Wasatch Nordic skiers dominate XC
January 27, 2015
Young skiers from the Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy led the field in Saturday’s fourth Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series race at Soldier Hollow. Karsten Hokanson and Olivia Ekblad were the overall winners of the 10-kilometer free technique (skate) race on the 2002 Olympic trails. Having just returned from podium finishes in a Junior National Qualifier race in West Yellowstone, the two 18-year-olds were on top of their games.
The men’s race was by far the most exciting of the day. Four skiers jumped out in front and worked together for most of the race. Former Olympian Torin Koos and three Wasatch Nordic skiers traded off leading the group, allowing the others to take advantage of the drafting effect by following close behind. Hokanson made his move a few kilometers out and crossed the line in 22 minutes, 29 seconds, seven seconds ahead of his two teammates, Henry Gorman and Thomas Seidel. Koos wasn’t able to hang on to the pack and finished a distant fourth.
Ekblad’s main challengers were Parkite Roxanne Toly and last week’s WCS winner, Julie Carson. She blasted out of the start to take a quick lead, but Toly and Carson reeled her in and came around the first of the two-lap races in first and second. Unfazed, the young skier upped the pace and soon caught up to her competitors. Ekblad crossed the finish line in 27:19, just eleven seconds in front of Toly.
Conditions at Soldier Hollow were ideal, with blue-sky temperatures in the 20s and a perfectly groomed track. The course was similar to that used the previous week, partly on man-made snow and partly on natural. Several cold days and nights had enabled them to keep their snow guns running to help prepare for the predicted warm weather coming this week.
Park City skiers dominated the podium in the junior races. Two cross-country teams are based here, Gordon Lange’s Park City Nordic Ski Club and Bill Hokanson’s Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy. The former is headquartered at the Utah Olympic Park, and the latter at the Park City Winter Sports School. Two of the most successful teams in the Intermountain West, both train year around, and their results show that dedication.
The top four spots in both the under-18 and under-16 girls divisions went to members of those teams. In the older group, Leah Lange crossed the line first, with Maddie Morgan, Haley Batten and Julia Lazzaroni close behind. Winner of the under-16 class was almost-13-year-old mountain bike champion Sydney Palmer-Leger in an amazing time of 12:49 for five kilometers. Runners up in that group were Jenae Rasmussen, Savanna Fassio and Sarah Morgan.
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In the boys’ events, Drew Palmer-Leger crossed the line in the lead to take
the under-16 class, with Skylar and Connor Patten right on his heels. The top two under-14 boys were Aiden Rasmussen and Lane Myshrall. Gold in the under-12 girls’ group went to Sabine Wilson and McKinley Hibl took the bronze. The under-8 boys winner was Lucas Fassio.
Adult Parkites didn’t fare as well as the juniors, but a few did end up winning their age groups. Bruce Allen had an extremely strong race, finishing in 27:58 to top the 55-59 class and David Stice crossed the line ahead of his 60-64 rivals. Cyndi Schwandt and Nancy Fichter won their age groups in the women’s races.
The final race in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series will be a 20-kilometer free technique event on Saturday, Feb. 21, at the White Pine Farm. A shorter course will be available for novices and youngsters, and an end-of-season party and lunch will follow at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
In the meantime, more than 600 of the top junior skiers in the west will be at Soldier Hollow for a Junior National qualifying event this weekend. They’ll start out with a sprint race on Friday and finish up with a classic technique distance event the next day. This is a great opportunity to see some future Olympians in action.