The countdown to the 2013 USSSA Dion Snowshoes Championship Race, Bend, OR is underway as the first of 37 qualifying races kicked off at the home of snowshoe racing, Paul Smith’s College, New York. For the second year Mother Snow held back her fluffy gift on the area’s VIC paths; the footwear of the day became trail shoes.
James Tucker, the college’s Athletic Director and cross-country coach, unofficially titled Dean of Fun, quipped this was a “ ‘No-shoe race; trail conditions were outstanding for a late season trail run.”
An Empire State Games competitor, J. Matt Mederios raced a quick 40:10 to win the overall victory on the heavily mulched trails. The wooden bridges along the course kept the pack on their snowless-toes as temperatures pranced around the freezing mark. The 27-year-old led the Paul Smith’s entrant, Erik Kowalik (21), by two minutes and six seconds at the finish. Junior racer and third over-all, Benjamin Harper, put on a display as an up-and-comer in the sport, chasing Kowalik but not able to get around him to finish a half-minute back.
Alexa Cosgro (20), Plattsburgh, of Paul Smith’s took the women’s race with her 55:03 time. Lea Anthony, also of Paul Smith’s, trailed by a couple of minutes by the end. Both have competed at the USSSA National Championships; Cosgro just missed a top-20 finish in the women’s class at Frisco, CO, for the 2012 races. Anthony racing with the large Paul Smith’s contingent, finished the tough course, one with even less air than an auditor’s office, in a respectable 1:29 the last woman to finish under 90-minutes.
Cosgro led her college team the first year Paul Smith’s women’s team competed in the USCAA cross-country event. Tucker told the college newspaper at the time, “It was great to have the women’s team stick together and pull out a fourth-place finish . . . and to have Alexa finish near the top of the pack was exceptional.”
These two women have a history of racing against one another. At the 2011 Pumpkin Muffin, an annual Paul Smith’s Halloween race with an appetizing name, Anthony took the last medal for the class, edging Cosgro by about the same margin as this race. Unfortunately neither came closest to guessing their finishing times, a game played with the racers, thus missing out on the sought-after award for that feat: a quart of Paul Smith’s College famous maple syrup.
Mederios, an international racer, competed in the 2007 World Snowshoe Championships, using the North East’s famous Empire State Winter Games, an olympic-style competition in New York, as the kick-off to his training. An article at the time in the Adirondack Journal describes in a few words why snowshoe racing attracts top athletes: “Snowshoe running is exhausting.” The contrast between trail running and snowshoe racing “is the power quotient. Snowshoe running requires more power, and there are more muscles involved.”
His father, Jim, a running coach, ran in snowshoes before the world caught on to the sport’s benefits. USSSA Sports Director, Mark Elmore, encouraged the younger Mederios to compete for a chance to race the Worlds.
Other notable finishers include three 19-year-old Paul Smith students Jack Mulvihill, David Kucia, and Jake Polfleit.
USSSA multi-year medalist and a Snowshoe Magazine Cindy Brochman Snowshoe Person of the Year, Jim Graupner travelled from his home in Lake Elmo, MN to spice up the field. His 48:21 for the 68-year-old athlete demonstrates not only his natural ability but also his work ethic with time on trails.
Long-time volunteer and racer, Larry Zygo of Lake Placid nailed a 54-minute finish.
The race layout tracks the Heron Marsh Trail and the up-down 5,000 foot Silviculture trail.
Paul Smith’s College represents the Adirondacks to the world with programs in Forestry, Fish & Wildlife, Recreation, arboriculture, Surveying, along with Hospitality, Culinary Arts, Management, Science, Liberal Arts and Business.
The spirit of this New York gem of higher learning exemplifies the work of Tucker. In addition to the honor as 2009 Sunrise Conference Men’s XC Coach of the Year and the 2011 Yankee Small College Men’s XC Coach of the Year, he received the H. David Chamberlain Merit Award Winner for 2012.
Presented by the College, this award is particularly important. The recipient is recognized for excellence in the course work, teamwork with other departments and importantly is seen by colleagues as performing in an excellent way. Note, too, winners are chosen by those who previously won the award, providing an extra honor in itself.
Tucker is a legend in the sport of snowshoeing. As Director of Paul Smith’s College Striders, the team has captured the International Snowshoe Championships nine times. His work as President of the Empire State Snowshoe Racing Association extends since 1999; anyone who has acted as president of anything for more than one year, much less this run now entering its 15th, understand the effort involved. Tucker deserves the honor and gratitude of all.
Lastly, his personal interest includes the Tucker Taters, a farm known for its million dollar view, the Great Adirondack Corn Maze, and of course those wondrous blue-potatoes who happily provide goodness and nutrition to athletes.