Weather conditions during the last couple of weeks led to an ultra-quick course for snowshoe racers at Perkinstown (near Medford, Wisconsin) on Saturday, January 21st, 2012, to snowshoe in either the 3-mile, 6-mile, or the Mountaineer races.
There were over 460 competitors in all, with around 400 of those racing in the 3-mile event. There were several other events and races-within-races being hosted by Perkinstown on this chilly day in north-central Wisconsin. It was five degrees above zero at the start of the race and earlier in the morning it was even fifteen below zero before it started warming up. But the frozen conditions with a finely groomed, hard-packed snow base with several days since the last snowfall led to many overall and age-group record times falling in this popular and very competitive race (see picture of 3-mile race start, photos courtesy Adam Speer).
Sheboygan’s Jake Rhyner, 27, was the quickest beneficiary of these conditions as he breezed the ski trails and demolished the old course record time in the 3-mile race by over two minutes. Rhyner completed the course in only 19:12, which is 6:24 mile pace on snowshoes. He specified that he was a relative newcomer to the sport, “This was just my third snowshoe race ever, the first being at Perkinstown in 2002 (when the race was under a different format and at a different site). I took second in the race there — they did two different waves and I thought I won when I took first in my wave.”
There was no doubt that he won his second ever snowshoe race (ten years later), just two weeks ago in Rib Lake (a 5-kilometer that he won by over three minutes) as he recalled, “My parents live in Rib Lake, so they informed me of doing that one. I do triathlons usually, and I got snowshoes for Christmas — I didn’t even know there was a snowshoe federation (the USSSA, United States Snowshoe Association).
I was in good shape from running, now doing fifty miles a week, with six to eight hours a week of swimming and some spinning and biking too.” Rhyner enjoyed his experience winning at Perkinstown, “This was a fun course, good roller hills – at Rib Lake I had bigger snowshoes on; today I had some smaller and faster ones. I was really enjoying it today, I got out good and relaxed – it was a lot of fun” (see picture of Rhyner standing with his trophy by Perkinstown’s race results and door prizes board). Many great door prizes were given away again including several pairs of snowshoes.
Racers on the fast course were mostly protected from any 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. It mainly consisted of ski trails (with about a mile of good single-track for the 6-mile course) that had been groomed perfectly. 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 slightly sugary terrain on the way to the finish.
Taking second place in the 3-mile race was last year’s defending titleholder, Kronenwetter’s Kris Borchardt, 32, who crossed the line in 21:41, hoping for his third first-place showing in the last four years. He finished 2:29 behind Rhyner’s record time, and crossed the line just five seconds in front of the third-place competitor, Phillips’ Jordan Neeck, 22. Neeck’s time was 21:46, as he was battling it out back-and-forth on the rolling hills with Borchardt in the latter half of the race. Catawba’s Kyle Schmidt, 37, kept himself close in the battle for second place and finished fourth overall in 22:01, fifteen seconds behind.
The winner of the female division of the 3-mile race was Appleton’s Sarah Kaufman, 26, another newbie who broke another course record with her blazing time of 25:19, which is 8:26 pace per mile (see picture of Kaufman finishing her winning effort). Her winning margin was significant, which was by over three minutes on the next female who crossed the line, Medford’s Paula Liske, 51, who finished in 28:24 (an outstanding effort to take second overall being 50-plus years young, and another excellent race despite being involved in her busy co-race director duties).
Phillips’ Melissa Tekippe, 18, thirty-three years younger than Liske, was nearly a minute behind her taking third place, hitting the line in 29:14. Another 30 seconds back was Johnston City’s (Illinois) Toni Whitfield, 24, who completed the course in 29:44. Rounding out the top five was another Medford resident, Melissa Meier, 26, in 30:41. This makes two of the top five women (and many others following) from the Snowshoer Capital of the state — the little town of Medford, approximate population 4,500. The women had 220 and the men had 171 competitors in the 3-mile race.
The 6-mile race had three front-runners led by Esko’s (Minnesota) Greg Hexum, 40, who is a two-time USSSA National champion. Hexum conquered the course in 44:37 (7:26 mile pace), another record time for Perkinstown (see picture of him sprinting to the finish line, passing a girl finishing her 3-mile race). Wausau’s Mark Beversdorf, 38, was just short of two minutes behind him in 46:32, keeping the race competitive.
The competitors 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 on the groomed ski trails. Westboro’s Jeffrey Quednow, 20, was able to catch up to Beversdorf on the single-track section but then the gap widened again once it opened back up to the faster ski trails. Quednow took third overall in 47:39, just over a minute behind Beversdorf. These top three were significantly out ahead of the rest of the field, with Jeffrey’s father Mike Quednow, 48, another 5:43 behind Jeffrey in 53:22, in fourth place (both Jeffrey and Mike Quednow are former winners at Perkinstown, but this year despite running even faster times than years prior they were beaten by some very elite competition).
Phillips’ Kristi Speer, 30, (who is the co-race director for next week’s Phillips Flurry Snowshoe Race) was the overall champion in the 6-mile race, in another predictably fast time – 1:00:37. She had to work for it, though, with two other competitors close behind – second place for the women was Medford’s Michele Brost, just 20 seconds back in 1:00:57. Almost another 30 seconds behind Brost was former multiple-time Junior Nationals USSSA champion, Medford’s Michayla Heil, 19, who took third in 1:01:26. Fourth place wasn’t even close to these top three women – they dominated the rest of the field. It was nearly twelve minutes until the next female came down that final hill and down the straightaway to the finish. Forty-six racers finished the 6-mile race, with 29 men and 17 women doing the longer and slightly more challenging event.
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), 51, once again won his signature race, and he has dominated this event yearly now. With his big wooden snowshoes and a fifteen-pound backpack, he was able to move his extra weight across the line in 1:08:13 (see picture of Punke displaying his Mountaineer trophy by a campfire he had built earlier). Green Bay’s Dave Sykora, 64, gained a lot of time on Punke this year, but placed second again to him with a time of 1:12:49, which was 4:36 back but a nice nine-minute gain from last year’s deficit.
The 3-mile Women’s Mountaineer saw Medford’s Lori Thompson, 27, take first place in a time of 29:35. Her winning margin was almost six minutes on Phillips’ Bonnie Nutt, 16, who got to the line in 35:06. There were 11 mountaineers in all, with there actually being a greater ratio of women to men — eight to three.
Additionally, Perkinstown uniquely has a Clydesdale division for special racers running the 3-mile event. The Clydesdale racers are proud to state that they are 225 pounds or more. Racers in this division have a really good chance to medal. Marathon City’s William Litzer, 22, was the best Clydesdale competitor, clocking 31:28. He won by just one second over his next competitor in the division, Rhinelander’s Brian Wendt, 40, which had nine husky men in it.
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 a new one this year, the Silent Glide/Northern Lites team. The multiple-time defending champion Pressed Rats was not able to field a full team this year, needing five to be eligible for a trophy. One of last year’s Pressed Rats members was lucky to be on this year’s winning team also, which was Medford’s Joe Freudenthal, 25, who placed fifth overall in the 3-mile race. The other scoring members of this team (which was newly formed because the snowshoe company Northern Lites just moved to the Medford area from Wausau) were Ross Hackbarth, Tony Hallgren, Brian Hallgren and Laura Lundy. Their total team time was able to collaboratively edge Team Pinocchio by a few minutes, which was led by Perkinstown co-race director Paula Liske.
Besides all the work to organize the main races and racing brilliantly herself, 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 items like 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.
According to Liske, the unpredictable weather this winter ultimately gave folks a fast racing experience at Perkinstown but it also served a few less customers this year, “It finally just snowed here around two weeks ago. There were some bare spots out there, but last Thursday we got around five inches of snow. The groomers were able to pack it down really well (and this led to a nice hard surface to run fast on). But we had 466 registered this year, down from 501 last year.”
This is still a great number of snowshoeing enthusiasts, with the attendance likely down because of the mild winter producing less time to train on snowshoes, and the sudden drop in temperature also might have come as a shock to some folks. The Perkinstown Snowshoe Race has grown to be a huge Wisconsin snowshoe event in just its seventh 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, twenty miles northwest of Medford, hosts this event every year, and it continues to grow with the heart of Wisconsin snowshoe country surrounding it.
Results and additional pictures of this race are available at www.perkinstownsnowshoerace.com and http://www.superiortiming.com/2012/01/perkinstown-snowshoe-race-2012/ and at www.photosbyjulee.com.
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Perkinstown is part of the Braveheart Snowshoe Series: www.uppermidwesttrailrunners.com.