Paco’s Fun Race draws Nordic horde
Special to the Sun
Nordic ski racing is alive and well in the Northern Sierra Nevada.
In what was possibly the best-attended cross country ski citizen’s race at Auburn Ski Club in modern history, the Paco’s Fun Race on Sunday brought together young and wanna-be-young racers in an amazing display of numbers and enthusiasm.
More than 160 competitors jammed the trails at the Auburn Ski Club Training Center on Donner Summit, with a multitude of cheering spectators and parents filling the stadium. Because Paco’s Fun Race was the first “major” event of the season ” being part of multiple Far West race series such as the Sierra Ski Chase, the Masters Team Cup and, most importantly, the first stop on the Junior Olympic Qualifying series ” it was an important race for both juniors and masters alike.
Because this event, like most at Auburn Ski Club, is an “interval” start race, where athletes go out on the trails staggered in 15-second intervals, the finish order is sometimes in doubt up to the last racer on the course.
And in the men’s division, while many of the top racers went out early, the University of Nevada’s Dominic Henriques and Montana State University’s Tyler Wright (current and former Far West Nordic Juniors) set the initial time to beat.
But it was another former Far West Nordic Junior, the University of Colorado’s Joaquin Goodpaster from Truckee, who blistered the course late in the day, starting in the 168th position and rocketing to the overall win with at time of 23 minutes and 32 seconds for the 10-kilometer course. Henriques of Tahoe City managed to hold on for second place in 23:47, with Truckee’s Wright taking the Bronze in a time of 23:56.
The top Master skier for the Far west was once again Rick Reynolds of Truckee, taking sixth place overall with a time of 24:48.
Russell Kennedy of Truckee was the top J1 (16-17-year-old) boy for the day, posting a seventh place overall with a very fast time of 24:52.
The Women’s race was won by Palo Alto’s Beth Reid, who managed to beat all but the top 11 male racers winning with a time of 25 minutes and 47 seconds. Reid, who is unarguably the top female racer in the West, had no difficulty with any of her competition, winning by almost a full minute over Truckee’s Kara LaPoint (26:43), another University of Nevada Nordic team member. Truckee’s Debbie Hakansson took third place in the women’s competition with a time of 29:00.
Probably the most important segment of racing on the day, however, was in the Junior Division.
Paco’s Fun Race was designated this year as the first event of the four-part Junior Olympics Qualifying Series, and this year’s race brought in more than 60 juniors, many coming from outside of Truckee, with even a few racers from far-away Minnesota.
The Girls 5-kilometer race was one of the most heated battles of the day. Joanne Reid of Palo Alto, a J2 (14-15-years-old) skier was the dominant junior female racer of the entire race, posting a remarkable time of 13 minutes and 8 seconds for the one-lap course.
Hot on her heels, however, was Truckee’s Annika Taylor, who finished barely four seconds off Reid’s pace, and serving notice that future junior races might be just as hotly contested. Third place for the girls went to a J1 racer from Crowley Lake, Calif., Dayna Stimson.
In the J2 boys 5K race ” J1 boys raced the 10K ” Miles Heapes from Tahoe City set the overall pace, finishing with a time of 12 minutes and 24 seconds. Justin Ondry of Truckee managed second place, 45 seconds back, with a time of 13:08. Connor Benton, a visiting J2 boy from the Twin Cities area in Minnesota, took the third-best time for the race, posting a 13:41.
With cheering spectators and parents lining the stadium, the juniors got their first taste of major ski racing for the season, with many of the qualifying spots up for grabs in this first event of the series. Although there were some disappointments, the young Far West racers showed that they are ready for a season of battling for the coveted spots on the team traveling to Anchorage, Alaska, in March for the 2008 Junior Olympics National Championships.
The next major event of the Far West schedule falls next Sunday, Dec. 30, at Auburn Ski Club. The Snowshoe Thompson Classic Race is one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the Sierra, and will be a hotly contended race once again in the Masters and Sierra Ski Chase series.
After that, racing in Truckee takes a short hiatus, with the next major event coming on Jan. 20 at Auburn Ski Club ” the ASC Classic Sprints, the next race in the Junior Olympic qualifying series.
For a full results list and schedule, go to http://www.farwestnordic.org.
For those who haven’t heard, Far West Nordic and Auburn Ski Club are hosting the 2009 Junior Olympics/Junior Nationals a little more than a year from now. The 2005 edition was a huge success, thanks to the incredible volunteers who came out and made everything work so well. The JO 2009 Organization is now actively seeking volunteers and coordinators, both new and experienced, for the next step. If interested, come to Auburn Ski Club on Friday, Dec. 28 at 3 p.m. to find out more.