Three racers were double winners on the weekend, while a field of slightly more than 200 skiers enjoyed ideal conditions for two days of racing as the Besh Cup moved to the Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna, Alaska, last weekend. Qualifying races began in Anchorage in December with a classic sprint and a freestyle mass start. This weekend saw a skate sprint and classic interval start races.
Conditions were unremarkable for Alaska in mid-winter: Race-time temps in the teens, light snow and sunshine. Many teams’ race wax choice for Sunday was straight Extra Blue. Easy.
But the weather was also remarkable for how much worse it could have been. That weekend it snowed 32 inches in 24 hours in Moose Pass, roughly sixty miles east of the venue. Just two days earlier, it had been –25° F in Soldotna on Thursday (and –27° F on Wednesday). Virtually the entire field presumably came in relatively fresh, following the mid-week cold snap that had sent temperatures to 20 below in Anchorage and 50 below in Fairbanks, and sent many athletes temporarily inside in both places. Racing at 12° above never felt so warm.
On Saturday, the U14 girls raced a 1.1-kilometer freestyle sprint. Quincy Donley took her first victory on the weekend, setting a qualifying time that also would have led the U14 boys over the same distance and winning the final as well. Behind her were Katey Houser and Aila Berrigan.
The U16 girls raced a 1.2 k skate sprint. Kaya Ratzlaff was fastest in this division, followed by Annika Hanestad and Helen Wilson. For U18 girls (also 1.2 k, racing head to head against U16 and U20), Jenna Difolco took her first victory on the weekend, followed by Elizabeth Mans and Heidi Booher.
The overall podium for U16+ was U18 racer Difolco in first, UAA skier Sadie Fox (U20) in second, and U18 Mans in third.
In the U14 boys 1.1 k skate sprint, Aaron Maves and Rowan Morse reprised their sprint podium finishes from Besh Cup #1 in Anchorage. They were followed by Konrad Renner.
The U16 boys 1.2 k sprint also saw two-thirds of a repeat podium: of George Cvancara, Eli Hermanson, and Max Beiergrohslein, Cvancara and Hermanson were second and third in last month’s classic sprint.
For U18 boys, competing head-to-head in the same 1.2 k sprint, it was Josiah Alverts, Karl Danielson, and Sam York. And the U20 men, finally, were led by Tracen Knopp, Logan Mowry, and Alex Kilby. The overall podium was Knopp, Alverts, and Mowry.
Sunday saw more of the same: Donley leading the girls and beating most of the boys as well. In the U14 girls 3-kilometer classic interval start, Donley won with a time that would have placed her third in the U14 boys race. By over a minute. Marit Flora was second and Houser was third.
The U16 girls raced a 5 k classic interval start. Kendall Kramer was first, Ratzlaff was second, and Hanestad third. It was the second podium on the weekend for both Ratzlaff and Hanestad.
For U18 girls (also 5 k classic), Difolco took her second victory on the weekend, and Booher her second podium. Emma Nelson was third.
Although there were few U20 women in the field, the overall winner in the classic race was Fox (U20), with Kramer and Ratzlaff (both U16) following.
In the U14 boys 3 k classic, Maves was the final double winner with his victory there. Morse was again second. Third was Carter Brubaker.
The U16 boys raced a 5 k classic. First was Zanden McMullen, followed by sprint podium finishers Hermanson and Cvancara.
The U18 boys and U20 men, plus a handful of senior and masters skiers, raced a 10 k classic interval start. Top U18 skiers were Tristan Wiese, Andrew Hull, and Saturday’s sprint winner Alverts. Top U20 skiers, and top three overall for all skiers U18+, were Hunter Wonders, Mowry, and Hamish Wolfe. Wonders was tuning up for the Junior World Championships to be held at Soldier Hollow next week.
Racing continues at Birch Hill in Fairbanks the first weekend of February with skate interval start and classic mass start distance races. Alaska’s team for Junior Nationals will be named on the afternoon of February 5.
— Gavin Kentch