Nordic racing: Matt Gelso wins Gold Rush at Royal Gorge |

Nordic racing: Matt Gelso wins Gold Rush at Royal Gorge

Mark Nadell
Special to the Sun

Mark Nadell/ SubmitteRacers head out of the start area of the 45-kilometer Gold Rush on Sunday. More than 260 racers took part in the event.

More than 260 racers ranging in age from 3 to 81 skied either the Gold, Silver, Bronze or Junior Rush on a warm, sunny day at Royal Gorge this past Sunday. 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-kilometer 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 two weeks ago, with a time of 1:57:53. Steinbock Racing’s Andrew Johnson and XC Oregon’s Marshall Greene were second and third.

A lead pack of seven formed on the back stretch of the first lap, including University of Nevada, Reno 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 eight-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 and 2000 Gold Rush champion Laura McCabe of Winthrop, Wash., made a rare California appearance after a 10-year hiatus, placing third (17th overall) in the women’s division.

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The Far West Nordic junior contingent dominated the Silver Rush, with Austin Meng placing first overall in a time of 1:24:33, with Justin Ondry and Carl Reid second and third, more than a minute behind. Palo Alto’s Joanne Reid of the University of Colorado ski team was the first women at 1:28:18 (fifth overall) while Truckee’s Kara LaPoint and Cathy Howard took second and third.

In the 15-kilometer Bronze Rush, Adele Espy of Freeport, Maine, was first overall with a time of 43:35.9. Debbie Hakansson and Raylene Chew were the second and third women. Jackson Rohlf was the first man at 45:30.5, and John Munger and Joe Piercy were second and third.

In the 3K Junior Rush, Truckee’s Lizzie Larkins of the Alder Creek Middle School Nordic Team was first overall, while Wesley Romer of Rocklin was the first 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

and#8212; This story was e-mailed to Sports Editor Sylas Wright at