The second day of the Alaska State Championships was a bit of a compromise. Overnight, the wind blew in some near-zero temps and a skiff of slower snow along with it. But by race time, it was a stunning bluebird day with some high-powered rays beating down and speeding things up a little.
I would venture to guess that Alaska has the deepest field of J1 girls. Of course, I have no quantifiable data to back that up, but I have my reasons. The 7.5k mass start that the high school girls did today was one of the most exciting races I have seen in a while. Of course, anytime you cram over 100 adrenaline-hyped athletes armed with flimsy, expensive spear shaped appendages into a pine-wood derby type track, something’s bound to happen. But beyond that, the level of racing war amazing. A sizable breakaway pack formed, and after that the race was peppered with highlights. Surges, carnage, solo breaks, tactical blunders, and the likes were all present. The lead changed with every new attack, and there were a lot of hammers dropped. In the end, a few of the gutsiest had whittled it down to a handful, and from there Kailey Mucha (Soldotna, ANR) put on a Northug sprint to take the win over Alyson McPhetres (Chugiak, ANR) and Kinsey Loan (Chugiak, ANR). It was tight again, with 12 skiers within a minute, which is amazing for high school racing.
Scott Patterson is one of the most reserved competitors you will probably ever meet. His pre-race rituals include no intimidation screams or beatings of the chest. I’m pretty sure he would rather just have his own warm up loop and wax tech (ok, who wouldn’t?), and walk into his start lane right before the race without ever having to talk to anyone. Those crazies that yell in your face and try to get you pumped before the race are really just distractions anyway, right?
Temporarily acting as one of the aforementioned psychos, I excitedly asked him if he was “going to rip their faces off today?”, referring to his competition that would all be gunning for him in today’s mass start race. I knew he was on when he looked me squarely in the eyes and answered with an uncharacteristically affirmative and unfaltering “yes”. I think I shivered….
He did just that. With his blistering early pace only barely being matched by a few, he pinned it at about 6k and wasn’t seen again. Literally. For most of the race, the battle for the next two podium spots took place well behind, although there was not any shortage of intensity. Hands down, the race of the day (besides Patterson) was Jordan Buetow’s rally from outside the top 10 to claim the bronze. The Lathrop/FXC skier lost contact with the leaders in the early-race mayhem, but made short work of nearly ten skiers to the roar of the hometown crowd and plowed his way onto the podium.
In the evening, a bunch of skiers, including most of FAST, went to see the big showdown between UAF and UAA for the Governors Cup. UAF hockey is a pretty big deal here, and so it was both exciting and disappointing when our hometown Nooks lost 1-0 in the last period.
The now world famous ice-carving of a famous politician-turned-activist-turned-business-mogul… Especially applicable at 55 below!