High, dry and cold conditions dominated in Crested Butte this past weekend as The Western Ski Circuit, juniors from across Colorado, and a host of USSA points seekers descended upon this small mountain town north of Gunnison for the WSC invite. This Nordic festival was co-hosted by Crested Butte Nordic Council and Western State College Ski Team.
The ladies 5km classic and the men’s 10km classic races led things off on Friday the 7th. The interval start of 15 sec. led to some clusters out on the course and made for some exciting racing. The women were first with Katrin Smigun from the University of Utah dominating again with a winning time of 17:28 for the long 5km race. This beat out Martina Stursova of the University of New Mexico by a whopping 33 sec. In third place and rounding out the podium finishers was Kristina Strandberg also of the University of New Mexico. Jenny Wissting also of the University of New Mexico was fourth. Obviously this gave UNM an overwhelming presence at the top of the pack. These women continue to place high up in the field but can not seem to break onto the top spot of the podium. Smigun has a claim to that position that has not been broken thus far. Independent racer, Rebecca Dussault, from Gunnison, took home top American honors with a strong showing in 6th place. Jana Rehemaa, and Claire Critchley from CU scored two in the top 10 for the Buffs. Sara Svendson from the University of Utah skied a strong race in placing 7th. The DU ladies: Karin Camenisch, Tara Hamilton, and Nina Karvonen were a strong force as well taking 10th, 11th, and 12th respectively. Jess Gray of Western State College had a strong showing in 13th.
The men followed with some equally impressive results. Jimmy Vika, skiing for the University of New Mexico skied a powerful race, taking home top honors. He was followed some 45 sec. back by Zach Violett: the top American. Ryan Quinn and Zack Simons were close behind, both of the University of Utah. Quinn is a constant threat for the podium and Simons just keeps on skiing extremely consistently in the top 5. Jess Kiesel and Handers Hansson also of the University of Utah gave the Utes an exceptional presence in the top 10. Martin Bartnes of DU raced into the top 5 to lead the Pioneers. Zach Hill and Dylan Prosser were 10th and 11th respectively for the Pioneers as well. CU was led by Erling Christiansen in 6th. New Mexico also had a strong showing from Jacob Zehnder in 15th. Western State was led by Ryan Ahern in 18th and Dun Cochran in 19th.
Saturday the 8th was another fabulous day of racing on both the men’s and the women’s side. The men led things off with the 15km mass start skate race on the cold hard pack of the Magic Meadows trail system of Crested Butte. Jimmy Vika of UNM, once again took home the title. He skied away from the rest of the field to win in a fast time of 39:42.2. Tobias Schwoerer from the University of Alaska-Anchorage came in 2nd with a time of 40:09.5. Erling Christiansen of Colorado University screamed into a 3rd place finish in a time of 41:02.9. The Utah boys were next in 4th and fifth with Ryan Quinn skiing a strong one again to barely edge out his teammate Zack Simons. For Simons, that was his 7th “top 5” of the eight races old season. Brian Gregg of Western State College battled it out on the tough course to finish 7th place. This represents a huge accomplishment for the freshman from Winthrop, WA. This is Gregg’s top finish to date and sets him up nicely for a crack at NCAA’s. Way to go Brian and keep on keepin’ on.
The Women were next with the most exciting race of the season in the 10km skate mass start. The showdown was between Katrin Smigun of Utah, and independent Racer Rebecca Dussault. The race came right down to a sprint finish that left the timers and finish line crew without an answer. It was that tight: a tie was declared. I was right by the finish line and could not tell who won myself, but am still left with goose bumps from watching this battle come down to the last meter. Way to go ladies. Smigun, however was awarded the college trophy for 1st place, keeping her streak alive and making it 8 for 8. Jenny Wissting was in 2nd place: 1:43 behind her. Sara Svendson, Smigun’s teammate rounded out the podium finishers on the day. Tara Hamilton took home top American honors for college skiers. Jessica Gray of Western State College was a solid 11th.
This weekend certainly was a first class event with high quality racing and tremendous efforts on the part of all athletes, coaches, volunteers, and crowd members. A big thanks goes out to all those who helped make this Nordic festival a success.
The RMISA picks up in Winter Park, CO for the RMISA Regional Championships on Sunday and Monday, Feb. 23rd, and 24th.