Cross, Fiskeaux anchor Nome gold medal relay teams at state meet
On Saturday, the third and final day of competition at the 30th Annual Western Interior Ski and Biathlon Championships, first year Nome skiers Ben Cross and Mary Fiskeaux had the tough tasks of anchoring their respective high school 2 x 2.4-kilometer relay teams against more experienced, powerhouse teams from Galena. Showing prowess beyond their years, both racers produced come-from-behind efforts to overtake the home team and earn gold medals for Nome.
In the high school boys division, Cross backed up Wilson Hoogendorn, who trailed Galena’s Jacob Moos after the first lap. The Nome freshman was unruffled by the deep snow that had fallen during the meet as he erased a 16-second deficit. He crossed the line with the third fastest relay split of the day, finishing three seconds ahead of Galena’s Tristan Hatch.
The relay victory capped a solid three-day performance by the Nome boys, and helped them capture the overall team trophy. The win was the fourth WISA high school boys team title for Nome, which puts them to a tie for third place all-time with Tanana. Both teams trail former squads from White Mountain (10) and Elim (5).
The high school girls relay represented a clash of former Skimeisters —the award given to a ski meet’s outstanding overall performer. On the first lap, Nome's Bianca Trowbridge, the 2015 high school girls WISA Skimeister, stayed on the heels of 2012 junior high WISA Skimeister Carolyn Sam of Galena. Sam handed a one-second advantage to teammate Sarah Brown, the 2013 junior high WISA Skimeister. The newcomer Fiskeaux was unfazed by her assignment and skied the second lap seven seconds faster than Brown. Her relay split was the third fastest for high school girls behind Sam and Trowbridge.
The six-second triumph in the relay helped seal the deal on a first-place team title for the Nome girls. It was their second in as many years, and fifth overall. They are now in a tie with Galena for the most ever WISA team trophies by a high school girls squad.
In the final event of the meet - the junior high girls relay - another first year skier came up big for Nome Nordic. Clara Hansen was handed a 38-second lead by Mallory Conger, who finished the first lap well ahead of Galena’s Breanna McClain. Hansen tacked another 12 seconds on to the lead during her lap, as she zoomed around the course ahead of Pearle Greene. Hansen posted the third fastest relay split for junior high girls behind Conger and McClain.
The relay gold led to the overall team title for the Nome junior high girls. The victory was the second in a row for a Nome junior high girls squad, and second overall.
The junior high boys relay team of Tobin Hobbs and Matthew Nielson finished their relay with silver medals. They woke up Saturday morning in a tie for second place in team points with Denin Prentice and Ben Homekingkeo of Koyuk. The Nome boys were able to claim the second place team trophy by posting a one-minute, seventeen-second margin over Koyuk in the relay.
The determination of individual honors lacked the drama of the team awards. Individual gold medals in Thursday’s skate ski races, as well as Friday’s biathlon races, were all won by the same person in each division. Those victories led to Skimeister honors for Moos, Trowbridge and Conger. Galena’s Daniel Kopp was crowned junior high boys Skimeister.
The 2016 Skimeister list was an exact replica of the 2015 roll. This is the first time in the 30-year history of WISA that the same four skiers have won Skimeister Awards two years in a row. It was the third title for Moos. Nome became only the fourth site in WISA history to win three or more team titles in the same year. (Elim, 1998, White Mountain, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003, Galena, 2013, 2014)
Double silver medalists were also established in all four divisions. Hoogendorn, Sam, McClain, and Hobbs were all second place finishers in all individual races.
Skiers from Unalakleet captured four individual bronze medals during the three-day event. Both Sikulik Johnson and Margo Daniels were third in their individual races for their respective high school boys and junior high girls divisions. Johnson teamed up with Shawn Mixsooke to win a bronze medal for Unalakleet in the high school boys relay.
Bronze medals were contested in the high school girls, and junior high boys divisions. First year skier Starr Erikson of Nome posted the third fastest time in the 7.5-kilometer high school girls race, while Brown captured third place in the 4.2-kilometer biathlon. Galena’s Joe Riddle won the bronze medal in the 5-kilometer junior high boys race, while David Gomez of Manley connected on all 10 shots, and took third in the biathlon.
Gomez was one of three junior high biathletes to shoot clean. He was joined by perfect shooters Cashious Bergman of Galena and Maya Kralik of Nome. Hoogendorn, Johnson and James Horner of Nome all hit a high school boys division best eight shots. Trowbridge needed her eight shots to seven advantage over Sam in the high school girls division. The margin of victory over her Galena opponent was only 18 seconds, or roughly the time Sam would spend doing an extra penalty lap.
The Cloud Cup, WISA’s award for the best performance by a school with five or less participants went to Koyuk. Megan Henry and Virginia Nassuk helped Koyuk’s cause by winning bronze medals in the junior high girls relay. Teller won the Sportsmanship Award.
The Western Interior Ski Association was created in 1986. The following year the organization began offering the Western Interior Ski and Biathlon Championships, an event that would allow skiers and biathletes from rural locations around the state to experience high level ski and biathlon competition. The resulting championships are regarded as the rural state ski and biathlon meet. On odd numbered years they act as qualifiers for Arctic Winter Games spots on Team Alaska’s ski biathlon, snowshoe biathlon and cross-country ski squads.
The 55 participants in the 2016 WISA Championships were from Nome, Galena, Unalakleet, Koyuk, Nenana, Teller, White Mountain, Tanana, Manley, Gambell, Savoonga and Minto.