XC events dominated by Olympians and Paralympians | ParkRecord.com

XC events dominated by Olympians and Paralympians

Dave Hanscom, For The Park Record

Torin Koos is back. The four-time Olympian and 2004 University of Utah graduate returned to Soldier Hollow to compete in the third Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series event last Saturday. Skiing some of the same trails used in his Olympic debut in 2002, he completed the 10.3-kilometer course in a winning time of just 27 minutes, 18 seconds.

Despite having retired from serious competition after the Sochi Olympics, Koos showed the local cross-country skiers that he hasn’t forgotten how to ski fast. Real fast. Did I mention that this was a classic technique race, and that he skied the entire course using only his arms? He just double poled the whole thing and left everyone else in his dust!

Equally impressive were the performances turned in by athletes from the U.S. Paralympic Team, who have been training at Soldier Hollow in preparation for the World Championships in Cable, Wisconsin, next week. The men’s winner on Saturday was Andy Soule, a sit-skier who lost both legs to an IED in Afghanistan. Pushing himself around a 5-kilometer course in just 14:26, the Sochi Paralympic medalist crossed the line a minute and a half ahead of teammate Aaron Pike.

On the women’s side of the roster, track and field Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden skied a 3-kilometer course in 11:19. After winning several events in the last three Summer Paralympics, McFadden has switched to cross-country skiing and hopes to continue her winning ways in next week’s World Championship events.

The fastest able-bodied woman of the day was Maine native Julie Carson. The 2010 Dartmouth graduate skied the 10.3 kilometers in a speedy 34:09. Three minutes back was Parkite Roxanne Toly in second, with Anita Merbach in third. Carson recently moved to Salt Lake, so we expect to see her near the top of the results in future races.

Due to insufficient snow at Mountain Dell, this race had to be moved to Soldier Hollow, and the track was as good as it gets for a classic race. Part of the course was on super-hard manmade snow, and part was on natural snow from the previous week’s storm. Since the latter was so thin, they couldn’t groom it with a snow cat and mechanical tiller. The grooming crew worked all night with a snowmobile and drag to make the track as smooth and consistent as it would have been with a cat.

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With all the junior teams, coaches and many parents at West Yellowstone for a Junior National Qualifier race, participation at the WCS race was much lower than normal, particularly in the teenage classes. 162 racers toed the line in Saturday’s event.

One of the closest races of the day was in the men’s 45-49 year old class, with Parkite Paul Smith battling Midway’s Steve Evans from beginning to end. Smith got off to a good start, but Evans eventually caught him and crossed the line about a second ahead. Third in that class was Storm Cycles owner Todd Henneman, skiing in his first race of the year. Managing his own business hasn’t left him much time to play.

Wisconsin native and longtime Park City resident David Wagner got off to a strong start, leading the over-70 class by a wide margin in the first part of the race. Unfortunately, like his beloved Packers, he was overtaken at the end by a Parkite with Seattle kids and grandkids (yours truly), and he had to settle for second place.

Several other local skiers also took home medals in their age groups. Deborah Wagner and Cyndi Schwandt were the top two 60-year-olds and Nancy Fichter got the gold in the next older class. Kirsten Whetstone won a silver, as did Kenyan Bethke and Robert Lazzaroni, and Stephanie Strohl got a bronze. Tom Noaker beat the other 65-year-olds in convincing fashion, as usual, and Craig Williams crossed the line ahead of David Stice for second and third in the next younger group.

The next event in the Smartwool Wasatch Citizens Series is a 10-kilometer free technique (skate) race at Soldier Hollow this Saturday, Jan. 24. If the natural snow holds up in this warmer weather, the course will be similar to the one skied last week.