There he was, motoring up Heartbreak Hill, his Easton snowshoes churning step-by-step, pulling like a John Deere tractor, asking “What hill?” Mitch Kasyon never slowed in breezing to his second National USSSA Junior Championship title in a sizzling 23:24, a time for the 5 Km loop on par with the opening lap of the Senior Men’s 10 Km.
Samantha Lewis added her third National USSSA Junior Championship in a row by easily outdistancing the remaining junior women’s field, finishing in 26:50. Breaking out at the Syracuse, NY Championships in 2010, “Sam” bobs through the snow with a signature long ponytail acting like her own personal contrail.
The iconic feature of the Dion Snowshoes USSSA National Championship racecourse in Frisco, CO, “Heartbreak Hill,” challenged the Junior Class as the first group to track the snow. Leading the way for a day of hard-fought snowshoe battles, the record junior class entrants reflected the intensity of snowsports in the Rockies as 17 of the 29 juniors entered claimed Colorado as home.
With the start set into a hill about a quarter-mile from the main finish line viewing area, spectators were treated to a view of the developing intervals in the pack. Little did the crowd know that as they passed, the sugar-snow field from the start had sucked power from legs like a straw in a Slurpy; yet, Kasyon already established a 50-yard advantage on the combined field at that marker.
He is single-handedly establishing Easton Snowshoes as a championship contending brand with their Vo2 racing model. A snowshoe developed for speed and efficiency, Kasyon demonstrated both at this event.
Kasyon scorched the taxing Wisconsin course at the 2011 Cable, WI championships in 26:04 with a healthy two-minute lead over Silver medalist there, Ben Palladino, of New York. Here, he led good friend Postyn Smith’s silver medal finish of 24:54. Smith flew back from Williams College on the east coast so they could compete for the top medals.
Sam Sahli led Smith up Heartbreak but could not keep him in check. Smith closed and then made up the interval in the long stretch before curving to the line; Sahli finished with the bronze medal in 25:05. Kyle Ames watched the action in front of him but trailed the medals by just 12 seconds.
The first nine junior men finishers were from Colorado, and 11 of the first 12, too. Only Jack Mulvihill of New York’s Paul Smith College broke up the party, taking tenth overall in 29:27. Colorado dominance at the top of the order is not so surprising when factoring the state had 46 percent of the total entrants combined with the altitude disadvantage that may have plagued many of the lowlanders.
Lewis won the Junior Women’s championship at Cable, WI, in 29:08. In that event, Melissa Tekippe, WI, missed the podium but more than made up for it here by capturing a silver medal finish, her first national honor. Trailing her, Mariah Henderson, CO, grabbed the bronze as Wisconsin’s Bonnie Nutt challenged but just fell short.
In the 14 and younger classes, Michigan’s Tim Buerger won his second straight USSSA National Championship with a 35:43 finish, chased by silver medalist, Logan Ramsay and Hunter Paulson for the bronze. Both are from Colorado.
McKenna Ramsay added a gold medal to the family’s collection in this race along with the National Championship title, too. Her 32:53 led New York’s Rachael Jones silver medal quest by four minutes. Gina Kelble, CO earned the Bronze Medal over Michigan’s Signe Buerger.
The abundance of snowshoe racers in Colorado is a culmination of a number of factors like snow availability and the state’s spirit of the outdoors. One of the most important is the emphasis on the benefits of the sport for high school athletes placed by Darren Brungardt, the host for this national event, and race director for the Love Me Tender qualifier.
For more information on the USSSA, visit www.snowshoeracing.com.