Story last updated at 2:37 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2002

Snow dance heads into second month
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports

  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Homer High School cross-country skier Aleta Phelps hops her way up a small slope alongside the track during a conditioning practice on Monday. While the lack of snow on the Kenai Peninsula has led to some unique practices, the Mariner junior found traditional skiing more to her liking as she took third on both days of the Hatcher Pass Invite, the team's first competition this season.  
It was more than a month ago that Homer cross-country ski team members first gathered to begin conditioning workouts and practicing their skills. Unfortunately, green grass was flourishing on the ski trails around Kachemak Bay.

Five weeks later, with snow only gracing the upper ramparts of the Kenai Mountains, the Mariners got in their first competition of the season -- a meet last weekend originally scheduled as the Skyview Invite but held a couple of hundred miles north in Hatcher Pass. The Talkeetna Range hot spot is currently the only location in Southcentral Alaska offering suitable groomed cross-country ski trails.

Due to the constraints of a thin snowpack and some precipitous changes in terrain, the course was unusually short -- just 3.5-kilometers for both the classical and skate events.

Junior Aleta Phelps had excellent races both days of the meet, renamed the Hatcher Pass Invite, placing third in Friday's classical event and grabbing another third on Saturday in the skate race. More than 40 girls competed in each race.

On Friday, Phelps finished with a time of 14 minutes, 18 seconds, 1:41 behind winner Tazlina Mannix of Talkeetna's Su Valley High School. On Saturday, Phelps posted a time of 12:50 in a skate event that was also won by Mannix (11:47).

In the boys races, Morgan Jones, the lone Mariner competing, placed 24th (14:42) on Friday out of 53 skiers, while he took 25th (12:54) on Saturday against a field of 57.

photo: sports

  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
A skiier practices for Cross-country skiing with no snow.  
Among other Mariners, Lauren Migdal placed 22nd (16:31) on Saturday, while Hannah Harrison was 31st (19:07) and Kacey Aderhold was 32nd (19:09).

There was one day last month when the course at Lookout Mountain had a groomed trail set and the Mariners hit it enthusiastically. But the next day rain washed away what little snow had been packed.

The freakish warm weather caused the cancellation of the first meet of the season, an all-Kenai Peninsula meet Homer was to hold at Lookout Mountain on Nov. 23.

The Mariners head back up to Hatcher Pass on Friday for this weekend's Colony Invite.

Homer coach Daryl Farrens said that many of the Mariner skiers who weren't racing last weekend took the opportunity to get in some rare on-snow training, a trend he said would certainly continue.

"Even the skiers who raced got in some work," Farrens said. "It's just a good chance for everybody to work on their technique after a lot of dry-ground training."

Meanwhile, the snow watch continues for the Mariners and the rest of the region's skiers, who continue to run.

Phelps said the dry-land practices were getting old.

"We do a snow chant at the end of each practice."

Sepp Jannotta can be reached at sjannotta@homer