Athletes of the Week: Skiers shine at state meet

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 8:08 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a field of over 200 of the state’s top high school skiers, it can be difficult to stand out and stand atop the podium.

But a pair of speedy Service standouts skied their way to the sport’s highest honor at the state meet, the Skimeister, given to the individual with the fastest combined times from the first two days of competition at the Alaska School Activities Association state ski championships that featured a classic race on Thursday and a freestyle race on Friday at Kincaid Park.

Boys raced 7.5 kilometers in the classic event, while girls took on 5K. In the freestyle races, boys went 10K while girls raced 7.5K.

Service Senior Aaron Power — who is committed to ski at Dartmouth College’s Division I program next fall — defended his Skimeister title from last year with a two-day time of 47 minutes, 44.2 seconds.

“It feels really special to win the Skimeister title back to back,” Power said while still catching his breath. “... My coach Jan (Buron) has this list going back to his first state Skimeister, so to be on it not just once, but twice — to be part of that record in the history of Alaska skiing feels incredibly special and important to me.”

Meanwhile, in the girls showdown, Service freshman Olivia Soderstrom dethroned last year’s Skimeister and teammate Meredith Schwartz by just 0.7 seconds. Soderstrom finished behind Schwartz by about four seconds in Thursday’s classic race, but came from behind Friday to win the freestyle event, pushing her to the state title with a combined time of 39:13.1 to Schwartz’s 39:13.8.

”It was a really fun race, we had like perfect conditions and I was lucky to have Meredith to help pace me the whole race,” Soderstrom said after stepping off the top spot of the podium. “... I think it just really helps motivate me and helps to have someone faster than me to push me every day.”

While there are individual winners, skiing is still very much a team sport.

”I think West is doing so good this year,” West Anchorage senior Sammy Legate said on Jan. 28 of this year after a strong regular-season performance from the Eagles. “We have a really high chance of winning state, I think, and I really hope that both boys and girls can win state this year.”

Legate was on to something, as after Saturday’s team relays, it was West Anchorage soaring to the team titles for both the boys (4 hours, 2 minutes, 0.1 seconds total time) and the girls (3 hours, 20 minutes, 31.0 seconds).

For some, just getting to the starting line of the state meet is a win — like for Glennallen skiers Andrew Severs and Grace Rogers — who made history for the school by becoming the first athletes to compete at the state meet after coach Bruce Rogers went to the school district board in an effort to build the program last year.

”They’re super excited and I think we are the only Class 2A school in the entire nordic ski program, so we are pretty small, but it is just fantastic to see the level of competition and have them be a part of that,” Rogers said in between races. “I am really proud of the kids this year.”