Saturday’s Soldier Hollow Slush Fest
Warmer conditions threatened to cancel the race
The Utah Nordic Alliance
Skiers in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series race at Soldier Hollow last Saturday learned just how tough the world’s best juniors really are. Four laps around the 2.5-kilometer loop used the previous week in the World Junior Championships proved to be more of a challenge than most Utah racers were ready for.
To make matters worse, the warm weather turned a perfectly-packed powder surface into ankle deep slush in the days preceding the race. One skier described the course as “murderous uphills, treacherous downhills, and not much in between.” Despite all of that, more than 150 intrepid souls maneuvered the obstacles and finished the course.
Perennial winner Barry Makarewicz made it look much too easy as he skated to victory in just 27:27. Parkite Jason Travis crossed the line 40 seconds later for second place, followed by Brandon Brewster. In the women’s race, Julie Davenport won her second series race in a time of 33:18, with Park City native Roxanne Toly just 20 seconds back.
A heavy downpour on Friday almost forced cancellation of the event. Much of the terrain at Soldier Hollow drains along the edge of the Olympic cross-country stadium. As of late afternoon, thousands of gallons of water were collecting where the race was scheduled to start and finish the next day. Fortunately, the water seeped down through three feet of man-made snow and found its way to a storm drain during the night, so the race was on.
In general, Park City skiers didn’t fare as well as usual this time, but the Ping kids once again dominated their age groups. Grace, Lauren and Jamison Ping won the under-14, under-12 and under-10 classes, respectively. Cooper Seliga skied a strong race to take the under-14 boys win, and Armelle Bonora was runner-up to Soldier Hollow under-10 girl Sarah Hottle.
For the fourth time in four races, the trio of Deborah Wagner, Nancy Fichter and Cyndi Schwandt topped the 65-year olds. The final season title in that age group will come down to the last series event a week from Saturday. Kirsten Whetstone’s second place wrapped up an overall season victory for her in the next younger age class.
On the men’s side, Thomas Cooke, Julian Zgoda and Geir Vik got their first victories of the winter among the 45-49, 55-59 and 60-64 year olds, respectively. Dylan Noaker’s third place clinched the year’s title for him in the 18-24 class and Eric Oberg’s second in the novice division did the same for him. Tom Noaker again cruised to an easy win to wrap up the overall in the age 65-69 class.
The final race in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series will be a 20-kilometer free technique (skate) event on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the White Pine Farm. A shorter course will be available for novices and youngsters. Pre-race registration and an end-of-season party and lunch will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on White Pine Road.
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