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Story Last modified at 8:59 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Local skiers prove 'king' of the trails in more ways than one
Chugiak boys teams sweep Bartlett Relays

Alaska Star


Chugiak senior Ben Fitzgerald crosses the finish line during the individual 100-meter sprint finals at the Bartlett Relays on Jan. 8. Earlier in the day, Fitzgerald and teammate Isaac Lammers teamed up to win the boys "A" team relay event. Chugiak's Peter and Kenny Brewer were second to give the Mustangs a 1-2 finish.

Chugiak's boys Nordic skiing team rocked on the clock Jan. 8, running away from the field en route to a 1-2 finish at a Bartlett sprint relay event that was as much about "the King" as the skiing.

Ben Fitzgerald and Isaac Lammers teamed up to win the race for the Mustangs, finishing just in front of teammates Peter and Kenny Brewer in the four lap, two-person freestyle relay race around a 1.5-kilometer loop.

"It's really cool to have a guys team that's this strong this year," Lammers said.

As the first high school sporting event of the new year, organizers designed the sprints to be more about fun than fast finishes. Following the races, a competition was held among the bravest of skiers to see who could do the best Elvis Presley impression. Race organizers held the Elvis contest to honor the "King of Rock and Roll," whose birthday coincided with the offbeat event.

In the first round of that competition, Eagle River's Brandon Blackley used a form-fitting, white-sequined jumpsuit to wow the judges, advancing to the finals past Chugiak's Adam McComb and Connor Keesecker, who went with a 1950s-era look.

Blackley, fresh off an appearance in another fun event, the 100-meter mini-sprint, wasn't as fortunate in the finals, placing third in the final dance-off.

Wolves coach Mikey Evans said he felt like Blackley's dancing was good enough to win, but that the judges may have been put off by the senior's disco-era digs.

"Nobody likes jumpsuit Elvis," Evans said. "He was kind of on his way out by then, so I think the costume kind of hurt us."

Evans said he was disappointed to see Blackley eliminated after a rigorous week of training for the prestigious competition.

"We definitely incorporated some video review, going all the way back to the Sullivan Show and that kind of stuff and then forward to some of the middle '60s and early '70s Elvis," Evans said. "I don't like fat Elvis, so I didn't show any of that."

All kidding aside, Evans said the fun format of the day's races was a good way to keep athletes from getting burned out over the course of the season.

"It's really easy to max a kid out during the season, so the shorter, fun ones they're good to do because it's sort of taking that pressure off," he said.

Fitzgerald and Lammers led the boys' race from start to finish, while the Brewer twins had to battle the Service team of Jani Lane and John Glen the entire way.

"It was neck and neck," Peter said.

Kenny Brewer said having Lammers and Fitzgerald out in front of he and his brother was a factor that helped them hold off the Service duo.

"I knew if I could get Peter in sight of Isaac, he'd have more motivation," he said.


Eagle River's Brandon Blackley does his best Elvis impersonation during a contest held following the Bartlett Relays on Jan. 8 at Bartlett. Though he didn't win, Blackley was the only athlete at the event to qualify for both the 100-meter sprint finals and the Elvis contest.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth

The Chugiak teams were helped by an early fall in the transition area by the Service skiers. By contrast, the close-knit Chugiak skiers were flawless during their tags, which the team members chalked up to years of training together.

"We just can read each other so well because we've skied together so much, and I think it's the same with Ben and Isaac," Kenny Brewer said.

The four Chugiak speedsters said they knew there was a shot at a 1-2 sweep because several top skiers – South's Forrest Mahlen, Silas Talbot and Jack Novak, along with Service's Peter Mamrol – skipped the event to ski at the national championships in Maine.

"We've been talking about it all week," Peter Brewer said.

Chugiak's Alex Loan and David McPhetres finished sixth in the race, while Blackley teamed with Cam Johnson to place 11th for the Wolves.

In the girls' "A" race, Chugiak got a sixth-place finish from Sarissa Lammers and Kristen Lessard for the top local finish. The Mustangs were without top skiers Kinsey Loan and Kryston McPhetres, who competed at nationals (see accompanying story, page 1). Jackie Klecka and Hannah Stevens were the top Eagle River tandem in eighth.

This weekend, skiers will compete in another less-than-traditional event, the Skiathlon at Kincaid Park. In that race, skiers must ski both disciplines – classic and freestyle – with a ski switch coming midway through. Racing begins at 11 a.m.

Contact Matt Tunseth at or 694-2727, Ext. 215.

Bartlett Relays

Jan. 8

Four 1.5-kilometer laps

Boys A – 1. Chugiak (Ben Fitzgerald, Isaac Lammers), 13:50.8; 2. Chugiak (P. Brewer, K. Brewer), 15:18.2; 3. Service (Lane, Glen), 15:26.7; 4. Service (Prince, Hess), 15:27.5; 5. South (Brewster, Backstrum), 15:40.2; 6. Chugiak (Alex Loan, David McPhetres), 16:01.3; 7. East (Whary, O'Harra), 16:04.9; 8. South (Cusik, Walters), 16:13.7; 9. Service (Parke, Tarbath), 16:24.4; 10. Dimond (Brown, Schuman), 16:30.3; Other local teams – 11. Eagle River (Brandon Blackley, Cam Johnson), 16:40.0; 18. Eagle River (Jacob Timmons, Will Timmons), 17:12.4; 22. Eagle River (Evan Fisher, Ben Smith), 18:19.5.

Girls A – 1. South (Stephanie Kirk, Teagan Yutrzenka), 17:46.3; 2. Service (Price, Ross), 18:04.0; 3. East (Farr, Flynn), 18:16.9; 4. (tie) Dimond (Desatoff, Frieston) and South (Mahlen, Hoefler), 18:28.3; 6. Chugiak (Sarissa Lammers, Kristen Lessard), 18:28.5; 7. Service (Barnhart, McMullen), 18:51.4; 8. Eagle River (Jackie Kleka, Hannah Stevens), 19:23.9; 9. Chugiak (Sam Hartke, Amy Hartke), 19:24.3; 10. South (Dow, Cress), 19:24.7. Other local teams – 13. Eagle River (Brenna Wheeler, Meri Vihavianen), 19:37.0; 16. Chugiak (Emily Geppart, Rachel Schercliff), 20:04.8; 20. Eagle River (Hayley Patin, Richelle Johnson), 23:55.5.

For complete race results, visit

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, January 12, 2011.