Off the line like a ball shot from a Scottish cannon, Jim McDonnel lept to lead the start of the seventh Snowshoe Shuffle Joe Holewa Memorial. Running in trail shoes as 2012’s winter has thrown its own fire into the battle, melting snow, McDonnel never gave up the lead nor was threatened.
Pre-teen Hailey Jo Scheff captured the inaugural Minnesota State Snowshoe Junior Championship on the 5 km loop with her quick 42:38 and the crowd with her eager grin.
After McDonnel’s win in a blistering 48:29, he explained, “I never like to go out front at the start but not knowing the front runners at today’s race, I did. When leaving the ice (at about the 3 km mark 1 km of the course skirts the shore on Long Lake) I looked back, which I never do, but when I did, I saw no one.”
The highly visible and popular McDonnel dresses in his traditional Scottish costume with Braveheart face paint and all. As race director enthusiastically promoting the Braveheart Snowshoe Series consisting of 27 events in the Midwest, he was particularly excited today: “This is the first Braveheart race I’ve won!”
Tracking the senior master runner by three minutes, Nara Nelson just one year out of the junior age category won the women’s race and second overall.
About the icy conditions on much of the wooded single-track, Nelson explained how she fell three times. “On the big down hill (2 km and 7 km on the double loop course) I fell twice and then one more time I don’t remember where.” Her last race here in 2010 yielded an age class victory in the 5 km as a junior.
Making a women’s race statement today, Leah Berard and Lisa Trainor finished third and fourth overall while winning their age classes. Trainor, an active snowshoeing senior master, led the women’s group in the first quarter of the race but missed the turn to the lake from the path up a hill. “I ran a couple of extra kilometers on that one.” Pam Carlson of Hudson, WI, was the final women’s finisher under one-hour, winning a silver age-class medal.
In the men’s race, Joshua Brook, Green Bay, finished second while Darryn Kozak snagged third in 57:53, edging a close Jason Bushmaker, Silver Bay, and Kansas City’s James Leach.
Sitting in a place of honor at the head of the table, new Junior State Champion Hailey Jo Scheff last snowshoed the Shuffle course two years ago, finishing in 1:10 as a nine-year-old.
The Snowshoe Shuffle was recently awarded the state’s first snowshoe junior championship race by the United States Snowshoe Association recognizing ESNS’commitment to kids and the strong success of their USSSA Dion Snowshoe National Qualifier.
To her right at the festive table was Chris Ellis, participating in virtually every event here, winning a second place age-group award for the 5 km, and Tina Hinrichs in her third year of the Shuffle.
To Hailey’s left was Sharon Ellis also in her third race here, Lucy Miller, then Stan Sroga (78), the oldest racer of the day collecting his winner’s plaque in the 5 km with a finish of 1:01. Carol Klitzke won silver in the 60-69 class. Then McDonnel, Trainor (not shown), and finally Tim Zbikowski who captured a silver age-finish (29:26) in the uber-tough 50-59 class.
The overall winner for the 5 km came from this class, David Medernach, 27:05, who also strayed off-course, but didn’t fall (“I came close”), while Kent Dirks captured the age-class gold with his 27:26.
Michael Oolman, 20, won third overall and his age class.
Brittany Beeson won the 5km first overall with her 29:54, the only woman to break 30-minutes. Elizabeth Margl won the overall silver, finishing a minute later, while bronze was captured by Cheryl Laudenbach.
Racing in the Snowshoe Shuffle Joe Holewa Memorial events was Kristine Holewa, 20.
Invading Scotland, the Englishman known as Longshanks made no friends. Braveheart used courage and cunning to defeat him in early battles. Everyone racing today demonstrated courage in attacking the ice-packed single-tracks, but cunning was exhibited by those who used Yaktrax (as one woman who passed me said, “I use the Pro model”) or as McDonnel suggested using “Due North” spikes.