Another record number of participants traveled to Perkinstown (near Medford, Wisconsin) on Saturday, January 15, 2011, to snowshoe in either the 3-mile, 6-mile, or the Mountaineer races. There were just over 500 competitors in all, with 407 of those racing in the 3-mile event (see picture of the start of this race). There were several other events and races-within-races being hosted by Perkinstown on this chilly day in north-central Wisconsin. It was around 15 degrees above zero but wind chills were much lower with 20 mile-per-hour winds sweeping through the area.
Racers were mostly protected from the wind due to the starting/gathering area being blocked by hills plus the dense woods that all competitors were able to enjoy on their race course. But because of a recent snowfall, there were six to eight fresh inches of snow on the course, which mainly consisted of ski trails that had been groomed the night before the snow started coming down. Racers were slowed down by a few minutes in their races because of the conditions, but even though it wasn’t a fast track as usual it was still enjoyable nonetheless. The course is mostly small rolling hills with the hardest part near the end – the last half-mile includes a small but steep ski hill and sugary terrain on the way to the finish.
The overall winner of the 3-mile race was Kronenwetter’s Kris Borchardt, 31, who crossed the line first in 23:41, winning this race for the second time in three years. His margin was 1:30 over the second-place finisher, who was Catawba’s Kyle Schmidt, 36, who completed the course in 25:11. Borchardt and Schmidt are familiar rivals, finishing as the top two in several snowshoe races over the last few years. The third-place finisher in the 3-mile event was Medford’s Davey Sapinski, 36, who was over three minutes behind Borchardt with a time of 27:03.
The winner of the female division of the 3-mile race was Medford’s Kathy Hackbarth, 29. Her time was 29:24, the first snowshoe race she had ever won overall for women. She came really close last year at Perkinstown, taking second overall, just 37 seconds behind the champion. According to Hackbarth, this was her fourth year competing at Perkinstown, “This is a good course, but it’s softer than last year, but it was still fun – it was very hilly and tough at times. There was a good turnout here. I passed Paula Liske just after the first mile and I found out near the end that I was leading for the women when somebody told me. This was the first time I won in a snowshoe race.” (see picture of Hackbarth posing with her new trophy in front of the race results and door prizes board) Many great door prizes were given away including several pairs of snowshoes.
Just 24 seconds behind Hackbarth was the famous former Junior Nationals champion, Medford’s Michayla Heil, 18, with a time of 29:49. Following close behind was the famed co-race director Paula Liske, turning in an excellent race despite having to handle the duties for putting the Perkinstown Snowshoe Race on. Liske, 50, from Medford, finished well with a time of 30:26, just over a minute behind the winner. This makes the top three women all from the Snowshoer Capital of the state (proclaimed by the author last year), from the little town of Medford, approximate population 4500.
The 6-mile race (see picture of these racers prepping before the 11:00 a.m. start) had two front-runners led by Greenville’s Eddie Holzem, 40, at the finish and exactly a minute behind him Wausau’s Mark Beversdorf, 37. Holzem was running his first snowshoe race and blazed the course in a time of 50:49 (see picture of Holzem finishing and winning his 6-mile race) with Beversdorf clocking 51:49. The racers in the 6-mile event were able to trek a small section of single track within the Chequamegon National Forest with the majority of the course being groomed ski trails. In third place, another 6 minutes back was Medford’s Scott Scheithauer, 44, finishing in 57:53. He just edged out defending 6-mile champion Mike Quednow, 47, from Westboro, who crossed the line five seconds later in 57:58.
The multiple-time defending champion Andrea Mueller, 32, from Edgar, won the female division again in the 6-mile race. Her time was 1:04:03, close to two minutes ahead of her next competitor to the throne, Medford’s Michelle Brost, 41, who completed her race in 1:05:37. Third place in this division went to Marshfield’s Danielle Berger, 20, who came in around six minutes later in 1:11:26. Forty-nine racers finished the 6-mile race, with about equal numbers among the finishers for male and female.
There were Mountaineer divisions at Perkinstown as well, a 6-mile men’s mountaineer race and a 3-mile women’s mountaineer event. Wausau’s Jay Punke (also known as CJ Snowshoe), 50, once again won his signature race, dominating this event yearly now. With his big wooden snowshoes and 15# backpack, he pushed and pulled his added weight across the line in a time of 1:08:14. Green Bay’s Dave Sykora, 63, traveled from the home of the Packers to place second again to Punke with a time of 1:21:28, just over 13 minutes back.
The 3-mile Women’s Mountaineer saw Stillwater’s Kristin Miller, 48, take first place in a time of 35:38. It was the first time that she competed in the Mountaineer race at Perkinstown, and she obviously did very well in this challenging event. Her winning margin was by over six minutes on Withee’s Jona Hatlestad, 40, who passed the line in 41:50. There were 16 mountaineers in all, with there actually being a greater number of women: twelve!
Additionally, Perkinstown uniquely has a Clydesdale division for special racers running the 3-mile event. The Clydesdale racers are proud to state they are 225 pounds or more. Racers in this division have a really good chance to medal. Marathon City’s William Litzer, 21, was the best Clydesdale competitor, clocking 34:41. He won by just over a minute over his next competitor in the division, which had nine husky men.
There was also a Team Division at Perkinstown, as the scoring was for team-participating athletes in the 3-mile race. The winning team (in the Open division) was once again the Pressed Rats, defending their team title from a year ago (and several before), handily beating out the next best team called Hosers-MVFD (the winners of the Co-Worker division). The Pressed Rats team, made up of almost completely new members, had their top-five scoring from Kris Borchardt, Kyle Schmidt, Joe Freudenthal, Jeremy Jonas and Joe Paczkowski. The Hosers-MVFD had their top five consist of Davey Sapinski, John Bauer, Joshua Brandner, Sheldon Phillips and Mike Radlinger.
Withee’s Paczkowski, 26, snowshoeing since 2004 and competing all six years at Perkinstown, talked about being on the winning team. “I’m happy to be on a team and happy to win. I was pretty happy with my performance. The hills here are always nice, always challenging – I didn’t think the course was too bad today – I like how it’s more wide open and easier to pass here, and there’s always a good crowd too.” Paczkowski took 35th overall in the 3-mile race with a time of 33:20, and took up snowshoeing seven years ago to do something active in the winter.
Perkinstown co-race director Paula Liske also helped coordinate a Kids Race, where race mascot Perky the Porcupine led and motivated dozens of children to sprint and make their way to the finish line in the cold weather. There were goodie bags and medals given to each one of the kids, with the bags consisting of chocolate milk and kids’ Clif Bars, like in previous years. Liske and the other co-race directors have done a great job in organizing and making this race the juggernaut it has become.
The Perkinstown Snowshoe Race has grown to be a huge Wisconsin snowshoe event in just its 6th year running, which had its inception in 2006. It is the largest snowshoe race in all of Wisconsin, and should be the blueprint for other snowshoe races in the state and in the Midwest to follow. With so many attractions for this event and many different categories of races to run, this event can only get bigger with many snowshoe racers having it pegged as their favorite (including the author).
The Perkinstown Winter Sports Area, 20 miles northwest of Medford, hosts this event every year, and it should continue to grow with the heart of Wisconsin snowshoe country surrounding it.
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Perkinstown is part of the BraveHeart Snowshoe Series: www.uppermidwesttrailrunners.com