Nordic skiing: Youth is served at Paco’s Fun Race
Special to the Sun
If there was ever any doubt that the sport of cross country ski racing is finally starting to appeal to the younger set, one need not look any further than the results of last Sunday’s Paco’s Fun Race at Auburn Ski Club on Donner Summit.
An astounding 18 out of the top 20 spots in the men’s division (and 5 out of the top 10 women) were under the age of 25. To compare that to results in the past three years of the same race, as few as five out of the top 20 racers were from the younger set. On this day-after-Christmas event, the local Nordic world turned just a little younger (and a lot faster).
On a blisteringly fast, somewhat shorter than the advertised 10-kilometer course, the day was dominated by college racers returning to California for the holidays to catch a little home-grown glory.
The only exception on the home-front crowd was the overall winner of the race, Kjetil Dammen, a top skier from the University of Alaska (Anchorage), here for a visit with his college teammate, second place finisher Zach Violett of Brownsville, California. Dammen was in control for the entire race, building a comfortable lead through the first lap, and finished with a substantial margin of 29 seconds over Violett, with an overall time of 18 minutes and 44 seconds.
Truckee High School junior Matt Gelso made a strong showing to take third place with a time of 19:27, easily outdistancing another college skier-come-home, Nick Sterling of Colorado University. The top Master skier (over 30) in the race was Tim Hill of Truckee, who placed 10th with a time of 21:08. The only other Master to break the top 20 was Terry Daley of Portola (17th).
The women’s division had a slightly different story. Beth Reid, a 45-year-old Master from Palo Alto, was able to gain bragging rights for the over-30 crowd by taking the top spot for the women with a time of 22 minutes and 27 seconds, good enough for 21st place overall. Of course, Reid (formerly known as Beth Heiden) has a significant connection to college skiing herself, as the 1983 NCAA Cross Country Ski National Champion (in addition to her world championship in speed skating and a world title in cycling).
Placing second to Reid was University of Montana skier Emily Robins of Tahoe City (22:59), along with Far West Junior and Williams College skier Natalie Joffe of Kentfield (23:41).
While the older teens and 20-somethings were duking it out with the masters in the main event of the day, the younger juniors were having their own battles in the two shorter events.
In the “5K” race, less than a second separated first place from second, with Jordan Nadell of Truckee taking top honors for the boys with a time of exactly 12 minutes. Nadell’s Auburn Ski Club Development Team teammate Alex Ferneyhough of Truckee just missed out on the win with a time of 12:00.7, while Patrick Trainor of Reno was third with a time of 12:13.
Bernie Nelson of Truckee found her way yet again to the top podium in winning the girls’ division with a time of 12:06, just a second or so ahead of ASC Competition Team teammates Gabrielle Joffe (12:07) and Maisha Goodpaster (12:14).
The 13-and-under 3K title went to yet another Reid (there were five Reids racing on the day). Joanne Reid (Palo Alto) had the overall fastest time of 8 minutes and 49 seconds, eight seconds ahead of boys’ winner Russell Kennedy (8:56) and almost a minute ahead of second place girl Annika Taylor (9:40), both from Truckee.
All in all, a total of 124 individuals competed in this event, the first local race on the Far West Nordic calendar. Next week is the venerable Snow Shoe Thompson Classic, a 10-kilometer Classic (diagonal striding) event that is one of the oldest races in the west. Of even more importance, however, is the fact that this race is the first Junior Olympics qualifier (out of four races), to determine the Far West Nordic team to attend the 2005 Junior Olympics, returning to Auburn Ski Club for the first time since 1971.
For full race results, visit http://www.farwestnordic.org.
[For more information on the Far West Nordic race schedule and cross country skiing in California/Nevada, go to http://www.farwestnordic.org. To find out more about the 2005 Junior Olympics at Auburn Ski Club, visit http://www.juniorolympics2005.org, or call the club at (530) 426-3313.]
[Mark Nadell is the Far West Nordic Administrator.]