Leaders of the pack
New coach to head large group of Mustangs
Chugiak’s Maggie Wallace skies toward the finish line at the Sand Lake 5-kilometer race on Sand Lake on Saturday, Dec. 8. Wallace finished 36th for the Mustangs, who were fourth in the team standings.
Sarissa Lammers and Sam Hartke could be seeing a lot of each other this season.
The Chugiak duo finished fourth and fifth respectively at the Sand Lake 5-kilometer races held Dec. 8 in Anchorage to lead the Mustang girls to a fourth-place finish.
“It was really, really fast,” said Hartke, a senior. “I was just trying to stay with the top group.”
Both Hartke and Lammers could be among the “top group” in the Cook Inlet Conference all season. Lammers is Chugiak’s top returner, having finished sixth at state last season. Hartke was 20th at state last season and fellow returner Kate Arthen was 53rd. Arthen finished 21st at Sand Lake, while freshman Annie Connely was 29th, followed by Victoria Parsons (33rd), Hannah Booher (34th) and Maggie Wallace (36th).
Hartke said she thinks this year’s Chugiak team has a good mix of strong returners and newcomers.
“It’s just about all of us getting together and getting stronger,” she said.
After falling behind in the final seconds of what turned into a two-lap drag race around Sand Lake, Chugiak junior David McPhetres said he felt like he could once again hang with the state’s elite skiers.
“I feel better now,” said McPhetres, who finished fourth in an exceptionally-fast 5-kilometer race held at the South Anchorage lake due to a lack of snow at Kincaid Park.
McPhetres was one of four skiers to crack the 12-minute mark, finishing 5.8 seconds behind winner Eric Backstrum of South. He and senior Alex Loan are the top returning skiers from a CHS boys team that place second overall at state last season. Loan finished 17th at Sand Lake for Chugiak, which wound up fifth in the team standings.
Both Loan and McPhetres were top-10 skiers in the state last year, but the Mustangs lost Skimeister Isaac Lammers to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The team also lost coach Mikey Evans, who stepped down to help take care of a set of newborn twins.
Taking over for Evans this season is ’04 CHS grad Chris Morhain, who coached at Eagle River last season. Morhain said he’s thrilled to be taking over at his alma mater.
“I’m super excited,” he said.
Morhain said the loss of Lammers (as well as James and Robert Colles) will be difficult for his boys squad to recover from, but he’s excited for other skiers to step up.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they all stack up,” he said.
Morhain said he’s got 62 athletes in the program this season, divided nearly equally between boys and girls.
Freshman Roan Hall finished 33rd at Sand Lake, one spot behind junior Tim Sorensen, while Nathan Dennis was 35th, David Warner was 38th and Cole Abarr was 39th.
“It’s a good team,” McPhetres said. “I’m happy to be on it.”
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727.