Seconds to spare at state skiing

CHS star easily wins title to lead local standouts; Mustang boys second overall


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STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH

Shortly after winning the individual boys Skimeister title at the ASAA Alaska State Nordic Skiing Championships on Feb. 24, Chugiak senior Isaac Lammers sat relaxing inside the Kincaid Park chalet with some of his teammates. When a reporter approached to ask if Lammers had a second to comment on his performance, a fellow Mustang couldn’t help himself.

“He’s got 19 of ‘em, actually,” the teammate quipped.

Indeed.

Lammers’ dominant performance in the individual classic race on Day 2 of the three-day meet earned him a 19-second margin of victory over Service’s John Glen for the coveted Skimeister crown, which is determined by skiers’ combined times in the individual classic and freestyle races. Lammers trailed East’s Thomas O’Harra by six seconds entering the classic race, but blew away the field to earn the right to be called Alaska’s best prep Nordic skier.

“It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” he said. “It’s pretty sweet.”

Lammers’ victory came as no surprise to Chugiak coach Mikey Evans, who pointed out that the senior — who will compete at Junior Nationals in March — has been the top prep racer in the state all winter.

“He’s just a solid technician, every time he goes out on skis he’s always trying to improve,” he said.

Lammers was the top local skier during the grueling meet, which put skiers through a pair of individual races Thursday and Friday and a team relay on Saturday. With their star senior leading the way, Chugiak’s boys placed third in the relay and second overall to Service.

But it wasn’t all Isaac for the Mustang boys. Junior teammate Alex Loan finished fifth in the Skimeister standings, while sophomore David McPhetres was 10th. Loan, McPhetres, Lammers and James Colles comprised the CHS relay squad.

Evans said he thinks both Loan and McPhetres should be near the top of the heap again next season.

“There’s going to be some good battles,” he said.

The CHS boys trio led five locals in the top 10 individually. Also cracking that elite pack were Lammers’ younger sister, sophomore Sarissa, who was sixth in the Skimeister standings for the sixth-place Mustang girls.

Evans said it’s no mistake the Lammers family had such a strong showing at state.

“Joe and Mary Lammers are just some of the most supportive, well-rounded, down-to-earth awesome parents,” he said. “You wish you could clone ‘em.”

The team of Sarissa Lammers, Amy Hartke, Sam Harke and Kate Arthen placed seventh in the relay event for the Mustangs.

Eagle River junior Hannah Stevens had perhaps the most impressive individual showing of the meet. Stevens — who finished 28th at state last season — vaulted up to seventh for Skimeister after placing eighth in the freestyle race and 10th in the classic.

“I’m so happy,” Stevens said.

Stevens credited her coaches with coming up with a training regimen that allowed her to come into top form at just the right time.

“It worked out,” she said. “The coaches knew what they were talking about.”

Stevens joined Brenna Wheeler, Jackie Klecka and Sarah Frankl to place 11th in the relay event for the Wolves, who also wound up 11th in the overall team standings.

Eagle River’s boys relay team of Will Timmons, Ben Smith, Ben Hall and Evan Fisher was 13th for the Wolves, who were 14th as a team.

Among other local individual competitors in the boys Skimeister standings, Chugiak’s James Colles was 39th, Robert Colles was 51st and Tim Sorensen was 78th. For the Eagle River boys, Will Timmons was the top performer in 28th overall, followed by Ben Smith (46th), Evan Fisher (64th), Ben Hall (90th), Alec Smith (96th) and William Hail (97th).

For the Chugiak girls, Sam Hartke finished 20th overall, Amy Hartke was 32nd, Kate Arthen placed 53rd, Shannon Casey was 71st and Malea McGimsey finished 85th. Hannah Boyer won the girls Skimeister title for West Valley, which also took the team championship.

Jackie Klecka placed 55th for the Eagle River girls, Brenna Wheeler was 62nd Sarah Frankl finished 82nd, Kylee Sam was 95th and Brooke Meredith was 100th.

Eagle River coach Liz Turner said she was encouraged by her team’s showing at state. Although the Wolves weren’t among the state’s elite, Turner said the underclassmen-heavy squad should be in good position to make gains in the future.

“This year’s kinda been a rebuilding year,” Turner said. “Things like winning the spirit award at regions and having skiers get faster every week just really builds excitement for the program.”

Turner said the key to her team’s success next year will be ensuring that as many athletes as possible adhere to a year-round training schedule that includes roller skiing and dryland training in the summer.

“Nordic skiing in Alaska is very competitive and if you want to be one of the top skiers in the state you have to train year round,” she said. “Skiers are made in the summertime, not during the season.”

Evans couldn’t agree more, and said skiers’ participation in Anchorage-area Nordic club programs can help lay the foundation for success at championship races in Feburary and March.

“You can’t have this caliber of racing without the support from the many club programs that are in this community,” he said.

Alaska’s Nordic skiers are second to none, he said, and success starts at an early age.

“These kids have been on skis since they were little dudes, just like Minnesota hockey players being on skates since they were 2,” he said.

Proving that local skiers are among the state’s — and nation’s — best, both Lammers siblings, along with Loan and McPhetres will all travel to nationals, while Stevens will represent Team Alaska at the upcoming Arctic Winter Games in Canada.

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