Whitehorse dominates ski event

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Guy Thibodeau took the highest marks for Juneau athletes this past weekend as he pushed Marcus Wattereus of Whitehorse to the limit in the annual Buckwheat Classic in Skagway.

Thibodeau was bested by a mere three minutes 11 seconds as he skied the 50-kilometer course in a time of 2:57:46.

Juneau's Odin Brudie placed ninth and Bart Watson finished 11th, while the Canadians won seven slots in the top 10.

Sarah Nielson of Whitehorse finished the race with a time of 3:20:31.

Whitehorse dominated the top 10 in every category except for one, a women's snowshoeing race.

In the best race of the weekend, Marsha Columbo of Skagway went toe-to-toe with Lee Neesa of Bozeman, Mont., in the 5-kilometer snowshoe race and won by a single stride with a time of 1:02:28.

Twenty-two-some winters ago, a small group of locals sat around a library and concocted a variety of ways by which they could increase the number of women in town, according to Buckwheat Donahue, the Classic's founder and director.

Although the founders did not even ski at the time, they decided to start a cross-country ski race broad enough to attract people to town. Thus was born the Buckwheat Classic.

The first Buckwheat attracted a total of 14 people, including six locals and eight Canadians from Whitehorse.

Saddened that the ladies had gone home and the event was over, Donahue scripted a line that described the event and became its motto: "The Buckwheat is a race designed for the lazy, the infirm and the few who are fast."

This weekend's turnout was about average, at around 225.

"The plan worked and in fact, as I keep track of this, there were roughly 25 more women than men in the events this year over the age of 21," Donahue said.

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