Records broken at White Pine
January 3, 2014
Brian and Caitlin Gregg left little doubt that they were the best skiers on the track last Saturday. Not only did the couple easily win their respective divisions in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series race, but their times were new records for three laps around the White Pine Touring Center’s 5.4-kilometer loop.
With the U.S. Nationals coming up soon, Olympic hopefuls and college athletes from around the country have been in Utah training and acclimating to the altitude. Many of them decided to join the local race as one of their workouts. Winning times for Brian and Caitlin, 37 minutes, 19 seconds and 41:11, respectively, indicate that they’re ready. As leaders in the early Super Tour events, they both have qualified to go to Europe next month to ski in the World Cup.
The next three places in the men’s race went to former or current Dartmouth College students. Last year’s winner of this race, Sam Tarling, was runner up, third place went to Sam’s former teammate Patrick O’Brien, and undergrad Patrick Caldwell was fourth. The top four skiers raced in a pack for the first two laps, but Gregg made his move after 11 kilometers and never looked back.
On a bluebird Utah day and on a perfectly groomed surface, World Cup and Olympic veteran Caitlin Gregg had little competition in the women’s race. The 2011 American Birkebeiner winner easily outdistanced Parkite Roxanne Toly. The Vermont native and 2004 Northern Michigan University graduate combined a fast skating tempo with powerful poling to keep up with most of the top male racers.
While the Greggs were running away with the Open classes, some of the best racers to watch were the juniors. In the boys’ under-16 class, Noah Putt continued his winning ways, outdistancing Drew Palmer-Leger and Jesse Reid. Leading from start to finish, he crossed the line in a blazing 13:37 for one 5.4-kilometer loop. Unfazed by the fast pace, Drew cut Noah’s winning margin in half, relative to the previous series event at Soldier Hollow two weeks earlier. This promises to be an interesting rivalry over the winter.
Despite getting tangled up with another skier at the start and crashing, Sydney Palmer-Leger didn’t panic and was able to make a quick recovery. She soon caught up to the pack and was able to put some distance between herself and runner up Jenae Rasmussen to win the girls’ under-16 class. Her 15:18 time for 5.4 kilometers is particularly impressive considering that she’s only 13 years old and skiing in an older age group.
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In the next younger group, Parkite Tate Hoefler lost one of the closest races of the day to Soldier Hollow rival Felix Firth. Both skiers crossed the line in 7:42 for the 2.8-kilometer course. In the girls’ race, Savanna Fassio had an easier time beating TUNA skier Grace Humbert. Newcomer Grace Ping handily won the under-12 age group, finishing 2.0 kilometers in 6:14. Lindsey Adams took home the gold medal in the under-18 category, and Lucas Fassio led Jamison Ping around the 1.0-kilometer loop for the under-8 win.
Among the adults, Parkite Julian Zgoda battled TUNA skier Michael Weglarz from the start, crossing the line just three seconds ahead. Amy MacDonald handily outpaced the other 50-year-old women. Cyndi Schwandt and Nancy Fichter also won their age groups, while KCPW announcer Lynn Ware-Peek lost a tight one in the 45-49 class.
Tom Noaker found himself in an unusual situation, barely beating a skier from Lander, Wyo., by just 4 seconds. The novice men’s class was another medal sweep for Park City skiers, with John Fassio leading Mike Turner and Bryan Young. John’s win also made it a blue ribbon day for the entire Fassio family.
One of the most impressive performances was recorded by the sit skiers. The U.S. Adaptive Ski Team is also in town for the U.S. Nationals, and two of their members participated in the race. Aaron Pike, propelling himself with only his arms, completed a 5.4-kilometer loop in just 19:14. It was quite a humbling experience for this writer, who had almost exactly the same time in his race.
Anyone interested in watching the top skiers in the country compete for spots on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team should head over to Soldier Hollow. Competitions will take place at 10 a.m. on Jan. 4, 5, 8, and 10. The next event in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series will be a 10-kilometer classic technique race at Mountain Dell on Jan. 18.
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