Sports

Runners went head-over-heels Saturday, Sept. 9 for what were likely the most festive cross country races of the high school season.

From post-race interviews with race winners to blaring rock music to a hay bale jump, the annual Skinny Raven New Balance 3K at Russian Jack Golf Course in Anchorage was a marked change of pace from the traditional 5-kilometer trail races that are the staple of the sport.

Michael Connelly is a climbing machine.

The 15-year-old from Chugiak climbed Alyeska’s North Face Trail 12 times Sunday to win the 10th Annual Alyeska Climbathon, a unique test of endurance in which climbers see how many times they can make the 2,000-foot ascent in a 10-hour day. Connelly tied the course record and beat his previous personal best by one lap.

Eagle River’s rugged terrain is a mountaineer’s paradise, so it’s perhaps no surprise some of Alaska’s top mountain runners hail from the community. However, even some of the winners in this year’s Alaska Mountain Runners Grand Prix series were a bit taken aback by their success.

“It was definitely more of a surprise,” said Eagle River’s Christopher Kirk, a 20-year-old personal trainer who won the men’s Grand Prix title this season.

Pomp, circumstance and a little surprise highlighted homecoming Saturday, Sept. 2 at Eagle River High.

The annual homecoming festivities included floats, a performance from the cheer squad, and a royalty ceremony fit for a queen featuring the AFJROTC Sabre Team of cadets Glori Atti, Collin Dyches, Noah Iriarte, Mateo Medina, Tyler Jennings and team commander Dylan West.

“It was super exciting,” said Geena Graf, who was named homecoming queen along with fellow senior Grant Burningham.

A pair of local runners nearly stole the show Saturday with an impressive 2-3 finish at the Palmer Invitational at Palmer High.

Chugiak’s Max Hartke completed the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 10.36 seconds, finishing less than five seconds behind winner Luke Jager of West Anchorage. Crossing the line in third was Eagle River’s Nick Carl, who won a sprint against some of the state’s top distance runners.

Chugiak football coach Roger Spackman is getting two homecomings this season.

Spackman — who grew up in Northern Utah — is rounding up his Mustangs and heading south to his old stomping grounds, where Chugiak will put its undefeated record up against the Green Canyon High, a first-year program in North Logan.

“It’s just going to be a good experience all around,” Spackman said after his team stomped Lathrop 61-13 at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium to move to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Railbelt Conference.

Kenai Central played homecoming spoilers Saturday, handing Eagle River a 42-28 Northern Lights Conference football loss in front of a large, spirited crowd at the Wolves’ Den.

Kenai got a pair of touchdown passes from Connor Felchle to Zack Tuttle and capitalized on four Wolves’ turnovers to improve to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Northern Lights Conference. Eagle River dropped to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the NLC.

Chugiak fell victim to a late touchdown pass from Rebecca Syrup to Elizabeth Johnson in a 12-7 Cook Inlet Conference flag football loss to West Thursday, Aug. 31 at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium in Chugiak.

The Mustangs took a 7-6 lead in the third quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Eva Palmer to Taylor Rukes and Palmer’s subsequent conversion run. But the Eagles answered on their next possession to get the go-ahead score.

Palmer also had an interception for the Mustangs, who next play Wednesday, Sept. 6 at home against Service at 7:30 p.m.

Chugiak slips past Eagle River in tennis

Chugiak got a dominant performance on the girls side to eke out a 5-4 high school tennis win Tuesday over Eagle River at Chugiak High.

The Mustangs got straight-sets wins from Emilee Groth and Bethany Kesler in girls singles to key the win.

Eagle River won four of seven contested matches, but Chugiak picked up forfeits in both girls doubles matches to earn two points.

Talk about your home court advantage.

Chugiak dominated its own volleyball tournament Friday and Saturday, going 9-0 in pool play at the Chugiak Invitational before beating Palmer and Bartlett in back-to-back matches to claim the Gold Bracket championship.

Claire Schimmack had 20 assists and two aces in the championship match win over Bartlett on Saturday, while Sophia Lestina had 10 kills and Malia Mortensen notched 12 digs. Schimmack was named tournament MVP for the Mustangs, who finished 11-0.

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