Hayward, Wisconsin – Italian skier Fabio Santus broke the 50K Birkie Skate presented by Becker Law course record with a time of 1:56:58.6 in the 37th annual American Birkebeiner held Saturday, February 27th. Rebecca Dussault the returning champion defended her title by winning the Women’s Skate division with a time of 2:18:18.1.
Santus of Milano, Italy, skied his first Birkie saying, “I am very, very happy. It was a great track with very good people.”
Tad Elliot, Durango, Colorado, skied to a second-place finish in 1:57:06.7 followed by Christopher Cook, Rhinelander, Wisconsin, with a third-place time of 1:58:41.
First time Birkie skiers Tazlina Mannix and Brooke Gosling battled for their positions with Mannix of Anchorage, Alaska, capturing the second place finish with a time of 2:18:49.2 and Gosling of Canmore, Alberta, Canada, taking third with a time of 2:18:57.
In its third year the Birkie Classic presented by Subaru showed course records for both the men’s and women’s races. The 54K Classic Champion is Juergen Uhl of South Burlington, Vermont, with a time of 2:28:39.4. Audrey Weber of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, captured the women’s title in a time of 2:51:34.
The second place time in the men’s classic of 2:32:30.7 was skied by Jesse Smith of Traverse City, Michigan. In third place was Shawn Miller, Duluth, Minnesota finishing in 2:33:16.3.
Repeating her second place finish from 2009, Hilary Patzer, St. Paul, Minnesota, finished in 2:53:07.4, while Kerrie Fabius, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada skiing in her first Birkie finished in 2:53:31.3.
Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, said skiers from 19 foreign nations, including Andora, Estonia and Russia, and 47 U.S states, including Hawaii, North Carolina and Alaska, had great conditions for the 37th anniversary event.
Honorary Starter, Wisconsin Governor James Doyle, welcomed the largest field of skiers ever in the American Birkebeiner’s 37-year history. He sent over 8,055 skiers on their way beginning at 8:00 a.m.
Temps hovered just below 0 degrees at the start, then climbed as 21 waves of skiers left the starting gates.
The American Birkebeiner is modeled after the Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet, which in turn was inspired by the historic rescue of the infant who would become a celebrated king, Haakon Haakonsson IV. The race symbolically re-creates the flight of the prince, carried on skis by warriors called birkebeiners for their protective birch bark leggings.
Brothers David and Grant Nelson assumed the roles Torstein and Skervald, the Birkebeiner warriors who rescued the infant Prince Haakon (Hō-ken). The brothers made their own wooden skis for the event. Grant, a dentist in Duluth, Minnesota, has skied 15 Birkies. David, a circuit designer for satellite components lives in Medicine Lake, Minnesota, has skied 16 Birkies.
David’s wife Josie portrayed Inga the mother of Prince Haakon. Josie, worked as a physical therapist until becoming a stay at home mom after the birth of Karl; she has skied 11 Birkies and one Kortelopet. Karl served as Prince Haakon in the re-encactment.
The brothers dressed in full Birkebeiner regalia including helmets, shields and their wooden skis while carrying 13-month-old Karl Nelson to the finish line to the clang of cowbells from the thousands of spectators who lined Hayward’s Main Street. Karl’s mother, Josie skied the full 54 kilometers dressed in a traditional Norwegian dress and cloak, on wooden skis.
“The historic re-enactment, fast race course and the largest field ever made the Birkie’s 37th anniversary one for the books,” Zuelsdorff said. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”
For race day results, log on to www.birkie.com.