Town Series helped Bucs prepare for the season
The Valdez Town Series Ski Races are more than an opportunity for the local ski community to get in some competitive Nordic skiing on the town's finest trails while the snow is still fresh. For the hosts of the event, the Buccaneer cross-country ski team, it's a little more than that.
"It adds a bit more competition," Buccaneer cross-country ski coach Pete Toye said. "It adds some new faces. When they ski against other people, I think it adds a bit more competition that they will push it a bit harder than a normal time trial. And it's been great."
This is the Bucs' third straight year hosting the event that has consisted of three race days on Saturdays in December and January. Unlike most high school teens that spend their Christmas and New Year's break to catch up on sleep between parties, the young team used the Town Series to work on certain areas of technique and skill before it hosts the Valdez Invitational later this week. The events featured 7.5K and 10.5K races starting and finishing near Cato Bridge.
Toye was hoping the Town Series races would give his team a confidence booster since its last competitive event. While he thought his girls' team showed signs of promise at the Lynx Loppet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, he was disappointed in the boys' performance and cites a lack of experience as the reason.
"Some were going out way too slow. Some were going out way too fast and hitting a wall," Toye said. "It's something that unless you race, you don't get a good handled on the pace and tempo that you're capable of."
Junior Sergei Wegner has won every race he competed in the Town Series. He finished with a times of 33:58 in 10.5K in Race #1, 24:12 in the 7.5K in Race #2, and 37:52 in Race 3#. On the girls' side, Stephanie Allen turned in times of 26:18 (Race #1), 28:43 (Race #2), and 46:59 (Race #3) during the series. She competed in the 7.5K in the first two races and the 10.5K in the last races.
Among the notable finishes from the community skiers, Eric Auten had the best time in Race #1 with 37:06 in the 10.5K. Will Stark was the lone competitor in the 10.5K in Race #2 and finished with a time of 41:52. Erin Stark raced to a time of 36:50 in the Race #3's 7.5K race.
As the Bucs return to a normal schedule, Toye feels his team is ready to compete for the next two months.
"These races have been essential," Toye said. "It definitely helps the kids improve as far as their knowledge and body over a course of a distance. It's been great. We've seen tremendous improvement and should be ready for the next two months and be in pretty good shape."
The Bucs host the Valdez Invitational this weekend. The event starts Friday with the mixed relays at 3:30 p.m. Saturday features the classic skate race. The event will take place near Coast Guard housing.
While foot and motorized traffic are asked to stay off the trails Friday through Saturday until 5 p.m., there will be an open 5.4K freestyle race for all skiers on January 11 at 2:00 p.m. at the USCG Housing facility off Hanagita. This is a self-timer and will be the culminating event of the Valdez Invite according to Toye.