For the fourth edition of the Phillips Flurry (www.phillipsflurry.com) snowshoe race, it added on the distinction of officially being the “Wisconsin State Snowshoe Championships” event, an idea hatched by the brilliant mind of USSSA (United States Snowshoe Association, www.snowshoeracing.com) sports director Mark Elmore. See picture of one of the spectacular trophies given out, in the shape of Wisconsin — the medal was a crosscut piece of wood with the snowflake logo burned into it with “2014” bling hanging from the bottom of the blue ribbon showing the race’s championship title.
Elmore called Phillips Flurry race director Kristi Speer a few months ago and discussed allowing this race to have exclusive rights to the name, and this gave an extra element of prominence to the Phillips Flurry, a qualifier for the Dion National Snowshoe Championships (to be the first weekend in March in Bennington and Woodford, Vermont).
Westboro’s Jeffrey Quednow, 22, defended his Phillips Flurry 10-kilometer title, winning handily with a time of 47:08, becoming the first Wisconsin State Snowshoe 10K Champion. Quednow qualified for Nationals with this effort and is very focused on a top-five finish at Vermont, which would be achieving a status that would classify him as a USSSA National team member. Quednow is currently a senior at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and is set to graduate this spring – he is in the prime shape of his life, improving by significant margins over the last several years (see picture of Quednow opening up a substantial lead in the race).
Quednow described his race, “I noticed the course was slower than normal, and it was very sugary today – I took it out a little slow and worked my way up, and tried to put a little more space on the rest (he started pulling away from the 5-kilometer leaders about a half-mile into the race, making them almost appear to be standing still when doing so). I picked it up the last mile, hoping to have that be my fastest part of the race.” His margin of victory was a mammoth nine minutes over the second-place finisher, Rib Lake’s Bill Bellendorf, 44.
Bellendorf’s time was 56:10, as he pulled away from the third-place finisher late in the race, in the form of Medford’s Davey Sapinski, 39. Sapinski kept it close but ultimately crossed the line with a time of 56:23. Westboro’s Mike Quednow, 50, followed his son’s snowshoe tracks to finish in fourth place, clocking 57:14. To round out the top five, Medford’s Jason Ruesch, 41, touched the tape two minutes after the elder Quednow, in 59:14 (see picture further below with Sapinski leading Ruesch close early on, both wearing red). There was a total of fifteen competitors in the longer race — one of these racers was the only female finisher (which makes her the champion by default!), Rhinelander’s Mary Lucas, 54, with a very respectable time of 1:13:01.
The course saw a snowfall overnight that slowed down the conditions over past years, but just like the first three versions, the temperature for this race was very cold – it was two degrees Fahrenheit at the start, but the windchill made the air feel about 25 degrees below zero. The fresh powder was on top of previously groomed ski trails and a well-worn single-track path, on a course winding through the dense woods and rolling hills of the Phillips School Forest –very cold temperatures are always expected from this race held on the last weekend of January (photos from this race are courtesy Adam Speer — see picture of the six early leaders of the Flurry race).
In the five-kilometer race, Milwaukee’s Ben Van Male, 36, held on to the lead despite a late charge from Weston’s Kris Borchardt, 34. Van Male, a personal trainer, dashed to the line in a time of 25:59, achieving the status of being the inaugural Wisconsin State Snowshoe 5k Champion (see the last picture of him striding out late in the race — Van Male has bib number 186). Van Male had as much as a 20-second lead on the second-place Borchardt with just a mile to go but the latter closed the gap to just six seconds by the finish, as he completed the course in 26:05. Borchardt is trying to get back into the running groove as he is just three months removed from breaking his foot in an October marathon.
Stoddard’s Paul Schmitt, 16, was just over a minute behind Borchardt, clocking 27:19, to take third overall. Another youngster, Phillips’ Kyle Lochner, 17, finished in 28:30 (fourth place overall). To round out the top five, another hometown favorite, Phillips’ Kyle Schmidt, 39, pushed his way across the line in 28:59, just under that 29-minute barrier. This group got out fast and did some shuffling in the first two-thirds of a mile on the ski trails before hitting the long single-track section of the course.
Kennan’s Tessa Otto, 16, was the state champion for the women’s 5k, finishing 11th overall in 32:05. Just under a minute back was her Phillips high school teammate Ellie Lochner, 16, in 33:01. Another teammate of theirs from Phillips, Kristin Belan, 14, clocked 33:20 to round out the top three for the girls. A little later came Franklin’s Stacy Olson, 40, in 37:30, fourth place for the women. Fifth overall for the females (24th overall in 38 minutes flat) was Medford’s Paula Liske, 53, who is the race director for the great Perkinstown Snowshoe race, held a week earlier (www.perkinstownsnowshoerace.com).
The 5k race had 115 finishers, with race director Kristi Speer satisfied with the turnout in spite of the ongoing freezing conditions. Speer elaborated, “I was very pleased to see so many people despite the weather (the windchill factor). This year we received plenty of snow, and the fresh powder we just received likely added a little challenge.” Speer made sure that there were plenty of door prizes – two pairs of snowshoes, a pair of Fischer skis, WigWam and Smartwool socks, Columbia shirts, and a Princeton headlamp were among those items given away.
The Phillips snowshoe race had a team division as well, with team trophies for overall open team (a team called ‘Release The Beer Hounds’ won, with friendly rivals Kris Borchardt and Kyle Schmidt teaming up with three others to bring home the trophy), coworkers division, mixed division, and boys high school and girls high school teams (the Phillips high school teams represented their hometown well by winning each of these trophies).
The individual race champions secured the same trophies as the team division winners – conceivably these are best-looking awards in Wisconsin, as the trophies are in the shape of the Badger State, are about a foot high and have the Phillips Flurry snowflake logo and lettering cut into the black metal. Co-race director Todd Zumack had them custom-made through a local business – certainly these trophies will be coveted in the future, and this event will continue to bring a great crowd to brave whatever cold conditions are thrown at them.
Additional information and results of this race is available at http://www.phillipsflurry.com.
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