kilometer classic — 1. Daniel Serventi, Kenai, 1 hour, 12 minutes, 50 seconds; 2. Adam Reimer, Soldotna, 1:16:43; 3. Joey Klecka, Eagle River, 1:23:14; 4. Steve Milliron, Soldotna, 1:31:00; 5. Trevor Davis, 1:33:10; 6. Tim Samuelson, 1:35:01; 7. Marcus Dammeyer, Kalskag, 1:35:21; 8. Mark Beeson, 1:58:10; 9. William Morrow, Kenai, 2:05:40; 10. Dan Balmer, Sterling, 2:11:12; 11. Jon Iannaccone, 2:15:58; 12. Geoffrey Geier, Seward, 2:20:48; 13. Christopher Beaudoin, Soldotna, 2:24:56; 14. Daniel Conetta, Ken, 2:34:16; 15. David “Rusty” Hippchen, Soldotna, 2:35:37; 16. Stephen Lamm, Soldotna, 2:37:31; 17. Jamie Nelson, Kenai, 2:38:49; 18. Jason Evoy, Kenai, 2:48:21; 19. Tim Millings, Soldotna, 2:48:44; 20. Erik Route, Cooper Landing, 3:04:53; 21. Sam Spencer, Cooper Landing, 3:05:02; 22. Josiah Brown, Cooper Landing, 3:08:53.

Women’s 20-kilometer classic — 1. Jaime Bronga, 1:35:02; 2. Alison O’Hara, Homer, 1:46:26; 3. Sarah Pyhala, Soldotna, 1:47:24; 4. Grace Morrow, Kenai, 2:00:52; 5. Jessie Banas, Kenai, 2:03:14; 6. Gigi Banas, Kenai, 2:03:37; 7. Cherie Taylor, Soldotna, 2:04:56; 8. Kristie Cotroneo, Sterling, 2:09:21; 9. Tasha DiMarzio, Seward, 2:22:23; 10. Larissa Arbelovsky, Soldotna, 2:28:19; 11. Rachel Gilliland, Ninilchik, 2:29:55; 12. Yvonne Leutwyler, Homer, 2:29:57; 13. Sadie Ulman, Seward, 2:32:09; 14. Sara Bundy, Soldotna, 2:33:30; 15. Katrina Cannava, Soldotna, 2:35:37; 16. Olga Hippchen, Soldotna, 2:35:37; 17. Hanna Smude, 2:37:36; 18. Yennhi Tran, 2:38:03; 19. Elizabeth Frey, Soldotna, 3:06:56; 20. Becky Hart, Soldotna, 3:08:01; 21. Chelsea Wingard, 3:17:02; 22. Susan Kraft, Soldotna, 3:27:46; 23. Julie Nichols, Kasilof, 2:37:46.

Men’s 20-kilometer freestyle — 1. Todd Boonstra, Kenai, 1:07:33; 2. Mitchell Andrew, Soldotna, 1:09:38; 3. James Butler, Kenai, 1:11:53; 4. Chase Laker, Kasilof, 1:12:53; 5. Levi Mickelson, Soldotna, 1:17:27; 6. Chad Anderson, Kasilof, 1:19:02; 7. Dylan Hogue, Soldotna, 1:19:53; 8. Ryder Giesler, 1:20:56; 9. Carter Cannava, 1:21:04; 10. Andrew Cox, Soldotna, 1:21:50; 11. John Mink, Homer, 1:22:12; 12. Tony Eskelin, Soldotna, 1:22:13; 13. Tom Seggerman, Sterling, 1:22:54; 14. Matthew Grzybowski, Kenai, 1:27:22; 15. Andrew Walsh, Kenai, 1:27:35; 16. Brad Mahood, Soldotna, 1:27:53; 17. Zane Tews, Soldotna, 1:28:01; 18. Patrick Miller, Homer, 1:29:45; 19. Bernard Stratman, Soldotna, 1:31:12; 20. Robert Carson, Soldotna, 1:32:00; 21. Jordan Gould, Soldotna, 1:32:21; 22. Jack Laker, Kasilof, 1:33:46; 23. Gregory Fallon, Kenai, 1:35:33; 24. Larry Tews, Soldotna, 1:35:59; 25. Scott Bloom, Kenai, 1:37:43.

26. Anthony Murray, Kenai, 1:37:44; 27. Steve Cothran, 1:38:25; 28. Ethan Hogue, Soldotna, 1:39:33; 29. Ian McGarry, Soldotna, 1:41:04; 30. Joel Todd, Soldotna, 1:43:50; 31. Paul Ostrander, Soldotna, 1:44:05; 32. William Larned, Soldotna, 1:46:42; 33. Patrick King, Kenai, 1:49:39; 34. Robert Emmick, Austin, 1:52:09; 35. David Espino, Anchorage, 1:53:22; 36. Tor Dahl, Soldotna, 1:55:50; 37. Toby Long, Soldotna, 1:57:10; 38. Mark Laker, Kasilof, 1:57:10; 39. Jeff Perschbacher, Sterling, 1:58:25; 40. Josh Foster, 2:05:40; 41. Ruben Foster, Kenai, 2:05:48; 42. John Hall, Anchorage, 2:08:16; 43. Adelle Cannava, Soldotna, 2:09:12; 44. Lee Green, Soldotna, 2:24:05; 45. Gavin Green, Soldotna, 2:26:18.

Women’s 20-kilometer freestyle — 1. Kelli Boonstra, Kenai, 1:14:20; 2. Megan Corazza, Homer, 1:14:48; 3. Katia Holmes, 1:18:48; 4. Anna Williams, Homer, 1:19:59; 5. Libby Jensen, Soldotna, 1:23:11; 6. Hallie Bergwall, Seward, 1:25:56; 7. Kat Sorensen, Seward, 1:27:11; 8. Cory Route, Cooper Landing, 1:27:32; 9. Sarah Foster, 1:29:13; 10. Theresa Chihuly, Sterling, 1:36:21; 11. Gina Gregoire, Soldotna, 1:38:17; 12. Amy Brodersen, Cooper Landing, 1:38:27; 13. Michelle Quinton, Sterling, 1:38:50; 14. Paula Murray, Kenai, 1:51:06; 15. Nicki Schmitt, Anchorage, 1:52:40; 16. Patty Moran, Soldotna, 1:53:46; 17. Ariana Cannava, Soldotna, 2:00:58; 18. Amy George, Sterling, 2:01:58; 19. Heather Shank, Seward, 2:02:09; 20. Sheryl Nelson, Soldotna, 2:12:32; 21. Heather Rinke, Soldotna, 2:14:55; 22. Leah Fallon, Kenai, 2:30:44; 23. Summer Foster, Kenai, 2:30:48; 24. Gabbie Tews, Soldotna, 2:32:47; 25. Kristin Mitchell, Soldotna, 2:33:26.

26. Cheyenne Alabanzas, Anchorage, 2:48:57; 27. Marly Perschbacher, Sterling, 3:34:33; 28. Kali Saxton-Shaw, Soldotna, 3:34:38.

Men’s 40-kilometer freestyle — 1. Karl Danielson, Kenai, 2:06:44; 2. Charles DiMarzio, Seward, 2:21:36; 3. Jason Parks, Kenai, 2:21:37; 4. Galen Hecht, Soldotna, 2:22:17; 5. Andrew Ducomb, Anchorage, 2:30:58; 6. Aidan Lee, Seward, 2:34:40; 7. Frederick Dickerson, Homer, 2:35:50; 8. Collin Atkinson, Seward, 2:52:17; 9. Jeffrey Hall, Kenai, 2:58:28; 10. Jeffrey Helminiak, Kenai, 2:58:51; 11. Karl Kircher, 3:21:15.

Women’s 40-kilometer freestyle — 1. Mary Krusen, Anchorage, 2:31:56; 2. Aliza Segal, Anchorage, 2:45:11; 3. Laura Mcnown, Anchorage, 2:46:24; 4. Melissa Smith, 2:52:10; 5. Jacqueline Klecka, Anchorage, 3:08:00; 6. Denali Critchett, Kenai, 3:18:37; 7. Alison Erickson, Seward, 3:43:26.

Tim Millings nears the finish of the 20-kilometer classic race at the Tour of Tsalteshi on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Tim Millings nears the finish of the 20-kilometer classic race at the Tour of Tsalteshi on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Sam Spencer, Erik Route and Josiah Brown, all of Cooper Landing, near the finish of the 20-kilometer classic race Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Tim Millings nears the finish of the 20-kilometer classic race at the Tour of Tsalteshi on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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