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Great Race, tough conditions

Erick Studenicka

A doff of the sweaty ski stocking cap to everyone who completed, or even started, last Sunday’s Great Race. With four to six inches of powder on the course and strong winds over Starrett Pass, even Great Race veterans had to admit the conditions were tough.

“For me, the climb was the toughest of my 15 Great Races,” said Paco Lindsay, who finished in 32nd place. “The snow was just like fluff. No matter who you were – a leader or someone back in the pack – it was tough. It took a lot out of me.”

“Weather wise, it was probably the toughest conditions I’ve seen since 1982,” said Lakeview Cross-Country Ski Area owner and race organizer Mike Wolterbeek. “With the wind and the snow, it was tough for people to know how to dress for the race – either people were too warm or too cold.”

There was no easy way to Truckee from Tahoe City Sunday morning – skaters were left to flounder in the powder while classic skiers were left without any tracks to ski in.

The smartest way over the pass may have been on snowshoes – they seemed to be working well for those ‘shoers who passed me headed up the hill.

Surprising, the topic of conversation at the finish line didn’t center on the weather; rather, everyone was talking about the grouse on the course which either really enjoyed cross-country skiing or was looking for a handout of “Gu” or Stoker Bar. By all accounts, the grouse was still sitting on the ski trail when the final skiers went by at 3 p.m.

My proposal: no matter what their hometown, everyone who completed the race Sunday should at least be given honorary “Local” status.

H H H

Considering that the Great Race is our local “classic,” it might be worth considering a ban on “skating” in the Great Race. With its 21-year long history, the Great Race is a throwback to the time before spandex, $100 waxes and skate skiing – and maybe we should honor that era of skiing by limiting the Great Race to diagonal skiing.

Even if skating isn’t eliminated, maybe the Great Race could have two categories of award winners including the top “skaters” and the top “striders.”

Although Wolterbeek thinks the idea is interesting, he doesn’t think eliminating skating would be a good idea.

“The Great Race is a big event that we want people to have fun at,” Wolterbeek said. “We’ve always allowed people to do the course however they want, with no restrictions.”

“As for having a separate classic division, it would be tough because we would have to have officials stationed on the course to make sure people weren’t skating,” he said.

H H H

While the Tahoe-Truckee High School cross-country ski team easily won the state championships Saturday, the days of Wolverine league dominance may be coming to a close as North Tahoe seems poised to make a run at Truckee in the future with its strong intermediate program. North Tahoe beat Truckee in the girls’ intermediate race Saturday and tied Truckee in the boys’ race.

A closer league race would be something Wolverine coach Olof Carmel would love to see.

“Both Truckee and North Tahoe have incredible junior development programs from the first grade on,” Carmel said. “It should lead to great Truckee – North Tahoe rivalries in the years to come.”

But don’t feel too sorry for Carmel – he loses only two seniors from this year’s state championship team and the Wolverines should have enough talent returning to make a run for their fifth consecutive state title next year.

H H H

So maybe it wasn’t a scene out of the movie “Hoosiers,” but there was a “big-event” atmosphere at the AAA basketball tournament last Thursday in Reno.

For a lot of teams, the local high school’s basketball team appearance in the state tournament is a big deal, warranting the school band, a squad of cheerleaders and a couple of busloads of partisan fans.

Truckee had its share of rooters, but perhaps because of the 3:20 p.m. tip-off or the fact the boys’ team wasn’t playing in the tournament, spectators from places like Moapa Valley, Lovelock and Hawthorne far outnumbered Wolverine backers.

Maybe with all of the Snowfest events and good skiing conditions last week, there were just too many distractions in the Truckee area for people to make an effort to catch the ballgame?

It reminds me of the time I asked Wolverine coach Helen Godfrey why Hawthorne was consistently so good at girls’ basketball.

“There’s not much else to do in Hawthorne besides practice basketball,” she said.

Erick Studenicka is the sportswriter for the Sierra Sun.


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