College skiers win XC races
Last week’s surprise storm came in the nick of time. A foot of snow on White Pine’s golf course track was just enough to enable us to hold the second Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series race as originally planned.
With the U.S. Nordic Combined Team home for the holidays, and the University of Utah Invitational later this week at Soldier Hollow, the field was unusually strong. Despite a group of wildly cheering, flag-waving New Mexico fans, University of Utah freshman Natalia Muller won the women’s race by a wide margin. A native of Switzerland, her time of 45 minutes, 38 seconds for the 16-kilometer skate race was almost four minutes ahead of runner-up Lina Hultin of Montana State.
In the men’s event, a group of four skiers led for the entire three laps around White Pine’s 5.4-kilometer loop. Two University of Utah skiers were out in front most of the way, but Clement Molliet pulled away in the final stretch for the victory in a speedy 40:08. Local favorite Billy Demong was just a few seconds behind. Currently a freshman at University of Alaska Anchorage, Molliet was formerly a French junior champion and National Team member.
Almost 300 skiers enjoyed a nicely groomed track at White Pine on Saturday. Skiers were greatly relieved to have the temperature rise into the mid-20s, after the single-digit highs of the previous week. Unfortunately, all that cold weather didn’t allow the new snow to consolidate well, so the surface softened as the race progressed, and the skiing slowed considerably.
Top family honors go to the Pings, part-time Parkites who reside in Minnesota when they’re not here. Ryan skied a fast 46:52 to win the men’s 35-year-old age group, and wife Megan’s 52:56 was good enough for first in the women’s 35 division. Grace Ping got a blue ribbon in the girls under-12 group, with Sabine Wilson close behind, and Lauren Ping took home a gold in the under-10s. One of the closest races of the day was between Jamison Ping and Lucas Fassio, with Jamison edging out Lucas in the stretch to complete the family sweep. Jamison’s victory was particularly sweet, since Lucas beat him around the same 1-kilometer course last year in this race.
Among the adults, the podium was filled with locals in the men’s 55 class, with Paul Smith in first, Bruce Allen second and Torbjorn Karlsen third. Thomas Cooke was able to open a gap between himself and Robert Lazzaroni for the 45-year-old group win. Another battle from start to finish ended with a victory for U.S. Nordic Combined coach Dave Jarrett over Isaac Wilson. Other age group winners from Park City included Amy MacDonald, Deborah Wagner, Nancy Fichter and Marit Glenne.
Many of Utah’s best older junior racers are in Houghton, Michigan, this week for the U.S. Senior National Championships, but the younger skiers were here in force. Several age groups were ruled by Park City kids. Jenae Rasmussen won her second series race in a row, with Savanna Fassio and Sienna Leger-Redel making it 1-2-3 for the home town in the under-16 class. Sarah Morgan also repeated her Soldier Hollow victory, nipping Mila Leger-Redel in the under-14 group. Like last week, Aiden Rasmussen and rival Lane Myshrall took gold and silver among the 12-13 year olds, with Aiden crossing the line just ahead of Lane. Other local winners were Skylar Patten and Janne Koch in the under-16 and under-12 classes.
The next event in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series is a 10-kilometer classic technique race scheduled for Mountain Dell on Jan. 17. The warm temperatures and lack of snow in the forecast may force this race to be moved to Soldier Hollow, so be sure to check before you go. In the meantime, anyone interested in watching the best collegiate racers in the West should head over to Soldier Hollow on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 11 and 12. Races start at 9:30 a.m. both days.
In the U.S., doping is illegal in major sporting events, but not a criminal offense. A new resolution, endorsed by U.S. Ski and Snowboard, recommends changing that.