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Ute skiers pole to victory

Parkites also perform well in weekend races

Submitted by Dave Hanscom
Sophie McDonald competes in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series race on Saturday. McDonald is a Park City native who currently skis at Northern Michigan University, but is home for the holiday break.
Photo courtesy of Gary Fladmoe

Saturday was a first for the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series. The top men and women athletes all skied a classic technique race without using kick wax. Considering current trends in high level cross country skiing, it was inevitable that would happen sooner or later in our local events.

Traditionally, classic skiers put sticky wax under the middle of their skis to help them climb up the hills. They use their leg muscles to push off their waxed skis, then take long smooth glides. It’s a graceful motion that’s a beautiful thing to watch.

In recent years, however, top athletes are getting strong enough to push themselves around a course with just their poles. That means no sticky wax to slow them down when they glide. It’s much faster, but one has to be able to get up the hills just using arm and stomach muscles.

In the race at White Pine Touring Center on Saturday, University of Utah Ski Team members Martin Bergstroem and Merete Myrseth were able to do just that for two laps around the 5-kilometer track. Bergstroem, who completed the course in just 30:08, was closely followed by teammates Kevin Bolger and Martin Mikkelsen. Park City native Tyler Quinn Smith poled across the line in fourth. Tyler, a former U.S. Nordic Combined Team member, now skis for the University of New Hampshire.

Attesting to the speed advantage of the double pole technique, Myrseth’s winning time of 34:22 gave her a margin of more than three minutes over fellow Ute Guro Jordheim, who opted to use kick wax. The third place woman was Park City native and current Northern Michigan University skier Sophie McDonald. Sophie and Tyler are home from college in the Midwest and East, so they’ve unfortunately had little snow to train on so far this winter.

Despite considerable warm weather and rain during the previous week, Friday night’s snow storm provided excellent cover, and the skiing at White Pine was superb on race day. The event had been moved from Soldier Hollow, which lies at such a low elevation that they had insufficient natural and manmade snow.

Park City skiers had good success in age group classes as well. As usual, the Ping family all took home medals for their collections. The under-10 boys had the most exciting race of the day, with Jamison Ping crossing the line less than 4 seconds ahead of rival Lucas Fassio. Lauren Ping won the under-12 girls division, and sister Grace was runner-up among the under-14s.

The Noakers continued to dominate their groups. Tom had no trouble staying ahead of the other 65-69 year olds. Son Dylan was the fastest among 18-29’s, but still a ways behind his Dad. With his computing studies over for a few weeks, speculation is that he’ll be training hard to turn things around in the next race.

Local men dominated the middle age groups. New father Paul Clark broke 40 minutes to win the 30-34 class. Tour of Utah director Todd Hageman took home the gold in 45-49, Paul Smith beat the 55-59’s, and Torbjorn Karlsen got the 60-64 honors. It’s interesting that winning times in all of those age groups are within a minute or two. Athletes of all ages should take heart and keep up their training. It requires more effort, but with good health it’s possible to keep moving well for many years.

On the women’s side, Parkites won the three older classes. Kirsten Whetstone, Deborah Wagner, and Marit Glenne all took home gold medals. Nancy Fichter was second in her group.

The next event in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series will be a 15-kilometer free technique (skate) race at White Pine on January 7. Also in early January will be the U.S. Senior National Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow. This is a good opportunity to watch the best skiers in the country in action.


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