Chugiak's Grant Ensign powers his way up the final hill during a 10.4-kilometer classic ski race at Chugiak on Jan. 29. Ensign finished 18th in the boys "B" race.
STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH
In the world of Nordic ski racing, minutes and seconds are everything even when it comes to the snooze button.
"It was good being able to sleep in and kind of rest a little bit more," said Eagle River High skier Brandon Blackley after completing the 10.4-kilometer Chugiak Stampede race at the Beach Lake Trails on Jan. 29.
As the lone stop outside Anchorage on the high school circuit, the Stampede served as a chance for area skiers and coaches to kick their way competitively around a course that they normally only train on.
Chugiak coach Gretchen Carrick said the races (the varsity girls did a 7.5-kilometer loop) were a nice break from the usual trip into town.
"We always like to have it on our trails," she said. "It's fun for the kids, and they know their way around. They know how to take the corners, they know what hills are coming up, they know every aspect of the trails."
Chugiak's Krysti McPhetres looked right at home at Beach Lake, posting a third-place finish for the second prep race in a row to lead the Mustangs to a third-place finish in front of a large crowd of cowbell-shaking fans.
"We love it when the community comes out," Carrick said. "It makes for a nice community event."
Chugiak's boys team also placed third, paced by a fifth-place finish by Kenny Brewer and a season-best eighth from freshman Alex Loan.
Service's Silas Talbot won the boys race for the first-place Cougars, while South's Karina Packer took home the top spot for the first-place Wolverines.
Hannah Stevens was the top Eagle River finisher in 15th for the fifth-place Wolves' girls team, while Blackley led the way for the sixth-place Eagle River boys in 18th.
Blackley said he felt good out on the course and credited the Eagle River coaching staff for nailing the kick wax.
"If you don't have good wax, you lose all your speed, and skiing's a lot about keeping your momentum going all the time," Blackley said.
Eagle River coach Mike Evans said waxing can be a factor in classic races, and he and the Wolves' coaching staff were out on the course about two hours early to get things dialed in.
"If you blow the kick wax, you can lose a minute per kilometer," he said.
Evans added that waxing is only one small component of what makes a fast skier.
"Everyone knows the four factors that influence the skier's speed are fitness, technique, the ski and the wax, in that order," he said.
If the wax isn't right, he said, a skier can begin to fatigue early and lose faith in the skis.
"If you're out there kicking and the wax is not good, you start to lose confidence as a skier, you start to get really dependent on your upper body," he said.
But, he added, hard work in training will trump good wax any day of the week.
"If half the people who nail the wax would just ski more and work on their technique, they'd be winning anyway," he said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at email@example.com or 694-2727.
10.4K boys, 7.5K girls
Boys A team results 1. Service, 2:01:03.5; 2. South, 2:05:05.2; 3. Chugiak, 2:06:39.2; 4. West, 2:15:57.7; 5. East, 2:17:44.8; 6. Eagle River, 2:18:48.4; 7. Dimond, 2:19:52.5; 8. Colony, 2:20:47.1; 9. Bartlett, 2:45:46.9
Top 10 1. Silas Talbot, Ser, 28:53.8; 2. Jack Novak, Sou, 29:59.6; 3. Jani Lane, Ser, 30:31.3; 4. Kyle Barnhart, Ser, 30:38.3; 5. Austin Hess, Ser, 31:00.1; 6. Kenny Brewer, Chu, 31:01.1; 7. Eric Backstrom, Sou, 31:13.0; 8. Alex Loan, Chu, 31:28.2; 9. Brandon Brewster, Sou, 31:30.5; 10. Jack Parke, Ser, 31:59.5.
Other Chugiak/Eagle River finishers 11. Peter Brewer, Chu, 32:01.3; 12. Ben Fitzgerald, Chu, 32:08.6; 18. Brandon Blackley, ER, 33:12.08; 22. Cam Johnson, ER, 34:05.7; 28. James Colles, Chu, 34:46.4; 30. Robert Colles, Chu, 35:09.3; 35. Evan Fisher, ER, 35:43.2; 37. Ben Smith, ER, 35:46.7; 39. Jacob Timmons, ER, 36:05.4; 41. Will Timmons, ER, 36:25.4