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Simons brothers return to their roots

Dave HanscomZack Simons wasn't about to let anyone sprint past him just before the finish. He learned his lesson at the first Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series cross-country ski race two weeks ago. In the second series event Jan. 2 at White Pine, he made

Zack’s time of 42:30 for the 16-kilometer skate race was about a half minute ahead of two young nordic-combined hopefuls, Nick Hendrickson and Bryan Fletcher. Fourth in the race was his brother, Casey Simons, in a commendable 44 minutes flat, with University of Utah ski teamer Rolf Figi another minute back.

The Simons brothers grew up in Park City and have been skiing in Wasatch Citizens Series events since they were five or six years old. Both competed for the University of Utah and have continued to pursue ski-racing careers since graduation. Casey is now on the U.S. Biathlon Development Team and has Olympic hopes in four years.

Runner-up Nick Hendrickson is also a Park City native, having competed in the Junior Nationals in both cross country and nordic-combined. His fellow U.S. Ski Team B squad member Bryan Fletcher, who finished right behind him, grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and is now living and training in Park City. Bryan and Parkite Brett Camerota are good prospects for the 2010 Olympic nordic-combined team.

A number of local women also did well on their home course, which was in perfect condition after a few inches of new snow the night before the race. Heather Holmes and Anna Cox had their first series victories in the 25-29 and 30-34 age groups. Tanya Swenson won her second in a row, with Dawn Rogers just a minute behind in second place among the 40-45 women. Park City Planner Kirsten Whetstone also skied well this week and was runner-up among the 50-55’s.

Nancy Fichter and Marit Glenne repeated in their age groups, and Jennifer Jackson took her second Novice Class win. Debbie Wagner slipped to second among the 55-59 year olds, and close behind her was Joan Thompson in her first Wasatch Citizens Series appearance in several years.

Among the adult men, White Pine manager Isaac Wilson beat all the 35-39s, and Tom Noaker blew away the 60-64 class with a time that would place well in any age group. The most competitive race was among the 50-54s, where Bruce Allen, Todd Henneman, Paul Smith, and Steve Evans were within a few seconds of one another in second through fifth places.

Several Park City area youngsters were also at the top of their age groups. Lauren Jackson took a big jump up in the rankings by winning the 2.8-kilometer race for 12-13 year old girls in 10:59. The 5-7 class was dominated by Sophia Burkemo, who skied the 1-kilometer loop in 6:53. Leah Lange and Sydney Palmer-Leger slipped to second place among the 10-11 and 8-9 groups, skiing their 2- and 1-kilometer courses in 6:43 and 4:09, respectively.

Winners among the boys were Keegan Swenson, who nipped Aren Burkemo in the

14-15 age group race with a time of 15:49 for the 5.4-kilometer loop. Noah Putt once again ran away with the 10-11 race, skiing 2 kilometers in just 6:06. Jack Jarrett easily stayed ahead of the 5-7 year olds with a 4:45 on the 1-kilometer course, while Wyatt Lange lost the next older age group by just two seconds on the same loop, despite an excellent 3:48.

More than 300 skiers turned out for the second Smartwool race of the winter, the second largest field in the history of the Wasatch Citizens Series. Almost 100 of those were juniors, which speaks well for the future of the sport, and also for the quality of the coaching of the Park City, Salt Lake, and Soldier Hollow junior teams.

The next cross-country ski race in Park City is the White Pine/TUNA Relay this Sunday, Jan. 10, at 10 a.m. This is a fun race in which each skier is given a handicap based upon previous results. The first member of each team must ski with classical technique, and the others may skate. Teams may be formed at registration, which takes place at the touring center between 8:30 and 9:30.

The third event in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series will be a 10-kilometer classical technique race at Mountain Dell on Saturday, Jan. 23.


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