Story last updated at 3:16 p.m. Thursday, October 3, 2002

Phelps 18th, Garroutte 43rd at state

Ninilchik's Moerlein 11th in small schools race

Morris News Service-Alaska
Cross country season came to a close last weekend as the Homer girls ran to an eighth-place finish at the state meet in Palmer.

It was the second straight appearance at state for the Mariners, who were paced by junior Aleta Phelps' 18th-place individual finish in 20 minutes, 21 seconds. Her time was 1:41 behind winner Kris Smith of West Anchorage.

East Anchorage took the team title, placing three runners in the top 10 and finishing with 50 points, well ahead of second-place West Valley, which finished with 81 points.

The individual competition in the girls race was largely for second place, as Smith ran away from the field early. Skyview's Marci Mohler, who finished fourth behind Smith, Colony's Dominique Colberg and Soldotna's Jessica Weimer, said Smith started the race like a jack rabbit, and there was no catching the West senior.

"I had planned to stick behind her, but she took off at the beginning of the race," Mohler said. "She was gone almost as soon as the race started. In the races I didn't race against her, we ran almost the same times. I didn't expect that."

After just one lap on the 2.5-kilometer loop of the Michael Janacek Running Trail, Smith had distanced herself from the rest of the field by 11 seconds. And her lead kept growing.

Smith, who earned her second consecutive state championship, admitted that she had saved an extra trick up her sleeves for her last two races.

"I've been kind of holding my cards," Smith said. "I only really rested for regionals and the state so I would peak faster. I knew they were going to try to stay with me, but I just ran my race."

Completing the first two-thirds of the race in 12 minutes, Smith was on pace to tie or break the course record of 18:03, set in 1998 by Darcy Dugan of Dimond. But when she emerged from her third lap on the loop to attack the final 1,000 meters to the finish, the clock didn't show the time of 17:45 she said she expected to see.

"I felt like I had a good race," Smith said. "I was under pace, but I don't know what happened."

Melanie Mach (20:46) finished 34th for Homer. She was followed by Hannah Harrison (49th, 21:36), Megan Mahan (50th, 22:02), Rose Sinnhuber (62nd, 22:39), Samantha Halpin (68th, 23:07) and Kayo Toyoda (77th, 25:16).

In the girls small schools race, won handily by Susitna Valley, Ninilchik finished seventh, paced by Katie Moerlein's 11th-place finish in 21:06. Houston's Linnea Pudwill grabbed the individual title in 19:54.

Whitney Leman and Liz Lettington came in 28th and 44th for the Wolverines, and Kendra Moerlein (47th), Angela Singh (78th), Courtney Schnabl (92nd) and Amanda Peterson (94th) also contributed to Ninilchik's cause.

The Homer boys team did not qualify for the state meet, but Mariner junior Monte Garroutte participated and finished 43rd in 17:52.

Chugiak won the team title behind the second-place finish of Jesse Cherry, who was four seconds off the pace of winner Aaron Dickson of Palmer, who posted a 16:12.

In the small schools race, Valdez edged Seward, 68-76, for the team title. Jake Moe of ACS finished in 17:00 to win individual honors.

Peninsula Clarion reporter Marcus K. Garner contributed to this story.