On the debut of March, 384 participants hailing from nine countries converged onto Prospect Mountain in Woodford, Vt. to compete in the name of good health and friendly competition at the 2014 Dion Snowshoes United States National Snowshoe Championships.
Ryan and Cudney Breakaway for Junior Titles
Any questions as to who was going to capture the national title in the junior divisions were all but answered when New Yorkers, Mitchell Ryan (Plattsburg) and Jeanette Cudley (Cazenovia) reached the 3k mark.
Ryan, a member of the SUNY Cortland Cross Country squad, finished in strong fashion, bursting through the finish line in a time of 21:53 to take home the honor of National Champion.
“This is a new thing for me,” said Ryan, who had only competed in one other snowshoe event leading up to the Nationals. “The training I have gone through at Cortland really prepared me for the difficulty of this race.”
Meanwhile, on the girl’s side, Cudley jumped out to an early lead and expanded it the rest of the way to finish at 26:03, 21 seconds ahead of Rachel Jones, yet another New Yorker.
However, Jones, who also finished second in last year’s Nationals, was all smiles after the race, knowing that there was always a bright side to friendly competition. “The great thing about these races is that everyone is out here to have fun,” said Jones. “Yes, it’s competitive, but fun definitely comes first.”
The praise for Tim Van Orden, a local resident who designed the 10k course was voiced from all walks of competitors thanks to his up-down course design that contained approximately 4k of climbing and 4k of descent.
“Van Orden made an awesome course,” said woman’s senior champion Amber Ferreira, a bubbly and cheerful athlete from Concord, N.H. who crossed the finish line at 51:31. “The single track was so beautiful, everything was great out here.”
Ferreira capitalized by pushing the field to catch her before the start of the first incline, where she utilized her strong climbing skills to expand the lead over the first 6k of the race. “I love the hills,” said Ferreira.
Meanwhile, Eric Hartmark of Duluth, Minn. utilized the downhills, opening his legs to allow momentum to shoulder the load in his clocking of a blistering 42:10. “I loved the downhill,” said Hartmark. “The course was packed down and was nice and fast, you could really fly.”
Despite his impressive performance, Hartmark acknowledged that there are constant mental battles on the course, number one being whether you can rely on your equipment. “I really had to test out different snowshoes before this race,” said Hartmark, who had serious equipment malfunctions in last year’s Nationals. “Fortunately, they stayed on today”.
With its breathtaking surroundings, its winding trails and its never-ending challenge to push athletes to be the best they can be, Prospect Mountain has achieved its rightful place as a snowshoe mecca.
As the countdown to next year’s Nationals in Eau Claire, Wis. begin, one can only guess just how popular this sport can be. With the class of athletes who currently fill its ranks, its safe to say that snowshoe racing continues to be carried in very capable hands moving forward.
For additional coverage of the USSSA Nationals, click here.