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Story Last modified at 9:48 p.m. on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Building on their speed
Middle-school ski racers give it their best at City Championships

BY MELISSA DeVAUGHN
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Mirror Lake seventh-grade varsity skiers (left to right) Hannah Russell, Sara Hartkeand Molly Romero sprint to the finish during the middle school cross-country ski City Championships Feb. 15 at Kincaid Park.
Photo by Andy Hall

Things weren't looking too good for Mirror Lake seventh-grader Ripleigh Campnell at the beginning of the girls grade 6-7 varsity cross-country ski championships Tuesday afternoon. Just seconds after the race started, with the pack of girls not even out of the Kincaid Park stadium, she tripped and went down. While the rush of girls skied around her, Campnell, one of the top seventh-grade skiers, was left alone.

"I waited to get up until everybody was past so I wouldn't get hit," Campnell said, recalling the girls cross-country ski race from a week before, when a pileup early in the race left girls bruised and battered going into the race.

Campnell needn't have feared. While she may have been last out of the stadium, by the time she crossed the finish line some 15 minutes later, she had passed more than half of them and finished as the first local seventh-grade girl skier at 11th overall.

As she caught her breath at the finish, she seemed mildly surprised at the feat. Not only did she manage to pass every one of her teammates, but also finished in the top 15 among 31 racers in her group.

"I was just trying to pass people," she said. "I didn't know if they were Mirror Lake skiers or other skiers."

More than 300 skiers competed in Tuesday's city championships, which included races for varsity boys and girls in grades 6-7 and 8, as well as junior varsity races for both age groups.

Steve Bay, one of the coaches for Gruening Middle School's ski team, said it's been a good season for his team, which is young in experience but full of enthusiasm.

"We had a mixture this year of eighth-graders who skied last year and showed lots of improvement this year and several new eighth-graders who picked up skiing quickly and were skiing strong by mid-season," he said. "We were at a loss for seventh-grade girls this year, but had some seventh-grade boys who had a little ski experience and excelled swiftly throughout the season and skied varsity today. We look forward to them being our leaders next season, and hope to recruit some seventh-grade girls next year."

Mirror Lake's Coyotes had the strongest finish among the local teams, with eighth-grader Victoria Parsons finishing in fourth place for girls varsity, followed by Cara Chapman in seventh. Seventh-grader Roan Hall captured fourth for the top boys varsity finish.

"That was exhausting," said Parsons, as she and Chapman stood at the finish line. "On the flats, I tried to V2 (a skate-ski technique) as hard as possible, and in the chute, I just went as hard as I could."

"I just wanted it to be over," Chapman confided. "But I was thinking 'do the things you think you can't do,' to try to make myself keep going."

Gruening eighth-graders Carisa Andersen and Lauren Rachow finished close to each other, too, at 14th and 16th, respectively. They agreed that the hilly course at Kincaid challenged them.

"I'm tired," said Andersen. "I was beaten by (another skier by) just a little bit at the end."

"I had her," Rachow said, nodding to Andersen, who skied just ahead of her and kept her focus on the race's end.

The boy skiers seemed equally as relieved to get the race over with. Gruening seventh-grader Jacob Walsh was one of only two seventh-graders representing the varsity field for his school. He said the race was not his best – he fell once – but he was satisfied with his 20th-place finish.

"My best race was at Chugiak, but I like skate-skiing better," he said of Tuesday's race versus the classic ski race held earlier in the season at Chugiak High.

Mirror Lake's eighth-grade varsity boys team was represented by three skiers – Caleb Huntington, Connor Spencer and Angus Gilbert.

Huntington said the 3.6-K course seemed long – but then again he was suffering on the hills.

"I don't have much of a strategy," said Huntington, who placed first among his teammates and eighth overall. "I just skied as hard as I could."

Tuesday's skate-ski championships are the end of the individual season for budding racers, but the team relay championships are set for Feb. 24 at Bartlett High. Those races consist of skate and classic-style races among four-person combined and single-gender teams.

Boys 6-7 Varsity

1) 15 Pnts, Goldenview; 2) 26, Central; 3) 33, Hanshew; 4) Mears; 5) Gruening; 6-tie) MirrorLake, Romig; 8) Girdwood; 9) Begich; 10) WinterBerry

Boys 7 (top 3, plus local finishers)

1) 11:44.4, Balcoa, Will, Goldv; 2) 11:54.5, Hoefler, Matthew, Goldv; 3) 12:25.8, Hagan, Evan, Mears; 4) 12:27.8, Hall, Roan, MirrL; 13) 13:55.9, McGill, Harrison, Gruen; 20) 15:28.5, Walsh, Jacob, Gruen

Boys 8 Varsity

1) 22 Pnts, Romig; 2) 24, Goldenview; 3) 30, Hanshew; 4) Mears; 5) Gruening; 6) Central; 7) MirrorLake; 8) Wendler; 9) Begich

Boys 8 (top 3, plus local finishers)

1) 10:26.0, Bassett, Jake, Hansh; 2) 10:44.9, Muffoletto, Matthew, Goldv; 3) 11:20.7, Truskowski, Conner, Goldv; 8) 12:57.1, Huntington, Caleb, MirrL; 9) 13:03.9, Smith, Alec, Gruen; 17) 14:13.1, Hall, Benjamin, Gruen; 18) 14:13.6, Hail, William, Gruen; 20) 14:27.2, Gilbert, Angus, MirrL; 30, 16:50.0, Spencer, Connor, MirrL

Girls 6-7 Varsity

1) 14 Pnts, Goldenview; 2) 19, Romig; 3) 39, MirrorLake; 4) Mears; 5) Begich; 6) Hanshew ; 7) Wendler; 8) WinterBerry; 9) Girdwood; 10) Central

Girls 6 (top 3 and local finishers)

1) 12:58.2, Flynn, Morgan, Wendl; 2) 13:11.5, Parke, Juliette, Goldv; 3) 13:15.5, Darnell, Anna, Goldv; 11) Campnell, Ripleigh, 15:28.9; 12) 16:08.3, Russell, Hannah, MirrL; 13) 16:10.0, Romero, Molly, MirrL; 14) 16:12.9, Hartke, Sara, MirrL; 16) 16:27.4, Casper, Kelly, MirrL; 17) 16:46.8, Veech, Ashley, MirrL; 19) 17:01.2, Goolsby, Catherine, MirrL; 20) 17:10.8, Connelly, Annie, MirrL; 28) 18:11.0, Larue, Isabel, MirrL

Girls 8 Varsity

1) 19 Pnts, Goldenview; 2) 23, Romig; 3) 32, MirrorLake; 4) Central; 5) Wendler; 6) Gruening; 7) Begich; 8) WinterBerry; 9) Mears

Girls 8 (top 3 and local finshers)

1) 11:23.7, Blanchet, Lydia, Romig; 2) 11:47.5, Hunt-Smith, Taryn, Goldv; 3) 13:12.9, Jager, Ana, Begich; 4) 14:35.0, Parsons, Victoria, MirrL; 7) 15:31.8, Chapman, Cara, MirrL; 14) Carisa Andersen, 17:28.7, Gruen; 16) 17:56.0, Rachow, Lauren, Gruen; 21) 19:05.3, Eliassen, Madeline, MirrL; 25) 19:46.3, George, Addie, MirrL; 26) 19:51.3, Papasodora, Cathryn, Gruen



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, February 16, 2011.