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Junior champs defend their crowns

MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News

SEWARD — With recent rain and mist turning the dirt trail up Mount Marathon into what one racer called “slippery snot,’’ Allie Ostrander of Soldotna literally got a leg up on the competition Wednesday on the way to her fourth consecutive junior girls victory.

As Ostander, 15, climbed, she lost footing and began sliding backward down the trail for what she estimated was 10 yards. She could not grasp trail-side brush and vegetation to slow her slide — “I ran out of things to grab onto,’’ she said — so she latched onto the first thing she could: Luke Jager’s right ankle.

“I grabbed out and got his ankle,’’ Ostrander said. “A special shout-out to him. Thank you, to him. So we’re friends now.’’

At the time, Ostrander didn’t know Jager, 12, of Anchorage. But she tracked him down after he finished eighth in the boys race — Ostrander was fifth overall in the mixed-gender race — and thanked him.

No worries, Jager said, glad to help.

“I didn’t mind that much,’’ he said. “I had my foot planted firmly. I’m just happy no one was hurt in the incident.

“I like to think of myself as a human root now.’’

Like Ostrander, Miles Knotek, 17, of Moose Pass, repeated as champion. He won the boys junior division in the race halfway up the steep, 3,022-foot mountain and back into town.

Ostrander’s fourth victory is believed to tie her with Emily Ransom and Shawn Erchinger for most junior victories, according to race officials.

Ostrander and Knotek are built for mountain running — slight and light, with long legs and inflatable lungs. Ostrander stands 5-foot and weighs 70 pounds. Knotek checks in at 5-11, 120.

Both Ostrander, who last year clocked a girls record 30 minutes, 32 seconds, and Knotek, clocked slower times than a year ago. But that was to be expected given the slippery conditions.

Ostrander finished in 32:50. Knotek’s 27:18 was exactly one minute slower than his 2011 time, which is believed to be the third-fastest in junior history.

“It was terrible,’’ Knotek said of the slippery trail up the mountain. “I should have grown my fingernails to get purchase.

“You were sliding every third step. You had to choose your course. I was in the brush when I could be. Physically you’re using that much more energy to stop yourself (from sliding) and get going again. Mentally it can really grind you down.

“I thought, ‘This is bad. Only an insane person would be doing this.’ ”

Ostrander said she was a little rattled before the race.

“I had pre-race jitters, I was so nervous,’’ she said. “This morning, I think I ate about five bites of cereal.’’

Once she descended the mountain and reached the base, Ostrander said, it was sweet relief to be done with perilous footing.

“When I came off that mountain, I was just all smiles,’’ she said. “I was so happy to be off the mountain, on the road and going to the finish.’’

Still, Ostrander’s time set an age-group record in the 15-17 division. She slashed 11 seconds off Aubrey Smith’s 1997 mark and now owns all three girls age-group records. Plus Ostrander has two more years of junior eligibility remaining at Mount Marathon.

The boys top three was a repeat of 2011: Knotek, followed by Lyon Kopsack, 16, of Palmer (28:02) and Michael Marshall, 15, of Seward (28:48).

Ann Spencer, 17, of Anchorage, finished second among girls in 36:00, and Alyson Kopsack, 12, of Palmer, took third in 38:09.

Both Ostrander and Knotek said wet conditions mitigated thoughts of clocking fast times.

“I go my hardest and that’s my time,’’ Ostrander said. “It’s an unpredictable mountain. Anything can happen.’’

Said Knotek: “The mountain always has the final say.’’

Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.