A bright, but cold, morning greeted hearty snowshoers at the first USSSA Qualifier of the new decade, the Rib Lake Snowshoe Adventure (though second of the 2010 qualifying season). Double digit minus temperatures heated to -4 Fahrenheit as the official starter shouted ready, set, and then . . . nothing, as the air horn had decided to pack it in for the day with something that those on the front line called a ‘phhhhttt.’ Someone shouted “go,” and off went a surprisingly strong turnout given the chilly day in Northern Wisconsin and the minor fact that New Years Day had just ended.
A hot lap on the 10km, undulating cross-country ski course through the beautiful Rusch Preserve woods set a new race record as two time USSSA National Champion, Greg Hexum, Elko, Minnesota, came back with a vengeance with his Atlas Snowshoes.
Out 2009 with a back injury, obviously a thing of the past, Greg single handedly warmed the temperatures to the plus column as he scorched snow in 41:02. “I feel good about today’s race,” he commented to me after receiving accolades from the crowd gathered for the awards at Zondlo’s Ballroom on the corner of frozen Rib Lake. “The big thing is, I’m able to be back. I’m happy to get through the race and not have any pain issues.” Greg looks ready for the battle of the USSSA National Championship, too, when comparing his 2010 look (see photo receiving award) versus the milder, gentler 2006 image (left).
It is probable he will be joined by cohorts, Scott Gall (Iowa), two time National Team Member (2007, 2008) and Kelly Mortenson (St. Paul, Minnesota), the 2009 Championship Runner-Up and 2007 Bronze Medalist. This trio promises to carry the banner for the North Central Region’s quest for the Championship gold.
Adding Greg as another high caliber entrant to the mix for Syracuse’ USSSA 2010 National Championships, this tenth anniversary event promises to be the most exciting yet, particularly with the near sea level altitude removing the pesky problem many face when racing at altitude.
In the women’s class, returning to her championship qualifying form from the now retired Tartan Terrific Qualifiers of a few years ago, Kristin Miller, West Lakeland, Minnesota, won handily with a 56:55. Sporting the bright blue Braveheart Snowshoe Series jacket, Kristin blasted past the pack in the first mile to establish her lead. “I love this course . . . absolutely gorgeous.” (see picture with her award, right).
Kristi Speer (Phillips, WI), won bronze with her finish under one hour (59:17). Always on the leader board at this race, Michell Brost of nearby Medford was third in the group and just missed breaking the sixty-minute mark.
In the men’s class, Wisconsin’s Samuel Darling captured second overall with Rob Class, Woodbury, MN, in his first effort at a USSSA Qualifier winning third, edging Tom Faciszewski of Marshfield by seconds. Rob noted, “The course was cold and crusty . . . my favorite weather.”
Kris Borchardt, Kronenwetter, WI, (see picture with wife, Beth) fought equipment challenges but hobbled in a few seconds ahead of friendly nemesis, Kyle Schmidt, Catawba.
Braveheart Snowshoe Series Director, Jim McDonell (Woodbury), was edged for the class win by the ever-tough John Kann (Minnesota). Jim, commenting on the course, said, “The second half seemed shorter — probably because I was entranced in the beauty.”
The companion 5km race featured over 100 racers. Overall winner, Dillion Johnston, won in 21:22 with Ashley Woest taking the women’s class with a 28:54. The oldest entrants of the day, Disabled Vet Brad Ayers (74), and Ben Powell (73), second in his class, had inspired finishes.
Northern Lite Snowshoes (donated by Rib Mountain Cycles) were won by David Williamson and (donated by Rib Lake Ski Club) young Taylor Pralle. This race is definitely Northern Lite territory as the Wausau brand dominates as shoe of choice. Red Feathers, Tubbs, and Dion Snowshoes were also spotted, with Atlas Snowshoes pushing the Northern Lite brand as the most popular.
Silent Glide Sports of Medford donated a pair of Red Feathers Snowshoes, won by Kale Jacobs.
The new Race Directors from the Rib Lake Ski Club offered competitors a well organized race followed by an absolute blast in the awards ceremony, causing all to forget that this was the coldest ever for this race.
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