February 6th (Putney, VT): Middlebury College’s Bryce Roche pulled ahead of a strong field of J1 skiers to win Sunday’s Banknorth Eastern Cup Putney Pursuit. While the sun shone on the racers, volunteers shoveled snow onto the melting track. Roche and his young challengers — Dylan McGuffin (Gunstock Nordic Assocation), Putney Ski Club’s own Kevin Cutts, and Vermont Academy’s Pavel Sotskov, as well as Tim Stickney — held strong through the 5.3 km classic portion, that led the skiers through the narrow, wooded trails of the Putney School. But Roche, winner of last year’s Putney Pursuit, pulled ahead in the skate portion of the pursuit for the win, while McGuffin â€œjust held on and tried not to die!â€ to finish 2nd, 23 seconds back. Third, 4th, and 5th went to Cutts, Sotskov and Stickney, all just 2 seconds apart.
The women’s race was just as exciting. Except for the 2km classic section in the woods, the Pursuit course was visible to spectators, many of whom lined the course to cheer the racers through the final two laps of the skate portion of the race. Brattleboro’s Heidi Henkel was the rabbit out of the start, leading the women’s field through the classic leg by a huge, often 15 second margin. Behind Henkel, Burke Mountain Academy’s Liz Stephen and Ida Sargent controlled the field that included Northeast Nordic’s Jennie Bender, Gunstock Nordic Association’s Katrina Howe, Ford Sayre’s Alice Nelson, and Colby College coach, Tracey Cote. Ford Sayre’s Dorcas Wonsavage spent the first half of the classic leg making her way through the field after a slow start, and managed to pull ahead of the Burke Mtn. teammates to make it first in to the transition zone. For the skate leg it was Nelson, Stephen, and Cote chasing Wonsavage through the slow, slushy snow to the finish. At the line, it was Wonsavage by a mere 5 seconds ahead of Nelson, who just edged out Stephen by 2 seconds. Master skier and mom, Tracey Cote, was 4th
The Junior/J2 6km Pursuit races were just as fierce. Alex Howe, from Gunstock Nordic Association, ended up putting 10 seconds on his competition from Stratton Mountain School, Kyle Dewey and Fritz Horst. Howe’s GNA teammate, Thomas Stark was 4th, while the leader out of the start in the classic leg, with a phenomenal double pole, Steven Bedard from SMS, finished 5th.
And in the J2 girls event, it was Stratton Mountain School’s Sophie Caldwell, skiing on the trails she knows so well, who took first place, 12 seconds ahead of teammate Parker Tyler. NYSEF’s Megan McClelland and Sophie McClelland went 3rd and 5th, sandwiching 4th place SMS skier Madeleine Talkington.
The Putney Ski Club scheduled a full day of events. After the lollipop skiers (ages 4-7) event at 9 am, where the kids skied 200meters to cross a finish line of Tootsie Pops, the Junior 5 (age 8-9), Junior 4 (age 10-11) and Junior 3 (age 12-13) all raced shortened versions of a Pursuit race. Many of the kids not only raced their first Pursuit race, but for lack of snow this season, it was their first race! (For a complete list of results and photos, go to www.NENSA.net.) The Pursuit format is one of the most popular on the World Cup circuit. It involves a mass start of racers skiing the classic technique, often with multiple, spectator-visible laps before the racers come back into a transition zone where, while the clock continues to run, they change into their skate skis and poles and ski off for the second, skate portion of the race. The first person across the finish line is the winner. A goal of the New England Nordic Ski Association, which oversees the scheduling of the Banknorth Eastern Cup series, is to introduce and familiarize New England skiers and spectators with the World Cup race formats.
The Banknorth Eastern Cup series concludes February 20th with the Cheri Walsh Memorial at the Holderness School.