The Rib Lake Ski & Snowshoe Club’s debut as one of the 21 National Championship USSSA Qualifiers was a huge success as great organization, deep snow, and elite racers combined for an enthusiastic start to the race season. Introducing a new 10km course for their first ever United States Snowshoe Association sanctioned event, the club set a high bar for the remainder of the qualifying season.
Debbie Quednow, Race Director, said, “This was a great day! Snowshoers of all abilities competed in a beautiful setting at the Rusch Preserve (located a little Northeast of the city of Rib lake, Wisconsin).”
Nearly 150 snowshoers raced today, 34 of them competing in the main event, the 10km Snowshoe Adventure.
The course, a rambling, clockwise one-loop layout, utilized ski/snowshoe trails and was skillfully groomed. Temperatures edging above freezing for the 11:00 a.m. start, softening the snow, combined with the constant climbs and declines on the forested rolling terrain, made the effort very challenging as only five completed the distance under one hour.
Winning the overall race: USSSA National Team member Scott Gall, the only competitor to finish under 50 minutes at 49:05.
John Brylski led up close to the one mile mark, trying the only tactic available to beat Scott — surprise him off the line and hope the rabbit move discouraged him. John, crossing third, conceded, “When Scott passed me, he took off like a machine.” Another tactic, John’s bright blue race outfit, might have blinded Scott, but, alas, that didn’t work either.
At about the three mile mark Kasey Schmitt passed John for silver. The fight for bronze was classic as John pulled a NASCAR type move on John Kann and closed the door on an attempted pass just at the finish line, winning the last medal by one tick of the clock at 58:23. Mike Quednow made Race Director Debbie Quednow proud by finishing under one hour with just seconds to spare.
Honorable mention goes to Jay Punke who raced in classic wooden snowshoes and missed breaking the sixty minute threshold by only two seconds. Jim McDonell, no slouch himself at three notches over one hour, talked with Jay and reported, “Jay thought the larger wooden shoes were an advantage today. Even accounting for the additional weight, the size kept the snowshoes from slipping in the warming snow . . . some racers almost did a face plant as their snowshoes dug further into the snow.”
Jim’s Braveheart blue/white face paint was a crowd pleaser, although stopping at gas stations with him as we rode together lead to some curious, if not concerned, stares from attendants. I suggested he consider green and gold next year so he can be a ‘Packer Braveheart’ . . . then he would fit right in with the proliferation of Green Bay Packer memorial ice houses that dot Rib Lake.
Jim Graupner, recovering from an infection resulting from a foot challenge, showed up at the last minute, entered, took the 60+ age class, and finished in the top ten, dusting many snowshoers decades younger in the process. Always gracious, he bragged on everyone else.
Sarah Gall completed the family win with a finish of 1:02, taking the women’s championship gold medal. Constantly a factor, her bright, yellow-trimmed black Miss Atlas Snowshoe racing outfit looked great out on the course as she finished seventh overall. Andrea Mueller won the silver slot and rounded out the top ten finishers in the 10km. Judy Punke claimed bronze, finishing 17th overall and bringing more medals to the Punke household.
In the companion 5km race, an out-and-back course with a finishing loop, Neil Marthaler gave hope to the over-50 crowd as he won in 30:34, with Kyle Schmidt taking second. Amazing finish for 3rd place as John Wilke won the bronze in 31:13 pushed by three others just a few ticks behind, — Jason Ruesch, Dale Baumann and Jordan Neeck — with only eight seconds separating that trio at the line. Snowshoe racing is exciting!
Women’s 5km winner, Michelle Brost, edged out silver medalist, Jill Faciszewski by just 26 seconds. Paula Liske won the bronze.
Interesting result in the 5km women’s 50-59 category as Deanna Hartmann, in her last race in this age group, missed a medal by seconds to Jo Poncek, who just entered the 50-59 list.
National Championship Gold Medalist in the 10km 70+ class, Roddie Larson, took gold in the more ‘junior’ 60+ group.
I was asked at the awards ceremony to explain the qualifying requirements for the PowerSox National Championship Race at SnowBasin, Utah, March 9th. Mentioning this race in Rib Lake was the first qualifier in the country to earn eligibility for the 2008 season’s National Championship received a deafening roar of approval from the big crowd enjoying bratwurst and chili sold and served by the high school Spanish Club. Unique on the menu — hot spaghetti O’s, with everything priced at bargain levels that would make even Walmart blanch with envy.
A real benefit of this event: professional individual photos of the snowshoer racing on the course are posted at the event website, www.skiriblake.com. Plus, the long sleeve competitor’s shirts, dark brown with an aqua colored Tazmanian Devil with racing snowshoes, won the fashion award.
Leaving the race for home, racers were greeted with the warm smells of wood burning in fire places in cabins around the awards location, Zondlo’s Ballroom, just like the two fire barrels kept the racers warm in the staging area before the earlier start. All shared the sentiments of Jim McDonell when he said, “I had a ton of fun and the snow was wonderful.”
The Rib Lake Ski and Snowshoe Club, with its extremely capable organizing committee and wonderful volunteer group putting it all together, has taken a big first step to having one of the premier snowshoe competitions in the country. This was an effort that would make even state hero, Brett Favre, proud.
To view the race results, visit this link: https://www.snowshoemag.com/raceresults/riblakeresults.pdf.
For more information:
United States Snowshoe Association (http://www.snowshoeracing.com)
Rib Lake Ski and Snowshoe Club (http://www.skiriblake.com)
Ultra Superior (http://www.ultrasuperior.com)
Photo credit: Ed Busby.