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West's Merridy Littell and South's Vebjorn Flagstad claim skiing titles with first-place finishes in Region IV Classic race

Feb. 12—The paths that the top finishers in the 2024 Region IV cross-country skiing championship's 7.3K and 7.5K Classic races on Friday afternoon at Kincaid Park were parallel to each other in more ways than just the course they covered to record first-place marks.

At last year's race, Merridy Littell of West and Vebjorn Flagstad of South finished just outside of the top 10 in the 7.3K Classic race for their respective divisions. As a sophomore, Littell came in 12th place in the girls' race, and as a freshman, Flagstad came in 11th in the boys' race.

With a time of 24:31.6, Littell claimed her first individual regional championship after helping the Eagles claim the team title the year before. Flagstad accomplished the same feat with a time of 20:18.5, which was nearly half a minute faster than the second-place finisher, West senior Cole Flower at 20:45.1.

"It was the first time I've been able to power through a race," Flagstad said. "Normally, I'm fast tempo but I felt calm and strong today."

While weather conditions were ideal with the sun shining for most of the afternoon, the trail itself presented some challenges that required him to make some adjustments.

"It was a lot of double-poling, not a lot of striding so (it took) a lot of power," Flagstad said. "It was really flat and really fast."

He was the only member of the South boys A team to finish in the top 10 but had three in the top 15.

"We lost our senior boys last year so we're kind of building from the ground up now," Flagstad said.

With several wins under his belt this season, he is confident in his ability to perform well at state later this month where he intends to podium again after he finished second in 10K freestyle and 10th in 7.5K classic at state in 2023.

"I was not expecting that at all as a freshman but now I'm hyped to get going and put down another race," Flagstad said.

In addition to being a strong cross-country skier, he competes in cross-country running as well and placed eighth in the Division I boys state championship race after not cracking the top 15 as a freshman.

"I like them pretty much equally," Flagstad said. "They're both super similar and I think they work really well together. I think all the skiers should run but not all of them like it."

Though interval starts aren't the type of races that Littell views as one of her strengths as a skier, she was happy and amazed with her impressive first-place finish at regions all the same.

"Off the start, I just like to ground myself and remember that I want to race a brave race, and that's exactly what I did," she said. "I went out there and I pushed my hardest and I had a lot of fun."

Given the nature of the interval start, Littell felt like she was competing with both herself and fellow competitors simultaneously.

"Because of the ways that regions are constructed, there are a lot of people that you have available to pass and to pace yourself," she said. "I felt like to some degree, I was competing against those people, but there's also the mental game of competing against yourself."

Littell beat out a pair of skiers from perennial power Service for first place, including reigning state 7.5K Freestyle champion and Skimeister Olivia Soderstrom (24:32.2) who came in third behind her freshman teammate Miyana Kam-Magruder (24:31.9).

"I think of all of these girls as my teammates because we're all on Team Alaska at this point for junior nationals," she said. "I've trained with many of them before, so it feels good to have had a good race, but I don't think it necessarily feels good just because they're from Service."

Every time Littell completes what she feels is a good race, it gives her more confidence while deepening her love for the sport. Heading into state later this month, her goal is to just have fun and gain more experience no matter the result. Last year, she finished third in the 7.5K classic and was on the first-place relay team at state.

"We've had a great team these past three years I've been at West, we've had great team camaraderie, and we've had a great coach organizing and waxing our skies," Littell said. "Everything is just coming together in the perfect way."

On Saturday, the West boys and girls A teams repeated as regional relay champions and Littell helped propel the girls squad to victory.

Region IV Cross Country Skiing Championship

Kincaid Park

7.3K Classic

Friday

Girls A

1. Merridy Littell, 24:31.6; 2. Miyana Kam-Magruder, 24:31.9; 3. Olivia Soderstrom, 24:32.2; 4. Mia Stiassny, 24:57.6; 5. Piper Sears, 25:13.6; 6. Alise Elliott, 25:16.0; 7. Greta Bochenek, 25:45.9; 8. Berit Meyers, 25:52.2; 9. Maya Tirpack, 26:26.9; 10. Mady Lowen, 26:28.7; 11. Rose Conway, 26:38.5; 12. Parker Stephens, 26:48.1; 13. Faith Harlamert, 26:57.2; 14. Reine Soule, 27:00.7; 15. Zoe Rodgers, 27:01.2; 16. Maisy Morley, 27:13.4; 17. Heidi Schumacher, 27:43.0; 18. Beatrix Brogan, 27:48.9; 19. Amelia Bochenek, 27:54.4; 20. Abigail Howe, 28:05.9; 21. Talia Day, 28:11.4; 22. Olivia Ronzio Pico, 28:40.5; 23. Hannah Bodkin, 28:47.7; 24. Madeleine Lojewski, 28:49.0; 25. Svea Thomas, 29:14.8; 26. Fiora Graziano, 29:18.8; 27. Lilian Coy, 29:25.6; 28. Hannah Shaha, 29:30.9; 29. Linnea Gray, 29:51.9; 30. Kaiya Soldwedel, 30:33.9; 31. Elsa Henderson, 30:34.2; 32. Adele Matthews, 30:36.8; 33. Gigi Leonetti, 30:39.4; 34. Danika Brandorff, 30:46.7; 35. Hannah Stepetin, 30:49.4; 36. Eden Johnsen, 31:39.5; 37. Allison Macy, 32:11.0; 38. Claire Salzman, 32:11.7; 39. Charlotte Toole, 32:45.7; 40. Elise Matthews, 32:52.9; 41. Duna Snedgen, 33:19.0; 42. Katie Christenson, 33:32.9; 43. Sophia Randazzo, 33:38.3; 44. Arianna Espindola, 33:47.4; 45. Samantha Bushman, 34:03.3; 46. Eiley Reid, 35:00.2; 47. Kyla Milne, 35:16.2; 48. Brie Mahoney, 36:53.1; 49. Ashley Mann, 37:43.8

Boys A

1. Vebjorn Flagstad, 20:18.5; 2. Cole Flower, 20:45.1; 3. Oskar Flora, 21:22.7; 4. Blake Hanley, 21:43.8; 5. Hatcher Menkens, 21:57.0; 6. Oliver Wright, 22:09.0; 7. Logan Cuddy, 22:10.9; 8. Miles Numme-Worrel, 22:13.2; 9. Elias Oswald, 22:32.1; 10. Jacob Johnson, 22:36.4; 11. John Lohuis, 22:37.9; 12. Merik Silba, 22:48.6; 13. Grayson Stanek-Alward, 22:49.4; 14. Ethan Styvar, 22:56.1; 15. Nathan Vanderlugt, 23:02.3; 16. Owen Harth, 23:02.8; 17. Dylan Autrey, 23:03.3; 18. Cedar Ruckel, 23:05.1; 19. Dean Toole, 23:13.7; 20. Eli Zellmer, 23:44.0; 21. Eli Lammers, 23:44.1; 22. Nathan Rehberg, 24:00.2; 23. Liam Cleary, 24:10.4; 24. AJ Glover, 24:40.5; 25. Creed Cvancara, 25:01.9; 26. Ruben Rhodes, 25:06.0; 27. Mason Card, 25:14.0; 28. Liam Dudley, 25:16.9; 29. Griffin Gracey, 25:30.0; 30. Drake McGinley, 25:35.7; 31. Hatcher Smith, 25:39.0; 32. Kaiden Bodkin, 25:40.8; 33. Owen Lovejoy, 25:43.8; 34. Bryce Herda, 26:03.4; 35. Kohen Galloway, 26:08.1; 36. Ryan Urbanus, 26:50.9; 37. Vassar Callahan, 27:23.9; 38. Andrew Krellner, 27:26.0; 39. Grady Eule, 27:43.6; 40. Lane Christenson, 27:44.7; 41. Matthew Watson, 27:52.8; 42. Luke Shaw, 28:15.2; 43. Luke Gaskill, 28:20.7; 44. Kodiak Coleman, 28:24.0

3K Freestyle Relay

Girls A

1. West Girls A_2, 32:38.1, (Merridy Littell, Berit Meyers, Greta Bochenek, Piper Sears); 2. Service Girls A_4, 32:43.9 (Miyana Kam-Magruder, Reine Soule, Heidi Schumacher, Olivia Soderstrom); 3. South Girls A_3, 35:16.1 (Mia Stiassny, Lilian Coy, Maya Tirpack, Alise Elliott); 4. East Girls A_1, 36:26.3, (Rose Conway, Maisy Morley, Fiora Graziano, Abigail Howe); 5. Chugiak Girls A_5, 38:01.1 (Hannah Bodkin, Hannah Shaha, Hannah Stepetin, Olivia Ronzio Pico); 6. Dimond Girls A_7, 38:39.9 (Eden Johnsen, Gigi Leonetti, Kaiya Soldwedel, Mady Lowen); 7. Eagle River Girls A_6, 41:20.6 (Linnea Gray, Elsa Henderson, Charlotte Toole, Kylee Dietz)

Boys A

1. West Boys A_16, 28:01.1 (Cole Flower, Hatcher Menkens, Oliver Wright, Blake Hanley); 2. Service Boys A_18, 28:51.5 (Oskar Flora, Elias Oswald, John Lohuis, Logan Cuddy); 3. South Boys A_17, 29:27.0 (Grayson Stanek-Alward, Ethan Styvar, Owen Harth, Vebjorn Flagstad); 4. East Boys A_15, 30:55.5 (Miles Numme-Worrel, Liam Cleary, Owen Lovejoy, Nathan Rehberg); 5. Eagle River Boys A_20, 31:20.1 (Dean Toole, Nathan Vanderlugt, Andrew Krellner, Matthew Watson); 6. Dimond Boys A_21, 31:41.3 (AJ Glover, Creed Cvancara, Drake McGinley, Jacob Johnson); 7. Chugiak Boys A_19, 32:05.2 (Kaiden Bodkin, Kohen Galloway, Griffin Gracey, Eli Lammers)