High School Sports

Service and Kenai sweep top podium spots on Day 1 of Alaska state cross country skiing championships

The first day of the 2024 ASAA state cross-country skiing championships featured sunshine, fast times and gusting winds Thursday at Kincaid Park as Alaska’s top Division I and II high school skiers competed in the 5K interval start race.

Two programs swept the top of the podiums for their respective levels of competition, with Service producing both Division I and overall first-place finishers while Kenai Central had the fastest finishers among Division II skiers.

Sophomore Olivia Soderstrom of Service, the reigning state Skimeister, successfully defended her state title as the top female freestyle skier with a first-place time of 14:49.7. Soderstrom beat out fellow sophomore Mia Stiassny of South Anchorage, who was runner-up with a time of 14:57.2.

“It was a tough race and I had to push really hard,” Soderstrom said. “It was my goal this year to try to defend my title, so it was good to actually do it.”

For Soderstrom, the strong winds were more of a help than a hindrance.

“I just pushed hard the whole race and tried to find time anywhere I could on the uphills and push really hard on the downhills,” she said.

While mass starts are her favorite races to compete in, Soderstrom also loves interval starts because she is “competing against the clock and not other people.”


“I just try to do my best and not worry about other people,” she said.

On the boys side, it was junior Oskar Flora who finished with the top time both in Division I and overall with a mark of 12:35.7. He edged out South Anchorage sophomore Vebjorn Flagstad, who had the second-fastest time at 12:37.1.

“It feels pretty good,” Flora said. “I had a good start to the season but then I got sick at the end of January, and this was my first race back.”

Unlike some of his other competitors, he hardly noticed the swirling winds while he was racing but the conditions were still less than comfortable.

This marked the second career individual podium finish for Flora at state and the first since his freshman year, when he came in third in the freestyle race. He tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of last year’s state championships and wasn’t able to try to improve upon his success from the year before.

Flora believes the fact that a pair of Cougars were able to hoist their team’s green and gold flag on top of the podium validates that their program is “the best in the state.”

Senior Kardinals are going out on top

Kenai Central senior Emily Moss was able to successfully defend her state title in Division II competition with a time of 16:45.5, which also ranked 18th overall.

“It’s really great and I’m really glad that I get to celebrate with my team and just be out here skiing with everyone,” she said. “I’m really grateful to have this experience.”

Since this was the final freestyle race of her high school career, Moss is excited she was able to make the most of it.

“I wanted to go out having fun and feeling good,” she said. “I feel like I got to do that. The course was super fast and everyone was super supportive.”

While the wind made it harder to get uphill for her, she said it was still a successful day.

“It’s really inspiring to see all the Division I and Division II skiers trying their hardest and doing amazing things,” Moss said. “I’m especially proud of the Peninsula schools.”

The Kenai Central boys made a clean sweep of the Division II podium, taking all three spots. The Kardinals were led by senior Gregory Fallon, who came in 20th overall but first in DII with a time of 13:43.7.

“It feels like all season, I’ve been working up to this and this was my best race all year,” he said. “It feels like all my work paid off.”

When his team did a ski-through of the course on Wednesday, it was very icy. But thanks to a nice blanket of snow that fell overnight, he said the conditions were much better Thursday.

“Skiing was fast and I just pushed with all I had on the uphills and downhills and it felt really good all around,” Fallon said.

Depending on where he was on the course, the wind gave him an advantage at times and made it a little more difficult at others including the final stretch when it was smashing against his face.


“It’s really fun to race against the Anchorage teams because we don’t really get to do that,” Fallon said. “You get to see their times and see where you compare. I can’t wait for the mass start tomorrow, so we can actually race with them.”

The second day of the 2024 state cross-country skiing action resumes Friday with a pair of 7.5K mass start classic races with the boys taking off first at 11 a.m. followed by the girls at 1 p.m.

2024 ASAA Cross Country Skiing State Championships

At Kincaid Park


Freestyle 5K

Girls (Top 10)

1. Olivia Soderstrom, Service, 14:49.7; 2. Mia Stiassny, South, 14:57.2; 3. Miyana Kam-Magruder, Service, 15:02.6; 4. Piper Sears, West, 15:08.0; 5. Merridy Littell, West, 15:17.4; 6. Tania Boonstra, Soldotna, 15:35.9; 7. Berit Meyers, West, 15:48.9; 8. Alise Elliott, South, 15:52.2; 9. Haley Finch, Service, 15:52.8; 10. Elliot Sensabaugh, Colony, 15:57.2

Boys (Top 10)


1. Oskar Flora, Service, 12:35.7; 2. Vebjorn Flagstad, South, 12:37.1; 3. Cole Flowers, West, 12:41.3; 4. Weston Sensabaugh, Colony, 12:54.2; 5. Elias Oswald, Service, 12:55.7; 6. Hatcher Menkens, West, 13:01.9; 7. Wells Wappett, Lathrop, 13:03.1; 8. Oliver Wright, West, 13:03.7; 9. Jack Leveque, Service, 13:13.4; 10. Blake Hanley, West, 13:15.4

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.