South High senior Zanden McMullen returned home from last month’s World Junior ski championships a new man. A sick man, but a new man.
McMullen was a member of the U.S. Ski Team at the World Juniors in Finland. He was an alternate for the relay team that made history by winning the gold medal, but maybe more critically, he spent two weeks living, training and skiing with world-class teammates.
“Being on the World Junior team with them changed my viewpoint,” McMullen said. “I always looked up to those guys, and now it’s like I’m right there with them.”
McMullen, who said he spent four or five days sick in bed after returning from World Juniors, was in good form for the two-day Cook Inlet Conference cross-country ski championships at Kincaid Park.
He added his name to the list of CIC Skimeisters that includes two members of America’s gold-medal relay team at the World Juniors — Gus Schumacher and Luke Jager — and another, Hunter Wonders, who skied on America’s silver-medal team with Schumacher and Jager at the 2018 World Juniors.
It’s fast company, and McMullen fits right in.
McMullen won Friday’s individual classic race by 40 seconds and was the dominant second-leg skier in Saturday’s relay.
“Yesterday I was a little sluggish, but it was still pretty good. I was catching a lot of people,” he said of the 10-kilometer interval-start classic race. “I was trying to focus on my own pace.”
Chugiak’s Adrianna Proffitt had her eye on the prize too. At least one of them.
Proffitt, a junior, won an adventurous race Friday and was one of the top relay skiers Saturday to claim the girls Skimeister Award. She edged Service’s Garvee Tobin by 8.9 seconds.
“I fell, I went off course and one of my contacts fell out,” Proffitt said of Friday’s 7.5K classic race, which she won by 9.2 seconds over Tobin.
She fell on a slippery uphill, went off-course for a nanosecond while negotiating a corner, and lost a contact lens with about 1 kilometer to go.
“I couldn’t see any definition on the ground (without the contact),” she said. “But I have enough muscle memory to get through it.”
On Saturday, Proffitt skied the scramble leg of the girls 4x3.7K relay and one of three girls, along with Tobin and Helen Wilson of Eagle River, who finished the relay with sub-10:00 times.
The West girls and Chugiak boys won the relay races to cement CIC team championships.
It was the fifth straight title for the West girls, and the first in school history for the Chugiak boys.
“We’ve been racing together since before middle school,” said Torsten Renner, the only senior on Chugiak’s relay team.
“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work, teamwork and friendship.”
Chugiak’s 4x4.9K relay team included brothers Torsten and Konrad Renner, Max Beiergrohslein and Michael Earnhart, who was the runner-up to McMullen in the Skimeister standings.
Earnhart anchored the team and turned a close race into a not-so-close race. Chugiak trailed Service by less than a second when Konrad Renner tagged off to Earnhart; by the time Earnhart was done, the Mustangs were up by nearly a minute.
“I was just fired up to race and I wanted to bring home the win,” said Earnhart, one of three boys, along with McMullen and South’s Kai Meyers, to break the 12-minute mark.
“I started going really hard on the hills. I really pushed. I was willing to hurt today.”
Both of the winning relay teams were playing hurt — the Chugiak boys were missing senior Miles Dennis, who was sick, and the West girls were missing Quincy Donley, who was nursing a sore shoulder.
Maja Lapkass, a sophomore who came through Friday with a sixth-place finish in the individual race, filled in for Donley, one of the CIC’s top skiers. She joined teammates Annie Gonzales, Ivy Eski and Aubrey Leclair to beat Service by nearly a minute.
Eski said the Eagles used tried-and-true methods to boost Lapkass’ confidence before the relay.
“Sparkles, braiding hair, hanging out before the race — just keeping it really positive,” she said.
Lapkass responded by delivering the fastest time in the second leg. She said that between the relay and her Friday race, it was a breakthrough weekend.
“It’s really nice I can keep up with these girls,” she said.
On the Chugiak relay team, Konrad Renner skied the third leg in place of Dennis. He said his goal was to stick with Service, and he did.
“Every one of us did our job,” Torsten Renner said.
Konrad’s secondary job appears to keep the mood light for the Mustangs. At team dinner Friday night, some of the skiers came dressed as Chugiak coaches. Stan Carrick, who has been coaching skiing in Chugiak and Eagle River for more than 25 years, said Konrad came dressed as a young Stan Carrick, and another came dressed as the current Stan Carrick.
Konrad said that it was Carrick who told them Chugiak had never won the CIC boys relay race before, and he figured Carrick would know.
“He was here before waxes and skis,” he said.
Cook Inlet Conference ski championship
Two-day team totals
1) Chugiak, 2:42:39.2; 2) South, 2:45:26.1; 3) Service, 2:46:20.4; 4) West, 2:48:07.0; 5) Dimond, 2:55:47.0; 6) Eagle River, 3:02:51.8
4x4.9-kilometer freestyle relay
1) Chugiak (Max Beiergrohslein, Torsten Renner, Konrad Renner, Michael Earnhart), 49:23.8; 2) South (Sean Clapp, Zanden McMullen, Ben Fischer, Kai Meyers), 50:19.3; 3) Service (Joel Power, Alexander Maurer, Hayden Ulbrich, Kai Caldwell), 51:01.0; 4) West (Richard Gordon-Rein, Matthew Rieger, Kelly Martin, Aaron Maves), 51:52.4; 5) Dimond (Bryce Pintner, George Cvancara, Nicholas Jablonski, Martin Rygh), 52:32.3; 6) Eagle River (Nicholas Carl, Alex Carl, Curtis Bay, Carter Gladwill), 54:01.9
1) Zanden McMullen, South, 26:21.7; 2) Michael Earnhart, Chugiak, 27:02.2; 3) Alexander Maurer, Service, 27:21.0; 4) Kai Meyers, South, 27:28.8; 5) Max Beiergrohslein, Chugiak, 27:42.1; 6) Everett Cason, West, 28:05.9; 7) Joel Power, Service, 28:11.6; 8) Kelly Martin, West, 28:27.9; 9) George Cvancara, Dimond, 28:51.6; 10) Torsten Renner, Chugiak, 28:58.0; 11) Konrad Renner, Chugiak, 29:33.1; 12) Nicholas Jablonski, Dimond, 29:38.4; 13) Sean Clapp, South, 29:41.6; 14) Hayden Ulbrich, Service, 29:43.5; 15) Matthew Rieger, West, 29:44.8; 16) Aaron Maves, West, 29:56.0; 17) Kai Caldwell, Service, 30:03.3; 18) Carter Brubaker, Service, 30:18.4; 19) Michael Connelly, Chugiak, 30:33.4; 20) Luke Howe, East, 30:34.4; 21) Joshua Bierma, Service, 30:41.3; 22) Nicholas Carl, Eagle River, 30:41.7; 23) Gustavus Compton, West, 31:17.0; 24) Noah Rehberg, East, 31:19.5; 25) Porter Blei, Chugiak, 31:31.4; 25) Martin Rygh, Dimond, 31:31.4; 27) Wyatt Barrett, South, 31:34.7; 28) Alex Carl, Eagle River, 31:53.7; 29) Curtis Bay, Eagle River, 32:10.7; 30) Ben Fischer, South, 32:32.4; 31) Ben Michaelson, South, 32:44.2; 32) Jack Bent, West, 33:04.5; 33) Noah Rygh, Dimond, 33:13.3; 34) Nick Von Imhof, Dimond, 34:01.6; 35) Carter Gladwill, Eagle River, 34:03.8; 36) Aden Rothmeyer, South, 34:06.0;
Two-day team totals
1) West, 2:20:39.7; 2) Service, 2:22:29.4; 3) Eagle River, 2:32:06.1; 4) South, 2:39:53.1; 5) Dimond, 2:41:44.7; 6) Chugiak, 2:45:44.8
4x3.7-kilometer freestyle relay
1) West (Annie Gonzales, Maja Lapkass, Ivy Eski, Aubrey LeClair), 41:01.1; 2) Service (Garvee Tobin, Neena Brubaker, Tatum Witter, Marit Flora), 41:57.8; 3) Eagle River (Helen Wilson, Elizabeth Ruehle, Claire Nelson, Emily Walsh), 46:09.5; 4) South (Maura Black, Elizabeth Kilby, Ava Earl, Alison Ulrich), 46:09.5; 5) Chugiak (Adrianna Proffitt, Hannah Cryder, Kali Smedley, Reagan Blackley), 46:54.8; 6) Dimond (Sophia Cvancara, Tarja Latva-Kiskola, Maria Cvancara, Katherine Puls), 47:17.1
1) Adrianna Proffitt, Chugiak, 23:45.3; 2) Garvee Tobin, Service, 23:54.5; 3) Aubrey Leclair, West, 24:09.3; 4) Ivy Eski, West, 24:35.7; 5) Marit Flora, Service, 25:05.6; 6) Maja Lapkass, West, 25:14.2; 7) Tatum Witter, Service, 25:36.6; 8) Annie Gonzales, West, 25:39.4; 9) Helen Wilson, Eagle River, 25:48.5; 10) Neena Brubaker, Service, 25:54.9; 11) Ellie Mitchell, West, 26:11.3; 12) Emily Walsh, Eagle River, 26:20.3; 13) Morgan Coniglio, West, 26:36.9; 14) Zoe Chang, Service, 27:16.3; 14) Claire Nelson, Eagle River, 27:16.3; 16) Maria Cvancara, Dimond, 27:32.2; 17) Tarja Latva-Kiskola, Dimond, 27:35.7; 18) Ava Earl, South, 27:44.7; 19) Elizabeth Kilby, South, 27:55.4; 20) Maya Brubaker, Service, 28:12.4; 21) Hannah Cryder, Chugiak, 28:20.4; 22) Alison Ulrich, South, 28:23.1; 23) Sophia Cvancara, Dimond, 28:54.0; 24) Elizabeth Ruehle, Eagle River, 29:10.7; 25) Ariana O `Harra, East, 29:17.0; 26) Maria Paez, Service, 29:20.1; 27) Lucy Young, South, 29:40.4; 28) Maura Black, South, 30:19.5; 29) Katherine Puls, Dimond, 30:25.7; 30) Abby Robinson, South, 30:57.0; 31) Laura Ripp, Eagle River, 31:15.2; 32) Olive Heatwole, South, 31:22.9; 33) Madeline Troxell, Dimond, 31:59.2; 34) Kali Smedley, Chugiak, 32:29.5; 35) Annika Ostberg, Dimond, 32:59.9; 36) Reagan Blackley, Chugiak, 34:14.8.