Popcorn snow, sunshine, beautiful mountain views, and an occasional biting wind drew a record crowd to the 2013 USSSA National Snowshoe Championships in Bend, Oregon. Virginia Meissner Sno-Park, in the Cascade Mountains about halfway between Bend and Mt. Bachelor, was the scene for the races on March 16 and 17.
The enthusiastic participants praised the location, the host city and the challenging, hilly course that started at about 5,000 feet elevation. Neon orange Dion Snowshoes jackets lit up the day.
Since it was in their own backyard, many local athletes competed and finished strong. Of the 29 participants in the 5K race, including juniors of both age groups and citizen racers, nine were from Oregon. That’s close to one-third.
Justin Miller, the junior boy’s winner with a time of 30:23, is a high school freshman from Lake Oswego, a suburb of Portland, Oregon, on the western side of the state. “This was my third run on snowshoes,” he said.
Miller participated in a couple X-Dog races at White River on Mt. Hood and won the overall 4K earlier this year on Atlas snowshoes. His other sports are cross-country, track and wrestling. “The course was harder than I expected,” he said. “ I fell twice on the hill going down.”
1. Justin Miller, Lake Oswego, Oregon
2. Louis Ferrone, Paul Smith’s College, New York
3. Paul Schmitt, Stoddard, Wisconsin
1. McKenna Ramsay, Dillon, Colorado
2. Rachael Jones, Fairport, New York
3. Bonnie Nutt, Phillips, Wisconsin
Bend resident Stephanie Howe won the women’s 10K race, completing it in exactly one hour. Only her second time racing on snowshoes, she was grateful for the Dion demos.
Howe, a trail runner and cross-country skier, is familiar with the hilly terrain and the altitude. “Snowshoe racing is not that much different from trail running. It’s slower. You’re working harder and not moving as fast. It’s definitely a strength workout. Climbing is my strength,” she said.
Howe said she slowed up some on the downhill, but her main goal was to have fun. She said her typical 50-mile trail run is a journey where you enjoy the passing landscape.
Another first-time national competitor from Chester, California was Dolores Bergmann, who placed fourth. Near Lake Almanor on the edge of Lassen National Park in northern California, Chester is a small tourist town, busy in summer and quiet in winter.
“We have a lot of snow,” said Bergmann, who was accompanied by her husband and daughter, “and I took up snowshoe racing as winter training for running. And, I wanted to take my dog for workouts.”
Since Bend was only a six-hour drive from their home, they decided to come up. Bergmann had placed well in local competitions, and she wanted to finish in the top five. She came in fourth.
Her husband said pristine, privately managed forests with plenty of old growth trees surrounded Chester. “The climate and pine forests are similar to Central Oregon,” he said.
Among the top women finishers, was another Northwest athlete. Christy Runde from Brush Prairie, Washington, across the river from Oregon, placed fifth, securing the final spot on the national snowshoe team. This is the third time the competitive runner and marathon racer has made the team.
When she was 41, Runde, a mother of four, was the first American finisher in the Chicago marathon.
SENIOR WOMEN’S NATIONAL WINNERS
- Stephanie Howe, Bend, Oregon
- Brandy Erholtz, Evergreen, Colorado (four-time winner)
- Carolyn Stocker, Westfield, Massachusetts
- Dolores Bergmann, Chester, California
- Christy Runde, Brush Prairie, Washington (three-time winner)
In the senior men’s competition, the national champion continues to be Josiah Middaugh from Vail, Colorado, who finished with a time of 47:08. This is his sixth time to place in the No. 1 spot. The successful triathlete said this was a challenging, steep course.
Eric Hartmark of Duluth, Minnesota, was about three minutes behind him for second place. Hartmark finished in the top five in the 2011 and 2012 nationals, as well.
Bend resident Mario Mendoza took third place in his first national event. A competitive runner for Salomon, he took up snowshoeing this winter as a way to rehab from ankle surgery in December. Mendoza qualified in the recent Bend race.
“I had a good idea of the course, but the downhill was tough, very gnarly, steep and slippery. The first time down I went too fast and lost control, but the second time through I slid into deeper powder and went slower”
He was hoping to place in the top three and felt that familiarity with the altitude and trails was a definite advantage.
Coming in fourth was Cole Crosby of Cortland, New York, who was surprised to be one of the top finishers because he ended up going off course after the downhill and lost time.
Ryan Phillips, from Sturgis, South Dakota, took fifth.
Bob Bolton from Rapid City, South Dakota, had to make a pit stop after the first lap of the 10K because of a mechanical problem with his snowshoes. He quickly made a change, ran back out on the course and finished 12 overall and first in his age group.
SENIOR MEN’S NATIONAL WINNERS
- Josiah Middaugh, Vail, Colorado (six-time winner)
- Eric Hartmark, Duluth, Minnesota (three-time winner)
- Mario Mendoza, Bend, Oregon
- Cole Crosby, Cortland, New York
- Ryan Phillips, Sturgis, South Dakota
Participants came from all over the country and Canada. David LaPorho, the two-time World Snowshoe Champion from Quebec, was in second place midway around the 10K course, but he had to pull out because of an ankle injury that occurred on the second downhill.
Mark Elmore, race director, said the participant who traveled the farthest was Peter Keeney of Bar Harbor, Maine. Keeney placed first in the men’s 45-to 49-age division.
Sandra “Dawaghati” Lee of Colorado and the Red-Running-Into-Water Clan of the Dine People was at nationals with her coach Steve Ilg of Durango, Colorado. He assisted her in raising the funds to be able to make the trip. Sandra’s mission is to raise awareness among her fellow Native Americans of the importance of lifelong fitness and health, especially since the incidence of diabetes and obesity is so high among Native Americans, including the Navajos in Colorado.
The largest group came from Paul Smith’s College, a small four-year private school known for its outdoor character, located northwest of Saranac Lake near Lake Placid in New York. Coach Jim Tucker started a snowshoe team when he arrived at the school in 1987.
He said, “Most of the athletes on the snowshoe team also run cross-country and compete in marathon canoe racing. Several members of the team were cross-country skiing until about a week ago.”
This year, 12 team members competed at the national event. Louis Ferrone, who Tucker said is built like a “human stick,” took second place in the boy’s junior 5K race for a place on the national snowshoe team.
Coach Tucker wrote to all 128 alums of Paul Smith’s in Oregon and invited them to attend the races. Several of the long-time alums came to support their alma mater.
The award ceremony late Saturday afternoon was at the historic Tower movie theatre in downtown Bend. Renovated as an Art Deco Moderne theatre, the main seating area was filled with close to 200 people.
First on the agenda was to announce the site of the 2014 National Snowshoe Competition. It will be held on the other side of the country in Vermont next March. Bennington will be the host city and the races will be at Prospect Mountain Ski Area in Woodford.
Master of Ceremony Mark Elmore began drawing for raffle prizes. All competitors were automatically entered by their bib numbers. Among the $7,000 in prizes were at least a dozen pair of snowshoes, t-shirts, hiking and camping gear, trekking poles and much more. In all there were 90 prizes and since there were 140 participants, the chances of winning were excellent. Just one caveat: You had to be present to win.
One special award, sponsored by Snowshoe Magazine, was presented to the Snowshoe Person of the Year in memory of Cindy Brochman—the first recipient and the person responsible for organizing the championship races in 2007.
The winner for 2013 was Laurie Lambert of Texas. Elmore said, “She is a great advocate of snowshoe racing and a three-time member of the National Snowshoe Racing Team.” Lambert trains women for snowshoe racing and is developing a course to certify snowshoe instructors.
Ryan Alford, the editor of Snowshoe Magazine, said he selected Lambert because she’s always been a beacon for the sport and she’s from Texas—not exactly a snow state.
“Her involvement with snowshoe racing surpasses even the most committed participant. That can’t be ignored. She’s not only amazingly kind and energetic, she’s an athlete to the core. Everytime I see Laurie, she has a smile on her face. How can you not award such enthusiasm for the sport… and for life in general?” he said.
For more information about the United States Snowshoe Association and its National Snowshoe Championship Series, visit www.snowshoeracing.com.