Parkite Swenson leads the pack…of skiers
Biker-turned-skier claims top spot at White Pine
World Cup mountain bike racer Keegan Swenson showed that his legs and lungs are up to the challenge of cross country skiing. Commenting afterward that “pace lining on skis is way harder than on bikes”, the Park City native put his cycling skills to good use in Saturday’s Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series race.
The 16-kilometer free technique (skate) event involved three loops around the White Pine golf course. Biding his time in the lead pack for two and a half laps, Swenson made his move with a couple of kilometers to go and finished in a time of 46:45. That gave him an 11-second lead over 2002 Armenian Olympian and current Solitude Nordic Center director Aram Hajiyan. Rounding out the podium was Parkite Jason Travis, who lost out to Hajiyan by one second in the final sprint.
The women’s race was even closer, with veteran Roxanne Toly trailing Salt Lake rival Julie Davenport by just three seconds at the finish. Toly stayed in contact for the whole race, but couldn’t close the gap at the end. Parkite Megan Ping was the third medal winner.
After a huge snow week, there was concern that White Pine wouldn’t be able to pack a track that was firm enough for the expected 200-plus racers. Add to that the record low temperatures, which can prevent consolidation of the base. Fortunately, there was a mid-layer of moist snow from a few days before, so the grooming crew was able to generate perfect skiing conditions just in time for the race.
Saturday was another below-zero morning, so the race crew were glad to have hand and toe warmers. Fortunately the sun warmed things up quickly, so by race time it was a tolerable 15 degrees. Most racers were happy to have neck and face protectors nevertheless, but choosing the best wax for the cold snow was still a challenge.
Park City juniors took home most of the awards on Saturday. As usual, the Ping kids were all on their game. Grace, Lauren, and Jamison won top honors in their age groups. On the podium with Grace in the under-14 girls’ class were McKinley Hibl and Amelia Nixon. Local under-14 boys also had a clean sweep, with Reed Chamberlain, Wes Campbell, and Janne Koch garnering the medals.
Aiden Rasmussen was the fastest under-16 skier, completing one lap around the golf course in just 16:18. At that rate, it won’t be long before he’s in contention to be the overall winner. Stine Koch was third among the under-16 girls, and Lucas Fassio was runner-up to Jamison Ping by just 1.5 seconds in the under-10 boys’ class.
Local adults also fared well. White Pine employee and Park City Junior Team coach Joel Sehloff won his series debut, finishing ahead of Dylan Noaker. Brian Pobias took the 30-34 division, while Andrew Medlock, Todd Hageman, and Tim Briley easily won their age groups. Leaders in the 55-59 class were Paul Smith and Julian Zgoda. The most exciting race of the day ended with Geir Vik edging out Steve Bowling in a photo finish for second and third among the 60-64’s.
Mountain Trails Resource Manager Lora Smith won the gold in the 45-49 class. Kirsten Whetstone and Marit Glenne also won their age groups. Parkites got all the awards in the 65-69 group, with series veterans Cyndi Schwandt, Nancy Fichter, and Deborah Wagner taking the honors.
Both men and women novice classes was swept by locals. Eric Oberg, Collin Wiedeman, and Michael Jaquet topped the other men. Posting even faster times, Sofia Gomez Villafane, Mathilde Bonora, and Molly Efrusy filled the women’s podium.
The next event in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series is a 10-kilometer classic technique race scheduled for Mountain Dell on Jan. 28.
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