With the Kenai Mountains as a backdrop and Kachemak Bay to their left and right, high school cross-country runners from Kachemak Selo, Nikiski, Nikolaevsk, Soldotna and Homer took to the Spit Trail on Saturday in a 5K Homer invitational.
Homer’s varsity girls claimed a first-place team finish. A first-place tie on the boys side, which takes into consideration the finishing times of the top five runners of each team, was decided by the finishing time of the sixth-place runner and that boosted Kenai into the lead, with Homer taking second.
“There was a little bit of a delay with the results and Homer didn’t realize it was a tie and went to the sixth-runner,” Homer Mariner Head Coach Bill Steyer said on Sunday. “The boys will be surprised when they hear this and realize how important that sixth place runner is in a tie-breaker.”
Daniel Shuler of Soldotna was the first-place finisher for the boys, crossing the finish line in 17:00.11. Right at his heels was Homer’s Jordan Beachy, in second place with a time of 17:16.95.
Molly Mitchell was Homer’s first varsity girl to cross the finish line and in second place overall. She had a time of 18:50.06.
“Molly went fast,” said Steyer of the Homer High School junior’s race.
In first place, Soldotna’s Olivia Hutchings finished in 18:04.14. Mariner Lauren Evarts, finishing eighth overall and fifth for Homer in 20:11.47, sealed Homer’s first-place team win.
“She really stepped up and had a stand-out performance that was a key for our team as the fifth runner,” said Steyer.
After competing in a few community runs with her mom, Fran, Evarts began running in school as a third-grader at West Homer Elementary School. She continued to compete as a middle school student and began running with the Mariner team last year as a freshman at Homer High.
“Running kind of puts me in a relaxing zone,” said Evarts. “It’s not easy and you definitely have to work for it, but it’s worth it.”
As a sophomore, her goal was to beat her personal record from last year, 20:40.
“I did that yesterday,” Evarts told the Homer News on Sunday. “I saw on the timer that it was a little more than 20, so I was kind of excited about that.”
Another running goal of Evarts is to compete in a marathon, a distance of 26.2 miles.
“I’ve run the half marathon a few times, so I’m hoping to do a full one,” said Evarts who has competed for the past several years at the Midnight Sun Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage. “That’s a nice run.”
After Saturday’s race, her new goal as a Mariner XC athlete is to break a 5K time of 20 minutes sometime in the next two years. With regions and state competition coming up, this might be the year Evarts pushes to that new PR.
“I think we’re going to do really well,” said Evarts of Homer’s finish at upcoming regions and state. “I’m hoping that we can place first in both meets. I think it’s possible for us to do that.”
Between now and then, Evarts said Mariner XC runners are making sure they “eat healthy and get enough rest. In practices, we’re actually tapering so we’re not doing as much just so we can relax and make sure we don’t get injured.”
Judging from the close finish times on Saturday, Steyer said it could very well come down to the fifth-, sixth- and even eighth-place finishing times to decide the season’s outcome.
“The group that made the difference for us were the third-, fourth- and fifth-place runners. They won the race for us. Mission accomplished,” he said of Saturday’s results. “The championships at regions and state could very well come down to that. It’s that close.”
Evarts looks to Steyer to keep the team focused.
“He’s really good,” she said. “He knows how to push us and he knows how to make us meet our potential.”
Nikolaevsk’s three varsity runners also took part in the Saturday race. Greg Trail took ninth place with a time of 18:22.86 and his teammate Jonah Fefelov finished 16th with a time of 20:33.63. Running for the varsity girls was Megan Hickman, who crossed the finish line in 29:23.94.
“(Hickman) had a very frustrating day on Saturday as she continued to battle shin splints,” said Nikolaevsk Head Coach Steve Klaich. “(Fefelov) recorded his season best time and looks to improve on that next week at the Region II meet in Su-Valley.”
Trail also had an outstanding run, achieving “a personal best 5K time and (he) was thrilled,” said Klaich. “I look for him to push the top Region II runner, Jordan Sondergaard of Glennallen, and finish in the top two in the region. We might even see an upset at the top. (Trail) is motivated and running well.”
Region competition is held Saturday at Kodiak. State competition is Oct. 4 at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Homer Invite XC 2014
Spit Trail – Sept. 20
Team results (girls): 1. Homer, 25; 2. Soldotna, 30.
Individual varsity results for southern Kenai Peninsula (girls): 2. Molly Mitchell, Homer, 18:50.06; 4. Megan Pitzman, Homer, 19:42.91; 5. Aurora Waclawski, Homer, 19:55.73; 6. Alex Mosley, Homer, 19:59.89; 8. Lauren Evarts, 20:11.47; 11. Ziza Shemet Pitcher, Homer, 20:31.53; 13. Audrey Rosencrans, Homer, 21:16.17; 15. Megan Hickman, Nikolaevsk, 29:23.94;
Team results (boys): 1. Soldotna, 28; 2. Homer, 28
Individual varsity results for southern Kenai Peninsula (boys): 2. Jordan Beachy, Homer, 17:16.95; 4. Jared Brant, Homer, 17:44.62; 5. Brandon Beachy, Homer, 17:49.46; 6. Jacob Davis, Homer, 17:50.48; 9. Greg Trail, Nikolaevsk, 18:22.86; 12. Denver Waclawski, Homer, 18:51.75; 13. Jaime Rios, Homer, 19:07.89; 14. Elan Carroll, Homer, 19:19.51; 16. Jonah Fefelov, Nikolaevsk, 20:33.63; 18. German Kalugin, Kachemak