Back at the formation of this race in Erbach Park, Athens, Wisconsin, it was sponsored by the Athens Advancement and Agriculture Association (AAAA), giving forever a heritage (and name) that carries forward, albeit uniquely, with a nod to the diary industry in the region. Jumping into ice water in February became such a big fund raiser for the group through their ‘Udder Plunge’ – I would suggest paying NOT to jump would be an equal worthy cause – that race director, Christine Kepner, thought “who else would be this crazy,” and naturally enough, snowshoe racers came to mind.
Now in its fourth edition, and growing every year to this year’s record 98 entries, Christine shows her promotional flair by adding the word ‘tour’ to the race name to help attract rookies to the sport irrespective of ability.
She explains the course, “We have one race, three miles long. It is a very scenic course known for its beauty. It brings a lot of people back, meandering along the Black Creek. The course is very ‘flat’ compared to the Rib Lake Adventure (USSSA Qualifier) and the ‘Perky’ in Perkinstown.”
Christine is a real flag waver for the sport of snowshoeing, saying, “I want the race to be inviting to new comers to the sport. I try to really get families involved and make it a true family event. I like to get the younger youth involved. I even get the local 4-H club snowshoeing throughout the winter. They really like it.”
UDDER SNOWSHOE THREE MILE RACE AND TOUR
Race day dawned with a mild low 20’s temperature and a few inches of fresh snow to brighten the woods. After gathering at the large warming house, the start of the race uses the ringing of – a cowbell, of course!
Active in the snowshoeing scene in the region, overall winner, Mike Quednow (see picture), Westboro, crossed the gold finish line with just a 15 second cushion over silver finisher, Kyle Schmitt of Caltawba. Seconds later, Bruce Hieble, Curtiss, took the overall third place slot over Jim McDonell, Woodbury, MN (also the only non-Wisconsin address in the race). The way the awards are handed out, Mike received a unique handmade award for the overall finish, Kyle and Jim won the gold for their class groups, and Bruce received silver in his group.
International snowshoe competitor and member of the United States Snowshoe Association’s Junior National Girl’s Team, Michayla Heil (picture) won the women’s overall award. Another medal for Medford in the women’s group as Michele Brost scored silver overall (and won the gold for her age group). Dana Scdhultz, Athens, won third overall in the women’s and her age class, edging Renee Bull, Marshfield, by nine seconds.
Other notable finishes include 11 racers under the age of thirteen, champions all. Seven finishers competed in the 13-19 group, thus developing a strong crop to take on the neighboring state, Traverse City, Michigan’s developing youth corp.
Appealing to young and teen snowshoers is critical for the long term growth and viability of the sport on a national scene.
Adam Wassmann, 13, finished 15th overall in the men’s class, an outstanding achievement. Roddie Larson, Menasha, 70, USSSA National Gold Medalist, won her age group and finished 21st overall in the women’s group. Violet Jensen, 72, won the phantom ‘most senior’ racer and the silver class medal.
Paula Liske won the crowded 40-49 women’s class and is pictured with the race of Joseph Pettorini followed by Glen Luetschwager, one of the days tightest – only one second separated those two at the line.
Speaking of the family orientation at this event, the teenage Ott sisters, Erin and Ellie, Marshfield, followed Steve Ott closely at the finish, but Cathy Ott won the family gold with a 41:04 finish, 13th overall.
Steve Heil, perhaps being coached by Michayla, finished fifth overall. Both are just back from their USSSA snowshoe competition in Japan.
At the Rib Lake Adventure, snowshoers cross land held in the Thum’s family. Gary Thums, 51, placed 21st overall in this race.
Ron Bryliski, 69, won his class and was the oldest male, and finished a strong 33rd overall.
“Everyone who is entered has a chance at awards and many door prizes,” gushed Christine. “Pre-registered racers are guaranteed a long sleeve shirt.” Then it is to the eats; plenty of hot dogs, and a concoction called the ‘chili dump.’ Essentially, everybody who brings their chili recipe combines it with all others in a giant vat that is stirred by a very brave volunteer. Reports are the results are downright tasty.
And in true Indianapolis 500 winner’s circle fashion, there is lots of milk for the contestants – and plenty of cartons of the chocolate variety, one of the top recovery foods available.
Now, many would go home about now at most races, but not here. There is more going on, such as: the Udder Plunge (picture) with a free dip in the hot tub following, snow volleyball (eat your heart out, Santa Monica, California), cross cut log sawing competition (won by a pair in 22 seconds!), sawdust egg hunt, petting zoo, and Sleigh and Cutter rides.
Definitely winning an “AAAA” rating, this race day, with its elements of a winter fair, is true fun. Taking the Udder Plunge? Consider it a titular award for global warming.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
United States Snowshoe Association – http://www.snowshoeracing.com
Phillip Gary Smith – http://www.ultrasuperior.com