We’ve said earlier this year that Nordic ski racing is definitely alive and well in the Sierra Nevada, and as if to prove that axiom in spades, a record 200 enthusiastic competitors lined up to the starting line at Tahoe Donner Cross Country for the 2008 running of the Sierra Skogsloppet, a 15 km. premier event for cross country ski racers. And along with Juniors racing in the shorter 10 and 5 kilometer events for the coveted Far West Nordic Junior Olympic team spots, and a fun group of pre-teens competing in the 2 km. event, Tahoe Donner was definitely the center of Sierra Nordic racing on Martin Luther King Day.
Slightly snowy and cool conditions, with temperatures in the low 20’s F, created challenging but enjoyable course conditions, much different from the hardpack track found in last year’s event. A major benefit event for the Truckee High School and Alder Creek Middle School teams, this race had as much enthusiasm and excitement as any found in Sierra Nevada ski racing. And with so much at stake in the junior race, a new wave start procedure to keep the course clear and fair was heralded as a much improved method of getting the event started.
With 78 racers in the Men’s division, battles for position at the start can be crucial, with skiers jockeying for position as the trails narrow down throughout the course. With Soda Springs skier Martin Benes setting the initial pace, the rest followed closely, and when Benes faded on the first lap, it was the trio of Garrett Reid of Palo Alto, and Truckee veterans Rick Reynolds and Jeff Schloss taking up the slack. Trading the lead throughout the second half of the course, it was Reid and Reynolds who were able to pull away near the finish, with Reid taking the win with a time of 46 minutes and 9 seconds, 5 seconds over second place Reynolds. Schloss managed to hold onto 3rd place with a time of 46:54.
The competition was fierce for the 33 skiers in the women’s division, but the top spot was never in doubt, as Palo Alto’s Beth Reid continued her perfect season with an easy win in 48 minutes and 23 seconds, good enough to place her time as the 5th fastest on the day! Two other ex-Olympic athletes, Larkspur’s Judy Rabinowitz (53:09) and Kristin Krone of Truckee (54:12) followed Reid, putting them at 19th and 24th place overall, respectively, in the 15 km. Skogsloppet.
Junior racers were sent out in the earlier wave, either for a slightly shorter one lap (girls and younger boys) course, or 2 laps of the same for the older boys. As he has done all season, Truckee’s Russell Kennedy came out on top, but not before he engaged in a heated battle with Palo Alto’s Carl Reid. Kennedy’s time of 36:23 topped the boys, 14 seconds ahead of Reid, with Bishop’s Bryce Tiernan taking third, over 3 minutes behind.
In the 5 kilometer Girls race, Joanne Reid of Palo Alto once again showed her skills in the distance events, beating a pair of older Junior girls by over one minute with a time of 19:44, followed by Crowley Lake’s Dayna Stimson (20:55) and this weekend’s Sprint champion, Bernie Nelson of Truckee (20:55). In the boys event, Miles Heapes of Tahoe City battled with Truckee’s Justin Ondry for the win, Heapes finishing with a time of 19:37, and Ondry 7 seconds behind. Truckee’s Austin Meng finished third with a time of 20:29.
Not to be outdone, 13 hardy young skiers in age up to 11 years old raced in the Junior 2 kilometer division. Truckee’s Skyler Mullings and Hannah Halvorsen were the champs in this race, showing that they soon will be ready for racing fast with the older juniors.
Next week features the First Annual TAHOE RIM TOUR and RACE, a new and unique event traversing the trails of Tahoe Cross Country over to Northstar XC Resort. A benefit for the Far West Nordic Junior Teams, this race promises to become one of the top Sierra classics in appeal to both top competitors and ski tourers alike. For more information, go to www.farwestnordic.org or call (530) 587-0304.