• What high school skiers wouldn’t give right now for a good snowstorm
By Sean Pearson
The biting cold; the fast trail; the clanging of a cowbell at the finish line: All the key elements of a good cross-country ski opening came together at the Flat-out Flight Races on Headquarters Lake in Soldotna on Saturday.
Well, everything but the snow.
Homer skiers joined Soldotna, Kenai, Nikiski and Skyview in a series of 6-kilometer “flights” across the frozen lake to kick off the 2012-13 high school ski season. Skiers were grouped into different flights based on experience, and the M’s turned in several top-5 finishes.
Freshman Barae Hirsch skied to a solid second-place finish in her flight, finishing in 23 minutes, 48 seconds.
“The races were held on a lake, so it was completely flat,” Hirsch said of the course. “I feel like that’s a bit of false security. It was extremely cold, but there was no wind. That was definitely something to be thankful for.”
Junior Brian Rowe, who skied to third place with a time of 18:49 in the Boys Flight 1 group, said there was very little snow on the course.
“We didn’t really need much snow to ski on the lake,” he said. “The trail was actually good, but with no hills, we got no breaks during the race.”
Saturday’s flight races were a new addition to the Mariners’ ski schedule.
“The flight races are new to our team, but the central peninsula has been doing them for a while now,” Rowe explained.
Both skiers acknowledged the significant impact of frigid temperatures on their individual performances.
“Temperature plays a huge part in how well we do,” Hirsch said. “But I settled into a rhythm on Saturday and it turned out well.”
Hirsch said any pressure she feels to succeed is the pressure she puts on herself.
“Those are my own expectations,” she said. “Everybody is supportive. I just have to try my best.”
The team will also have the opportunity to break in a new coach, as former head coach Jan Spurkland shifts his focus toward developmental training programs with Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. Hirsch said Spurkland has hosted a “fantastic” training camp, and helps guide regular workouts for the athletes.
Eric Groth will step up to coach the Mariners this season. Groth skied at the college level for the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“The new coach this year is way different than Jan, our old coach,” Rowe said. “I think Eric is going to be good, and I’m excited to see where he can take the team.”
Hirsch said she joins several teammates in hoping for some measurable snow.
“We hope to practice on hills, but as of now, we only have a few places that are skiable,” she said. “Once the clouds open up, I think our season will really get going.”
With several skiers performing in the Nutcracker, Homer continues to look a little meager in numbers; but not so much in the area of determination.
“I think I still have a lot to learn about how far I can push my limits,” Hirsch said. “I’m looking forward to a great season.”
This weekend, Homer skiers travel to Anchorage to compete in the Lynx Loppett ski competition.
Flat-out Flight Races (Homer Finishers)
Boys Flight 1
3. Brian Rowe, 18 minutes, 49 seconds; 15. Jake Worsfold, 23:04.
Boys Flight 2
4. Ghen Sasakura, 21:59; 7. Tianen Liu, 24:36; 10. Ryan Navrot, 29:59; 11. Jakob Krisintu, 29:59; 12. Ryley Chesser, 30:34.
Girls Flight 1
2. Barae Hirsch, 23:48; 5. Aspen Daigle, 24:02; 10. Lydia Arndt, 30:16.
Girls Flight 3
5. Rachel Ellert, 14:13; 6. Mariah Vantrease, 14:32.
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