The Mariners young small team showed the competition whose home course it was at the Nordic skiing Regions meet last weekend at the Lookout Mountain Trails on Ohlson Moutain.
Seven teams competed in the last meet before State meet this weekend in Anchorage. The Lady Mariners took a strong third place, less than a minute behind second place Colony. Grace Christian won the Regions title for the girls.
The Mariner boys took fifth place behind Soldotna, Kenai, Colony and Grace as a result of Friday's dissatisfying race according to some.
"This was one of the worst weekends I have had. We haven't had a classic skate race in a while so it took me out yesterday and carried over to today," said Jake Worsfold on Saturday of the race.
Despite low morale at Regions, the boys still saw two skiers place in the top 10 out of 49 racers on Saturday. Ghen Sasakura passed teammate Brian Rowe in the last section to take ninth with Rowe in 10th. Rowe had complications with a broken pole which caused him to slow down.
This was the first time Sasakura finished in front of Rowe this season.
"I felt good today, but yesterday wasn't so great. I am excited for state though," said Sasakura on Saturday.
Friday's race consisted of a 5K mass start classic race for both boys and girls. Saturday's race was a 5K mass start skate race for the girls and a 7.5K mass start race for the boys.
The Mariner girls also had two skiers place in the top 10 out of 48 racers on Saturday. Barae Hirsch finished fifth and Aspen Daigle finished eighth.
Rachel Ellert, who placed 33rd on Saturday, said she is pleased with her improvement this season.
"I feel like it was a good finish at Regions. We have been working on this course for a while so to be done with Regions is a relief," said Ellert.
Daigle said she was disappointed with her results in the classic race, but did her best in the skate race.
"My technique has improved a lot this season and I have gained more experience. I am excited to see what State is going to bring," said Daigle.
Head Ski Coach Eric Groth said Regions showcased the improvement made by the team throughout the season.
"We had some great performances from kids moving up the ranks," said Groth.
Assistant Ski Coach Heidi Herzog agreed and said she is proud of the accomplishments the young team has made since day one.
"The boys and girls had a huge progression this season. They are a strong young team that will do well next year," said Herzog.
This weekend the team will travel to State Competitions at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. A total of 300 skiers, 12 from each of the 25 Nordic skiing schools in the state, will compete in Anchorage.
Groth and Herzog said they made their state selection based on results and attendance.
"We are not a big team so there weren't any tricky picks. As the kids get older and more competitive, the choice will become more difficult," said Groth.
The Mariners will be taking Barae Hirsch, Cassidy Soistman, Aspen Daigle, Tisha Lovett, Rachel Ellert, Lydia Arndt, Brian Rowe, Ghen Sasakura, Jake Worsfold, Josh Vantrease, Jakob Krisintu and Ryan Navrot.
The team rested this week before their Wednesday departure for Anchorage where racing will run through the weekend.
Veteran skier Rowe said, "I am excited for state. It is always the highlight of the season and everything you've worked on shows."
Angelina Skowronski is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.