Volunteers flocked to the Ohlson Mountain Lookout Trails last weekend to prep the ski trails for the Homer Invitational ski meet, hosting 13 teams from the Valley to Valdez. Race organizers were optimistic that the races would go on, despite poor snow conditions.
The Soldotna boys and Grace Christian girls won team the team titles.
The Soldotna boys won at 1 hour, 29 minutes, 48 seconds. Grace was second and Kenai was third. On the girls side, Grace finished at 1:47:46, while SoHi was second and Homer was third.
The varsity skiers competed in a three-kilometer freestyle on Friday and a six-kilometer classic on Saturday.
The Mariners’ small, young team of 15, a number of them racing in their first meet of the season, held their own on the treacherous course.
“It was good for the kids to try a difficult course. It was fast, hard, icy conditions. I am proud of them,” said Head Coach Eric Groth.
Veteran skier and junior Cassidy Soistman came in seventh overall in both races, in her first meet of the season.
“I feel like I did a lot better than expected. I will just get better from here,” said Soistman.
Freshman Rachel Ellert, in her third year competitively skiing, said she needs to focus on her classic technique.
“I have a lot to work. I expect to be in the top 20 at meets this season,” said Ellert.
The Mariners have not had a groomed track to practice due to the low snowfall. Now that the Lookout Trails are groomed, Groth hopes to take advantage of the trail for practices.
“The Lookout Trail course is known for its difficult hills and tight corners. The team is lucky to have this course to practice on,” said Groth.
Sophomore Ghen Sasakura said he feels like he did well considering the conditions and standards of the course and competition.
Teammate Jake Worsfold said the Homer Invite was a good first race.
“I hope to keep improving and catch up to Ghen. We just need more snow first,” said Worsfold.
The Homer Invite kicked off the first ski race for the Lookout Trail season. The low snowfall caused the trail system’s groomers to work extra hard to fill in the exposed gaps.
“We had four inches of snow and we rolled that to establish a base. Then we got three more inches and rain,” said trail groomer and KNSC volunteer, John Miles. “We were able to make the additional three inches to make the trail presentable by filling in the rock gardens around the corners.”
Race organizer Jan Spurkland worked with school officials, the boosters club and KNSC volunteers to organize and prep the trails for the major event.
“It takes a surprising number of volunteers to make this thing happen. We are lucky in Homer to have a great volunteer base to create these successful events,” said Spurkland.
It took an estimated 50-plus volunteers to put on the Homer Invite, said Spurkland. Mike Byerly and John Miles spearheaded the trail grooming that started far before the snow fell.
“It paid to mow trails in the late summer. That was key to having a good trail. If we had not done that, there would not have been a race last weekend,” said Miles.
Now that trails are laid, the wait is on for more snow. In the meantime, the Mariners continue to practice before the holiday break. The next meet is the Skyview Invite scheduled for the first weekend of the New Year.
Friday, Saturday at Lookout Mountain
Boys team times: 1. Soldotna, 1 hour, 29 minutes, 48 seconds; 2. Grace, 1:33:27; 3. Kenai, 1:33:51; 4. Colony, 1:41:26; 5. Palmer, 1:42:31; 6. Homer, 1:42:50.
Girls team times: 1. Grace, 1:47:46; 2. Soldotna, 1:59:57; 3. Homer, 2:00:23; 4. Colony, 2:00:55; 5. Kenai, 2:05:23.
3K Skate - Friday
2. Brian Rowe, 0:06:24; 15. Ghen Sasakura, 0:07:29; 20. Jake Worsfold, 0:07:44; 42. Jake Krisintu, 0:09:28; 43. Ryan Navrot, 0:09:47; 44. TianenLu, 4:00:00
5. BaraeHirsch, 0:08:30; 7. Cassidy Soistman, 0:08:35; 13. AspenDaigle, 0:08:58; 21. TishaLovett, 0:09:50; 28. Rachel Ellert, 0:10:14
17. Quinn Alward, 0:09:31; 26. Taurey Bowden, 0:10:17; 40. Kaveh Anderson, 0:13:29
34. Annie Worsfold, 0:14:41
6K Classic – Saturday
6. Brian Rowe, 0:21:41; 13. GhenSasakura, 0:24:02; 25. JakeWorsfold, 0:25:56; 39. Ryan Navrot; 0:31:12; 40. Jake Krisintu, 0:32:28
6. BaraeHirsch, 0:27:43; 7. Cassidy Soistman, 0:28:13; 16. Aspen Daigle, 0:31:16; 25. TishaLovett, 0:33:11; 32. Rachel Ellert, 0:34:32
18. Quinn Alward, 0:20:45