The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Mount Marathon is in their blood


Heidi Zemach | For the LOG

Michael Marshall, 16, sprints down Jefferson Street, on the way to his second-place finish in the Junior Race.

You can see how tough these youngsters are by the serious, pained look of determination on their faces and the mud coating their bodies as they come off the mountain and race down Jefferson Street toward the finish line. The Seward area runners practically live in the shadow of Mount Marathon. The race is in their blood.

Below, parents hold their breath, cross their fingers or silently pray as they wait for their children to return unharmed. They’re so relieved and proud of them when it’s done.

“I was going to put my hands up in the air but I didn’t,” said freckle-faced red-headed Tali Novakovich of Anchorage after arriving at the finish line to hugs and kisses. The smallest, youngest racer celebrated her seventh birthday by racing this year, along with siblings Liz and Josh. Was it fun? Tali nods vigorously, “It was super hard!” The hardest part, she said, was running to the finish line. “Because I was running super-fast – really, really fast!”

“I’m so proud of her that she finished the whole thing smiling. She loved it,” said her mother Tiffanie Novakovich. “Safety was our number one concern. So yes, it was awesome to see her keep moving hard and keep running fast,” said her father Matt Novakovich, the 2012 Mens Race champion. Tali’s father took her up the mountain seven or eight times before the race, and a few people were stationed at the most challenging places to make sure she made it through safely. Still, the rain concerned them, Matt said.

“Not every seven year old should be doing the race,” said Jackie Marshall, who has trained young runners for years. Her 16-year-old son Michael, the second-place Boys finisher, began racing Mount Marathon at age seven, only after his parents took him up 10 times, and were confident in his abilities. “The greatest challenge for the smallest kids is finding a good hand hold on the rocks going up since their bodies are so small. But in the same breath I think they’re at an advantage because they’re just out there having fun and kind of getting into it.”

Lyon Kopsack, a determined 17 year old from Palmer, handily took first place this year well ahead of his friend and rival Michael. “I knew I was in good shape. That’s what I do all summer,” said Marshall, whose father Dan Marshall is his track and cross-country coach at Seward High School. “But I knew Lyon has been training super hard and really wanted it.”

This summer Michael is focused on his cross-country running but he also attended a basketball camp and open gyms. Marshall runs early in the mornings before work or in the evenings when it’s peaceful on the trails. It’s difficult to balance training for the race along with all the sports he loves while also working at the Fish House, he said.

After the hot June weather the race conditions took him by surprise. “It was so slippery. I was all over the place, trying to grab onto everything I could – the trees or anything else I could find.” Marshall wore a jersey and arm sleeves but still felt the cold. He loved the descent, however.

“Lyon was (already) way, way ahead of me. I felt really good because I looked behind me and there was nobody there. I only have one year left of the junior race, and I was hearing everybody calling my name, so I just tried to enjoy it and savor it.”

Heidi Zemach | For the LOG

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG Tali Novakovich, 7, of Anchorage, celebrates her birthday victory with some oranges after finishing the race.

Paul Butera of Anchorage was almost a minute behind, finishing third to Marshall’s 30 minutes 32 seconds. Nicholas Zweifel, Tannen Berry and Michael Moore were the next top finishers for local boys, coming in at 10th, 12th and 13th respectively.

Fleet-footed Girls junior champion Allison Ostrander of Soldotna, 16, finished first in the girls division and sixth overall completing the course in 31 minutes 40 seconds for her fifth consecutive win. Ostrander was followed by Palmer’s Kopsack sisters, Alyson and Jocelyn, in second and third place for the girls division. Isabel Barnwell, a 17 year old SHS Seahawks team swimmer, finished ninth in the girls division of the Junior Race leading the field of local girls. Ruby Lindquist, of Moose Pass, and Meret Beutler, of Seward, followed her.


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