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Story Last modified at 10:06 p.m. on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

State's best skiers ready for frigid Fairbanks

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Chugiak's Kenny Brewer grimaces after crossing the finish line during the boys individual classic ski race at the Region IV Nordic Ski Championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage on Feb. 18. Brewer placed fifth in the event, the top finish among Chugiak/Eagle River boys in the race.
STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH

Hot skis will meet cold snow today when the Alaska State Nordic Ski Championships kick off at the always chilly Birch Hill trails in Fairbanks.

The three-day event will begin at 1 p.m. with the boys' 7.5-kilometer classic race, followed at 2:30 p.m. by the girls' 5-kilometer classic event. Day 2 will consist of a girls' 7.5-kilometer mass start freestyle race, followed by the boys' 10-kilometer race. Saturday's finale will feature mixed technique relays.

According to the National Weather Service, weekend temperatures in Fairbanks are expected to hover just below zero – cold, yes, but not nearly as frigid as Fairbanks can get.

One of the weekend favorites is Chugiak's Kinsey Loan, who was seventh in the state Skimeister (combined individual freestyle and classic times) standings last season. Fresh off her winning performance at the Region IV Championships, Loan said she's looking forward to challenging the state's best in Fairbanks.

"I think it should be really fun," she said.

Loan said she's excited about the prospect of skiing in the Interior's notorious weather.

"I like it when it's cold," she said.

Loan's top competition is likely to include West Valley's Hannah Boyer, a junior who is the defending state Skimeister; Lathrop junior Megan Edic, this year's Region II champion; Region III champion Bree Mucha of Soldotna; and a pack of Region IV rivals that includes standouts like Dimond's Marion Woods, West's Celia Haering and Annie Liotta, and South's Karina Packer, Stephaine Kirk and Tristan Ramey.

It's a loaded field. Every skier mentioned – and a couple others in the field – is on the Team Alaska squad that will travel to Minneapolis next month to take part in the Junior Olympics.

"These kids ski against the best skiers in the country," said Eagle River coach Mikey Evans.

Evans said Alaska's top skiers have firmly established themselves as the nation's best at national and international competitions.

"As far as high school talent goes, you don't find a better crop," he said.

Loan won't be the only skier in blue and black looking for a top finish. Her Chugiak teammates Krysti McPhetres and Sarissa Lammers are also Team Alaska members who have consistently been in the Top-10 at high school races this season, while Sam and Amy Hartke have also been among the best in Region IV.

Eagle River's top skiers are sophomore Hannah Stevens, who finished a team-best 16th at the Region IV classic race, and junior Jackie Klecka, who was 50th overall last season at the state meet.

Chugiak's deep boys team will send several challengers, led by seniors Isaac Lammers, Ben Fitzgerald, Peter Brewer and Kenny Brewer along with underclassmen Alex Loan and David McPhetres. Lammers, Fitzgerald, Loan and McPhetres are all Team Alaska members, while the Brewer twins have been among the four fastest Chugiak skiers all season.

Lammers, who was eighth last season overall at the state meet, figures to be Chugiak's best bet. But he'll have his work cut out for him against a field that includes last year's runner-up and reigning Region IV Skimeister Silas Talbot of Service and Region II champ Logan Hanneman of Lathrop.

Eagle River's top skier at last year's state meet was Brandon Blackley, and he'll be back again this season as a senior to try to improve on his 47th-place finish a year ago.

Both Chugiak teams figure to be in the mix in the relay event, where each finished third at regions. Chugiak coach Gretchen Carrick said she feels her boys team especially has a chance to sneak up on some teams.

"Maybe we'll have that surprise element, where we find the magic and just go with it," she said.

Peter Brewer said he and his senior teammates are hoping to make their final high school race a memorable one.

"We're hoping to at least hang with those top teams," he said.

Isaac Lammers said the group was disappointed in its relay performance at regions, and afterward promised a better showing at state.

"We should be peaking next week," he said.

Contact Matt Tunseth at matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com or 694-2727 Ext. 215.



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, February 23, 2011.