Over 260 racers ranging in age from 3 years old to 81 years old skied either the Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Junior Rush on a warm, sunny day at Royal Gorge. Snow conditions began with very firm tracks in the morning, leading to some exciting downhill turns, but as the day warmed up the snow slowly began to soften up.
The 45 km Gold Rush was won by former Far West Nordic Junior Matt Gelso of the University of Colorado, fresh off of his NCAA National Championship win of 2 weeks ago, with a time of 1:57:53. Steinbock Racing’s Andrew Johnson and XC Oregon’s Marshall Greene were 2nd and 3rd. A lead pack of 7 formed on the back stretch of the first lap, including University of Reno, Nevada Head Coach August Teague, former UNR athlete Lutz Preussler, Williams College athlete Alex Taylor of Truckee, and local hero Tav Streit of Sacramento. By the end of the second lap, however, it was Johnson breaking up the pack, with Green and Gelso close on his heels, building a 20 second lead. The third lap, however, was Gelso’s, who used his local trail knowledge (and his recent spate of heavy-duty kayak training during Spring Break) to the fullest to cruise to a 20 second victory over former U.S. Ski Teamer Johnson, with Green another 15 seconds behind.
The women’s top racers were a bit more split up, with many of the local athletes choosing the 30 kilometer Silver Rush, part of the prestigious Fischer Cup Series for Far West Nordic. In the 45 kilometer Gold Rush distance, UNR’s Maria Grafnings won for the women with a time of 2:06:44, dueling it out in an 8-person chase pack with second place Beth Reid of Palo Alto. The two top women placed 10th and 11th overall. Finally, former U.S. Olympian Laura McCabe of Winthrop, WA and 2000 Gold Rush champion made a rare California appearance after a 10-year hiatus, placing 3rd (17th overall) in the women’s division.
The 30 kilometer Silver Rush was dominated by the Far West Nordic junior contingent, with Austin Meng first overall in a time of 1:24:33, with Justin Ondry and Carl Reid 2nd and 3rd, over a minute behind. Palo Alto’s Joanne Reid of the Colorado University ski team was the first women at 1:28:18, 5th overall, while Truckee’s Kara LaPoint and Cathy Howard took 2nd and 3rd.
In the 15 km Bronze Rush Adele Espy of Freeport, Maine was 1st overall with a time of 43:35.9. Debbie Hakansson and Raylene Chew were the 2nd and 3rd women. Jackson Rohlf was 1st man at 45:30.5, and John Munger and Joe Piercy were 2nd and 3rd.
In the 3km Junior Rush, Truckee’s Lizzie Larkins of the Alder Creek Middle School Nordic Team was 1st overall, while Wesley Romer of Rocklin, CA was the 1st boy, second overall.
The California Gold Rush is a benefit for the Far West Nordic and Auburn Ski Club Junior Programs, with Royal Gorge Cross Country donating all of the proceeds to those organizations. More race photos can be found at http://macbethgraphics.smugmug.com/NORDIC-RACING/Nordic-Races