California Gold Rush gets off to a slushy start |

California Gold Rush gets off to a slushy start

Mark Nadell, Far West Nordic administrator

Wet and wild would be the best way to describe the 2003 California Gold Rush at Royal Gorge, the premier cross-country ski race in the West on Saturday and Sunday. More than 300 skiers braved overnight rains and heavy mist at race time to compete in one of the different race distances of 50k, 30k, 15k or 6k. Gold Rush Weekend is one of the most important fund-raisers for the Far West Nordic Ski Education Association and Auburn Ski Club, with all the proceeds being donated to the junior ski programs.

Even though the tracks were soft from the rain, the snow conditions stayed relatively fast throughout the course. While no course records were set, skiers thought that the Royal Gorge track-setting crew did a great job for the conditions.

In the premier 50 kilometer Gold Rush event, U.S. Olympic Team member Justin Wadsworth showed that he’s still the one to beat. Wadsworth reprised his 1998 Gold Rush victory with a finish line sprint win over Subaru Factory Team member Scott Loomis, who thought he had victory in hand until needing to avoid a slower racer right before the finish line. Wadsworth finished in 2 hours, 7 minutes and 5 seconds, more than 16 minutes faster than last year’s winning time, a scant 4 seconds in front of Loomis. Close behind in third place was NCAA Collegiate skier Jimmy Vika from the University of New Mexico.

For the women, Abigail Larson of the Subaru Factory Team was able to complete a wire-to-wire win, easily outdistancing her rivals with a winning time of 2:26:57. Giving the race an international flair, second place went to Russian skier Natasha Terechenko, with third place taken by New Mexico skier Martina Stursova of the Czech Republic.

While the Gold Rush gets the headlines, many racers chose one of the shorter races on this day. In the 30 kilometer Silver Rush, Far West Nordic’s own Phillip Violett and a student at Sugar Bowl Academy, returning from the Junior Olympics in Fairbanks Alaska, was able to hold off a furious charge from Australian skier Daniel Van Der Ploeg. Violett won with a time of 1:26:09, just two seconds ahead of the second place finisher.

Andreas Berbu, another New Mexico skier, was 30 seconds behind in third place. Jenny Wissting, another New Mexico racer, took first place for the women with a time of 1:33:32. Beth Reid of Palo Alto completed her clean sweep of the 6-race Fischer Cup Series by taking second with Muffy Roy coming in third.

This year’s 15K Bronze Rush once again took on a younger look. Another Far West Nordic Junior Olympic athlete, Garrett Reid of Palo Alto, won this race convincingly by more than 3 minutes. Joel Ruane was second, with Truckee’s Owen Wright in third. And in what has become a fierce rivalry in the local races, Natalie Joffe of Kentfield was able to edge out Kara LaPoint of Truckee, both Far West Nordic skiers, for the women’s crown, with Truckee’s Kari Rust in third.

The 6k Junior Rush featured some of the future champions of the sport. Matt Gelso of Truckee, coming off a very successful Junior Olympics, took the boy’s gold medal, winning over two Truckee middle school athletes, Spencer Wood and Alex Taylor. Bend, Oregon’s Zoe Roy won the girl’s title over Far West racers Gabrielle Joffe and Alexandra O’Neil.

For full results from Sunday’s races at Royal Gorge, along with results from Saturday’s events for junior skiers, the Gold Nuggets race and Fischer Super Cross, can be found on the Far West Nordic Web site at

A huge thank you goes to Royal Gorge for donating all proceeds to the Far West Nordic and Auburn Ski Club for this event, making it one of the most successful Gold Rush fundraisers in history.

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