SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

All-Time Classic! Junior USSSA 2015 National Snowshoe Championships Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Setting the pace as the opening act for the 2015 Dion USSSA National Championships, Junior men Timothy James Buerger, Ironwood, Michigan, and Tyler Dezago, Paul Smiths, New York, amazed the Frost Giants circling Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with an unprecedented finish line timing-tie, an exact match on the clock: 21:39.4 vs 21:39.4!

Just after the combined start, (L) Tessa Otto (358) races next to Jeanette Cudney (333), Wesley Kelly (342), Andrew Tyson (348), Kyle Lochner (356), Paul Schmitt (357), Garrett Williams (349),  Tyler Dezago (334), Tim Buerger (329) and Paul Buerger (327) on the near corner.

Just after the combined start, (L) Tessa Otto (358) races next to Jeanette Cudney (333), Wesley Kelly (342), Andrew Tyson (348), Kyle Lochner (356), Paul Schmitt (357), Garrett Williams (349), Tyler Dezago (334), Tim Buerger (329) and Paul Buerger (327) on the near corner.

USSSA certified Scoring Officials, monitoring the finish for just this possibility, called the winner Buerger, awarding him his first overall national championship victory. It took a while before spectators could gather their breath after shouting and yelling for that intense race all the way to its end.

Under .25 miles remain in the U-shaped finish as Tim Buerger leads Tyler Dezago at this point with Paul Schmitt in the background.

Under a quarter-mile remains in the U-shaped finish; Tim Buerger leads Tyler Dezago, sporting the stylistic Paul Smith’s College race suit, in what will be the closet finish in USSSA Nationals history. Note Paul Schmitt giving chase in the background. [Courtesy SkyMotion Media]

Coming to the line after swapping leads due to falls on the course, combined with just hard-fought passing, Dezago led Buerger followed closely by Stoddard’s Paul Schmitt. Rounding the final corner building, turning left before the finish some 100 yards away, Buerger pressed and by the slimmest of margins possible secured the 2015 USSSA National Junior Championship gold honors.

Later, Mark Elmore, famed Sports Director of the United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA) remarked: After the women’s race also produced a near-tie, “These are the closest finishes in USSSA Snowshoe National Championship history. It attests to the fact that our events are getting more competitive up front and throughout the fields.”

Jeanette Cudney exiting the woods shows her speed leading to Junior Women's gold but also fifth overall for all Junior racers.

Jeanette Cudney exiting the woods shows her speed leading to Junior Women’s gold and also fifth overall for all Junior racers.

Back in 2011 Buerger burst on the Junior scene with a first in the under-14 age nationals group. He then added 2012’s Junior title, too. In 2014, his first shot at the 15-19 class, Buerger captured a fifth, giving an indication of things to come, with brother Paul right behind him. Notably, Paul Schmitt captured the overall bronze in this same race.

Paul Schmitt kept heat on the two leaders; it would be another 30 seconds before a racer appeared out of the trees in the background. [photo courtesy SkyMotion Media]

Buerger tuned for this national race among top under-20-years-of-age snowshoers in the country by winning the Treehaven Tromp 5 km, Tomahawk, three weeks earlier. Then just the weekend prior, February 21, he raced Ironwood’s Wolverine Nordic Trails YooperBeiner, which takes the “Best Event Name” category hands-down. Racking a first, he was joined by snowshoeing sister, Signe “Siggy” Buerger, who won the women’s Nordic class, too. Her time placed her second overall . . . to Tim.

The Battling Buerger Brothers raced hard against the Eau Claire field and among themselves in area competition. In a Who’s Who of Wisconsin speedsters, the Michigan Buerger duo, going back a couple of years, competed at the 2013 Phillips Flurry Snowshoe Qualifier combined with the Wisconsin State Championships. Tim, 14 at the time, edged Paul by 45 seconds as they took the number 7 and 8 spots.

Earning another National Silver Medal and Junior National Team honors, Rachael Jones racks up an impressive 27:12 finish

Earning another National Silver Medal and Junior National Team honors, Rachael Jones racks up an impressive 27:12 finish

At 2014’s Vermont National Championships, Tim and Paul grabbed eighth and ninth with only 37 seconds separating the two. Notably, Schmitt finished fifth in that race. Only the top three make the national teams in the Junior Divisions.

Larry and Rindy Buerger, both from Ironwood, live on Lake Superior. Paul, Tim and Signe mark the youngest snowshoers in the family tree. That’s okay, as their parents enjoy ten grandchildren. Read more info from the 2013 “Northern Light,” a publication highlighting employees of the historic C. G. Bretting Manufacturing Co., Inc.

Paul Buerger makes history as the first [and only] Junior participant and finisher in the inaugural half-marathon!

Paul Buerger makes history as the first [and only] Junior participant and finisher in the inaugural half-marathon! [Photo Courtesy Amy Manahan Dominski]

Dezago from Rhinebeck, New York, competes as one of 17 members of Paul Smith’s College Snowshoe Racing Team attending the USSSA National Championships. He is also a member of Men’s Cross Country team while a freshman majoring in Forest Biology. From Rhinebeck High, he wore the cross- country MVP crown for 2013. He described the race for me:

“This was my first year running on snowshoes, let alone racing. Out of all the courses we have run this might have been my favorite. It was definitely the fastest. I actually didn’t fall like I expected to. I tripped on my snowshoes more often the day before when I was walking the course. I think the leader and I had a good groove going throughout the second half of the race. He really pushed me to move, and I’m sure I did the same for him. It was a really great finish for the both of us, and I can’t wait to race with him again next year.”
 
Additionally Dezago earned Yankee Small College Conference All Conference Cross Country and Academic Honors Teams. “Dean of Fun” at Paul Smith’s, Jim Tucker posted on his FaceBook page: “You are living proof that deep-fried cheese curds are the food of course for national team members.”

Talk about cross-training: after a meet raced at Johnson State, which Paul Smith’s College Cross Country team won, this note showed in the posting of results: “Nearly all the runners have been paddling with the Paul Smith’s College Marathon Canoe Team with many of the runners taking part in the 90-mile Adirondack Canoe Classic.”

Paul Schmitt, a member of the 2013 National Team, also finished the Eau Claire championship race in the 21 minute bracket (21:58) just 19 seconds behind the top two. This race, remarkable for the close finish, came close to having a three-way at the finish line . . . think about that for a moment.

Garrett Williams winning gold in the Junior Men 15-19 Class [photo courtesy SkyMotion Media]

Schmitt qualified at the Phillips Flurry 5 km February 2, 2015 with a bronze medal, trailing Tim Buerger.

Golden Valley, Minnesota’s Garret Williams captured the gold in the 15-19 age group with the battle of silver imitating the race for national gold. Ezra Hulbert, Mexico, New York, crossed just over three seconds ahead of Samuel Kessler, New Hope, Minnesota to secure the bronze age-class position.  Hulbert, the overall bronze medalist in 2014, also served on the Junior National Team.

CORBA volunteers handling registration for Juniors and Senior racers

CORBA volunteers handling registration for Juniors and Senior racers. [photo courtesy SkyMotion Media]

Trailing closely, fourth in the age group Kyle Lochner who had also finished fourth at his Phillips qualifier. On the start-line Cody Sears, like a bobcat out of  Paul Smiths’ mascot fame, “took the race out hard, setting the pace for the first kilometer and then ran out of gas,” trailing Lochner by 52 seconds noted coach Jim Tucker .

Following, Howard Chandler, Boyne Falls, Michigan, crossed ahead of Paul Buerger, Ironwood, and Kelly Wesley, Phillips.

Paul Buerger scored his points from the weekend, after a reported equipment issue at the start of the 10 km, by becoming the first and only Junior to race the Half, besides finishing with a clock of 1:52 placing him 15th overall in that race, but first in the Division.

Andrew Lowe, Belmont, New Hampshire, won the under-14 Junior group by more than two minutes over silver medalist, Andrew Tyson of Superior. Lowe returned home to race the St Patrick’s Day Leprechaun Leap 5 km. Even though the youngest entrant (ages ranged up to the mid-60s), Lowe captured second. Winston Sapinski kept Medford’s presence in the Juniors class continuing with his bronze finish. Josh Schamber, Sykesville, Maryland, finished with a time showing great promise for the young snowshoer.

Jeanette Cudney, Cazenovia, New York, graduates from the Juniors after this race, again winning a gold overall, alas her last for this class.  Rachael Jones, Fairport, New York, captured the silver . . . again.  Ellie Lochner, Phillips, took the national bronze for the Junior girls.

Cudney, the reigning 2015 ISSF Snowshoe World Champion for Junior Women, showed her prowess long before winning either of these championships. She won the 2014 nationals in 26:03, edging Rachael Jones by just 21 seconds. Last Fall Cudney received the Eastern College Athletic Conference Rookie of the week for her Le Moyne College performance at he Hamilton Invitational, putting the Dolphins in a fourth-place team finish.

Introducing the 2015 Junior Women's National Team and top three overall: (L-R) Rachael Jones (silver), Ellie Lochner (bronze) and Jeanette Cudney (gold).

Introducing the 2015 Junior Women’s National Team and top three overall: (L-R) Rachael Jones (silver), Ellie Lochner (bronze) and Jeanette Cudney (gold).

She followed up two weeks later with a similar award for the ECAC Championships, her fourth such honor of the year. She set every cross-country record during her high school tenure. Cudney majors in biology at Le Moyne, Syracuse’s private Jesuit college, while continuing cross-country competitions plus indoor track . . . and of course snowshoeing.

Jones led her Fairport cross-country team to a perfect 12-0 record in 2014, often leading the field to finish No. 1. In 2014 she attended High Peaks Elite Distance Camp, a U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. Her snowshoe resume’ began in 2011’s Cable nationals with a strong fifth overall in the tough Junior Women’s field of 15-19-year-olds racing against her. She won the under-14 class gold.  Next, in Colorado still in the under-14 class, Jones took the age silver while just missing the Junior Team with her fourth overall.

Before the start and the work ahead . . . .

Before the start and the work ahead . . . . [Photo Courtesy SkyMotion Media]

Lochner entered Eau Claire already established as a top cross-country racer for the Phillips Loggers though another nickname, “The Black Pack,” sticks with the color of their jerseys. There are worse things than having your running coach, Kristi Speer, directing the Phillips Qualifier as a snowshoe expert, too. In that event, Lochner snagged bronze while Tessa Otto, Kennan, won. Otto, Elicia Ericksen and Megan Meives both of Phillips, missed an age class medal by under a minute in Eau Claire. Speer’s influence on Wisconsin

The back-half of the Junior Field racing for their medals

The back-half of the Junior Field racing for their medals

snowshoe racing and in particular young women and girls participating—43 percent of the 2015 Junior Women entrants call Phillips home—demonstrates the importance of the individual’s role in introducing the sport of snowshoe racing.

Morgan Burd traveled from Lacona, New York for a 31 minute finish while Megan Klaver, Phillips, finished with a respectable time.

For the 11-14 Junior Women, Anika Johnson of Phillips, completed the loop under 30 minutes, yet edged Sabrina Hagstrom, Eau Claire by just five seconds. Elicia Ericksen also of Phillips took the age-class bronze. Youngest competitor of the entire weekend in the national competitions, 11-year-old Katie Kelble, shared the pride of Golden, Colorado, when she crossed the line but not their namesake, Coors Beer.

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