It was a rainy Friday night in Anchorage, but that didn't stop some hardy cross country skiers from showing up for a rollerski sprint race. Eleven racers participated in the event, which took place around an 800-meter paved loop in the Cuddy Family Park in midtown Anchorage. The small park, situated next to the main Anchorage public library, is used by many as a place to take a quick walk during a lunch break, but on this night it was home to some exciting rollerski action!
Because of the rain-induced small turnout, everyone competed together in one elimination bracket. This meant that everyone, male and female alike, got a chance to race against two-time Olympian Kikkan Randall. It was clear from the start that the senior skiers, including Randall, would have their work cut out for them. Not only were the juniors quick, some also had pretty fast rollerskis.
In the prelims, next-year senior skier Mike Hinckley laid down the fastest time, 2:07. He was four seconds faster than rising J1 skier Eric Packer. The old guys in the field, Cory Smith and Alaska Winterstars coach Jan Buron, took third and fourth. These four skiers went head-to-head in the first semifinal, in which Eric Packer sprinted to the front early on to take the win. Mike Hinckley was close behind to also move on to the final. In the second semi-final, Cole Talbot had his hands full to stay ahead of Kikkan Randall, as those two moved into the final, ahead of Hanna Johnson and Jasmine Neeno.
In the A-Final, it was all Eric Packer, as he got off the line quickly and led wire to wire. Mike Hinckley took second, Cole Talbot took third, and Kikkan Randall finished fourth overall, first female.
1. Eric Packer
2. Mike Hinkley
3. Cole Talbot
4. Kikkan Randall – 1st female
5. Cory Smith
6. Jan Buron
7. Hanna Johnson – 2nd female
8. Kalen Ramey – 3rd female
9. Jasmine Neeno – 4th female
10. Alison Bulter – 5th female
11. Becky Butler – 6th female
Asked about her race afterwards, Kikkan Randall said “I can't think of anything I'd rather do on a Friday night.” She said that racing against the boys was great, and that its something she should do more often.
Despite the small field of racers, it was a great event. The drizzle that fell during the race did nothing to dampen the racers' spirits, and the many prizes donated by local sponsors certainly helped put smiles on faces as well.
Ronn Randall, of the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department and also father of Kikkan, organized the race with help from a number of volunteers. Race PA announcer Jim Renkert, who is involved with many ski programs in the Anchorage area, noted that the sprint race was the first competitive event to take place in newly-created Cuddy Park, but it won't be the last – a speedskating oval will soon be constructed in the park.
The elder Randall said he plans to organize more rollerski races in the future. The Cuddy Park sprint race served as a prelude to the Kincaid Rollerski Stampede, to be held at the grand opening of a new paved trail in Kincaid Park on September 13. Randall also hopes that races will spur others in the ski community to organize races as well.
Photos by Brian Erickson: