The first race in the 2013 Juneau Nordic Cup Race Series went off without a hitch on Sunday, although one skier fell at the start, as 25 skate racers mass started in the Series Cup Opener at Eaglecrest.
The race had two, four and six kilometer distances along the Lower Nordic Loop course and racers found their comfort zone early and flowed into a lengthy line of competition.
“I am tired,” 2k-race winner Grace Newman, 11, said at the finish. “It was fun. I was trying to save my energy so I could go really fast at the end but I was trying to get faster than my last time.”
After crossing the finish Newman and 2k competitor Erin Wallace, 12, grabbed a cowbell to cheer on the athletes still on the course.
Newman crossed the orange chalked snow finish in 11 minutes and 42 seconds, over one minute faster than her practice times.
Light rain over the night had hardened the groomed course making times faster for the racers, some of who changed their race portion as fatigue set in.
Johnny Elliott, 15, had the fastest time in the 4k portion, finishing in 19:21.
“I started like tasting blood halfway through the first loop,” Elliott said. “Then I saw a bunch of people passing me on the second loop so I just threw in the towel and went for the 4k. I love this sport. Cross country skiing and running are my two favorite sports.”
Just off the winning 4k pace were Aaron Blust, 10, and Kenny Fox, 16, in a heated sprint down the finish stretch. Blust got the ski tip win and then bumped congratulatory knuckles with Fox who lay spent on the snow.
“I just like to have fun,” Blust said. “When I am out skiing it is just really great.”
The more seasoned athletes tackled the 6k portion.
Guy Thibodeau, Dennis Hall, Abby Lowell and Dan Rondeau broke away from the main pack in the first loop and Thibodeau moved ahead of the group at the 5k portion. With Hall in pursuit, Thibodeau, his earpiece radio broadcasting the Seattle Seahawks game, geared down for the finish and had an 11-second margin of victory with a 22:22.
“I tried to push those last hills,” Thibodeau said. “To get a little bit of a gap on them. I listen to Led Zeppelin when the Seahawks aren’t on. This Cup Series is really great for the community and for us older racers that want to go outside and do the Tour of Anchorage or a few other races.”
Thibodeau leaves Wednesday for the 2013 AXCS National Masters Championships (Jan. 30-Feb.2) in Sun Valley, Idaho, and will train in that area the rest of this month to get used to the altitude.
Lowell, a competitive college Nordic racer for four years (University of Colorado and University of Nevada Reno), shared her strategy.
“I will go out hard for the first couple of kilometers,” Lowell said. “I will pull for a little bit. I like to drag the fast people out of the pack. Usually that front pack will settle. I try to settle in with the front pack and keep contact with the leaders. But you never want to lead, you end up doing all the work.”
Lowell’s advice is to draft until you feel recovered, push until you can’t push any harder, and when you get to the end you know you have gone as hard as you can go.
For Juneau-Douglas High School alum Jim Beedle, 60, the race brought back memories of his school days in competition.
“It is nice to see a high school team starting up again,” Beedle said. “That is super. I took a long break. I had a pair of cross country skis about 30 years old and finally broke them and started skate skiing, and I love to skate. I would really like to see this club get back to being a high school sport.
The next race hosted by the Juneau Nordic Development Team will be the Jan. 19 Freestyle Frenzie, a 5 or 10-kilometer freestyle race at the Eaglecrest A-frame Lower Nordic Loop, beginning at 12:30 p.m. The race is a Juneau Nordic Cup point scorer.
Following are the results of Sunday’s Series Cup Opener (Name, Age, Time (series points):
2-kilometer race results-
Grace Newman, 11, 0:11:42 (63.9)
Jayden West, 11, 0:11:56 (62.6)
Duncan Smith, 14, 0:12:17 (60.9)
Connor Norman, 11, 0:12:56 (57.8)
Liz White, 51, 0:13:03 (57.3)
Erin Wallace, 12, 0:13:04 (57.2)
4-kilometer race results-
Johnny Elliott, 15, 0:19:21 (77.3)
Aaron Blust, 10, 0:20:38 (72.5)
Kenny Fox, 16, 0:20:39 (72.4)
Jack White, 13, 0:25:20 (59.0)
William Wallace, 13, 0:35:40 (41.9)
Guy Thibodeau, 62, 0:22:22 (101.3)
Dennis Hall, 27, 0:22:33 (100.4)
Abby Lowell, 31, 0:23:03 (98.3)
Dan Rondeau, 59, 0:23:40 (95.7)
Odin Brudie, 55, 0:24:32 (92.3)
Eric Torgerson, 37, 0:25:42 (88.1)
Joe Roth, 52, 0:28:36 (79.2)
Jeff White, 49, 0:28:56 (78.3)
Greg Patz, 62, 0:29:28 (76.9)
Arne Ellefson-Carnes, 12, 0:29:49 (76.0)
Jim Beedle, 60, 0:29:57 (75.6)
Lindy Jones, 51, 0:30:18 (74.8)
Maddie Hall, 15, 0:30:38 (73.9)
Clem Taylor-Roth, 11, 0:33:35 (67.4)