Story last updated at 4:17 p.m. Thursday, August 15, 2002

Harriers' hopes running high
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports
  Photo by Mark Kelsey, Homer News
A group of current and former Homer High School cross country runners heads toward the trails near the start of the Mariner 3-miler on Friday.  
With preseason practices off and running, Daryl Farrens, the coach of the Homer High School cross country team, commented that half of his team is scattered between Massachusetts and Bristol Bay.

This information begs certain questions for those Homer runners who commercial fish during their summer vacation: Do sea legs convert easily to the trail? Do they run laps around the decks of pitching boats?

Of course Farrens is more concerned about who on the aptly named Mariner cross country team will have logged the mandated 10 practice days needed to compete at the season-opening Nikiski Class Races on Friday.

While his roster may be a little thin for the first day of competition in the Alaska high school cross country season, Farrens said he hopes this year's somewhat younger Mariners will be able to keep pace with their Region III counterparts.

"As far as the boys go, this is a tough region," Farrens said, noting that the top three runners in the state last season came from Region III. The Homer boys, he added, were fourth in the team standings in last year's region meet, placing three runners in the top 10.

Without two of last year's standouts in Andrew Peters and Travis Kauffman, this year's team will likely rely heavily on the experience of Monte Garroutte, who will try and keep the form that earned him a sixth-place finish at state last year.

  Photo by Mark Kelsey, Homer News
Junior Aleta Phelps powers around during the 3-miler. Phelps was the top woman in the 3-miler. The Mariners open their season on Friday at Nikiski.  
"He's actually state champ potential," Farrens said of Garroutte. "If we can keep him injury free and healthy, we're looking for a big year from him."

Senior Cody Smith, a two-time state qualifier as a sprinter for the Mariner track and field team, will look to contribute out on the trails in his first season of cross country.

"He's looking fairly strong for a sprinter," Farrens said.

Farrens said he's looking for some solid contributions from sophomores Dylan Anderson, Travis Hines and Mike Farrens, who've all "made some major improvements."

"The guys are going to probably surprise a few teams, especially after losing Andrew and Travis," Farrens said. "But as tough as Region III is, it'll be difficult to put a team together that'll qualify for state."

Farrens was a little more confident in the long-run prospects for the girls squad.

"The girls have better potential than the guys, with an easier regions (competition) and more speed coming back," Farrens said, adding that the younger runners, particularly Megan Mahan and Hannah Harrison, have shown a lot of promise.

Farrrens likened Mahan and Harrison to sophomores Melanie Mach and Samantha Halpin, both of whom went to state last year. Mach and Halpin should have an excellent season this year as well, Farrens said.

Junior Aleta Phelps will be the lone upperclassman and will be anchoring the girls team.

"Aleta is our No. 1 runner," Farrens said. "She comes in and gives it her all. She'll do well."

The first few weeks of the cross country season is typically a time for the team to get back into the groove of cross-country running, Farrens said.

"We've been working on everybody's form. Folks are starting to come around and running more efficiently," Farrens said of his team. "They're a pretty ambitious group."

Team members have a couple of weeks before they get to show off their ambition on their home trails. The Mariners will host the Homer Invitational on Aug. 30 following away meets at Nikiski and Bartlett.

Peters, Phelps win run

Andrew Peters, a 2001 Homer High School grad and former Mariner cross country standout, and current Mariner Aleta Phelps posted wins in Friday's Mariner 3-miler, a fund raiser for the high school's cross country program.

Peters posted a time of 17 minutes, 39 seconds, more than three minutes faster than Mariner cross-country runner Dylan Anderson, who took second.

Phelps came in at 20:47 for the top time among the women.