Wild Rumpus Sports
 

Fairbanks Skiers Lead Way on Home Turf in Final Besh Cup Weekend

 

From left, Logan Mowry, Logan Hanneman, and Ari Endestad made up the overall podium for the Besh Cup men’s classic sprint in Fairbanks, Alaska, in February 2019. (photo: Logan Mowry Instagram)

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Just how cold was it for Saturday morning’s classic sprint qualifiers at Besh Cup 5, the penultimate race of the six-race qualifying series for Team Alaska?

It was so cold that race organizers created a WhatsApp group to keep coaches and racers apprised of potential schedule changes from the race jury if things warmed up too slowly and race starts had to be delayed. It was so cold and the snow was so slow that Fairbanks local Kendall Kramer, recently fourth in the world in a World Juniors classic race, took nearly five minutes to cover a 1.6-kilometer sprint course – and qualified second. It was so cold that racers were throwing up from the shock of sprint pace efforts in these temperatures. It was so cold that the next day it was 4 above and snowing, and everyone was happy that the fresh snow had made things so much faster. It was pretty cold.

But cold in Fairbanks in February is unremarkable, and so are Fairbanks racers winning in Fairbanks. At the end of a long, trying, and, yes, cold day of sprint racing Saturday afternoon, the overall men’s podium was a clean sweep for the Golden Heart City: Fairbanks native and former University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) skier Logan Hanneman in first, current UAF skier Logan Mowry in second, and current Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks FXC skier Ari Endestad in third.

Ruari O’Brien-Holen (APU) climbs a hill in the Besh Cup classic sprint in Fairbanks, Alaska, in February 2019. (photo: Davin Holen Instagram)

For the women, Kramer of FXC took the overall win in the final, followed by University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) skier Hannah Rudd. Kramer’s FXC teammate Victoria Bassette was third to give Fairbanks skiers five out of six overall podium spots.

The day began with good news: the famed Birch Hill inversion (a meteorological phenomenon in which Birch Hill, elevation ca. 900 feet, is substantially warmer than low-lying parts of Fairbanks just a few miles away) was in full effect.

“The red thermometer on the ski center building says -1 F,” wrote race organizers in a cheery update at 8:16 a.m. Saturday morning. “So, barring a rapid drop in temperature, it seems likely that we will be able to have a race today. You might as well head up to Birch Hill if you haven’t done so already. Looks like there is more of an inversion than was forecast.”

The racers came, the temperature didn’t drop too much, and at 11 a.m. sprint qualifying began, on a 1.6 km course for U16+ racers and a 1.2 km course for U14 racers.

After 51 women had made their way through the Kikkan Randall-approved Birch Hill sprint course, UAF skier Kati Roivas of Finland had set the day’s fastest time, 4:39.54, with Kramer second. (Roivas did not race in the heats.) There was a gap of over a minute to 30th, where Hannah Cryder qualified after a brutal 5:43.19 of L4 effort. For a sprint qualifier. As discussed, it was cold and slow.

In the men’s field, 2018 Olympian Logan Hanneman paced the field of 68 U16+ racers with a 3:49.11. Karl Danielson was second, over 11 seconds back. 48.97 seconds back of Hanneman, Bradley Walters rounded out the top 30 with a 4:38.08. Hanneman’s time was over twice as slow as the best qualifying time for the previous Besh Cup sprint, 1:44.47, held on an easier, shorter, and faster course two weeks earlier.

On the shorter 1.2 km course covered by U14 racers, Sammy Legate posted her second dominant qualifying performance in as many weekends, clocking a 3:52.70 to claim the fastest U14 girls time by nearly 14 seconds. Legate’s time would have placed her eighth among U14 boys, where Murphy Kimball set the fastest qualifying mark of 3:33.51.

Left to right: Logan Hanneman (Alaska Pacific University) ahead of Canadian Evan Palmer-Charrette (NTDC Thunder Bay) during the men’s 1.6-kilometer freestyle sprint final on Wednesday at the 2017 SuperTour Finals in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Photo: Max Kaufman)

In the heats, Hanneman took the win on roughly the same course on which he captured his first ever national title, the skate sprint championship at 2017 Spring Series. No times were available for the heats or final, and this reporter was only on site for Sunday’s races and so does not have first-person observations of Saturday’s finishes. But Hanneman won, with Mowry and Endestad second and third. Karl Danielson, Kai Meyers, and Samuel Delamere took places fourth through sixth in the men’s final.

The top Senior skiers were Hanneman and Mowry, then Brandon Herhusky in eighth overall (second in the B-Final). Top U20 skiers were places three through five in the A-Final: Endestad, Danielson, and Meyers. Top U18 skiers were Delamere, sixth in the A-Final, then Dale Baurick and George Cvancara, first and third in the B-Final.

Two U16 skiers made it into the overall heats: Josh Baurick, who ended the day in 24th overall, and Aaron Maves (28th). The third U16 skier was Konrad Renner, who after missing out on overall qualifying won the U16 bracket “bonus final” to place 31st overall.

For the women, Kramer led the way in an A-Final that featured two U16 and two U18 athletes alongside two Senior women. Kramer took the win, followed by UAA skier Hannah Rudd in second and U16 skier Victoria Bassette in third. Garviey Tobin (U18), UAF skier Sage Robine (Senior), and Meredith Schwartz (U16) also made the A-Final.

Kramer and Tobin led the way for the U18 podium. They were followed by Annie Gonzales, who was second in the B-Final for eighth overall. The U16 podium was Bassette, Schwartz, and Quincy Donley, who won the B-Final to claim eighth overall.

The Senior women’s podium was Rudd and Robine from the A-Final, then Roivas, who did not contest the heats after posting the fastest time in qualifying.

Distance freestyle races

Sunday morning brought an unusual combination for much of the country: 4 above and snowing. For Fairbanks, though, this was hardly noteworthy.

Winner Kati Roivas (UAF) approaches the finish line in the Besh Cup 10 k women’s skate in Fairbanks, Alaska, in February 2019. (photo: Gavin Kentch)

“I would say it’s nothing new,” said Roivas to FasterSkier when asked if she often experienced fresh snowfall at 4° F.

She added that snow conditions on Sunday were, “Slow. It’s very slow.”

The snow may have been slow (narrator: it was), but Roivas was faster than anyone else on Sunday, opening up a lead in the U18+ 10-kilometer freestyle mass start by the end of the first gradual climb out of the stadium, and never looking back. She kept her lead through two laps of the 5 k course, covering two A Climbs and three B Climbs per lap to finish in 31:52.7, taking first in the field of 22 athletes by over a minute.

The race was “tough,” said the UAF senior. “I had had a little break from racing; I raced, I think, three weekends ago in Montana, a college race. So it was a bit of a mystery how it was going to go. But it was good.”

Roivas was staying in Fairbanks while most of the UAF men’s team, and roughly half the UAF women’s team, competed in RMISA races in New Mexico.

Behind her, APU teammates Aubrey LeClair, Garviey Tobin, and Ivy Eski made up a three-woman chase pack for virtually the entire race. It was Tobin in the lead coming up the final uphill, but LeClair pulled ahead of her by the time the three racers made their way up the final climb on the Warm-Up Loop and across an excruciating final straightaway to the finish line. (Later in the day, a U12 racer won a flat-ground sprint here in V1 technique, after his competitors’ V2 power had been sapped by the preceding climbs.)

LeClair similarly found the race “Tough,” she told FasterSkier soon after finishing 1:16.6 back of Roivas.

“But it was good,” she continued. “It was fun. I got to ski with my teammates, and that’s always fun when you get to push each other. I’d say it was a pretty good race, even though I didn’t feel super great. But I’m happy with it.”

Aubrey LeClair (right) leads Garviey Tobin, both of APU, down the finishing stretch in the Besh Cup 10 k women’s skate in Fairbanks, Alaska, in February 2019. (photo: Gavin Kentch)

LeClair noted that she had sat out Saturday’s sprints, to avoid worsening a cold by breathing in the frigid air.

While the winner found the race “tough,” and the second-place finisher found the race “tough,” Tobin, who finished third, 1.6 seconds behind LeClair and 7.1 seconds ahead of Eski, by contrast found the race “really hard.” Her legs were “super tired from the sprint yesterday,” she told FasterSkier at the finish, “so it was a grind.”

Tobin described the snow as “slow.”

Behind Tobin in third overall, the rest of the U18 girls podium was Eski in fourth overall, then Annika Hanestad (sixth). The U20 women’s podium was LeClair (second overall), Emma Jerome (11th), and Ellie Mitchell (12th).

The Senior women’s podium was all collegiate skiers: UAF’s Roivas in first, Hannah Rudd of UAA (fifth overall) in second, and Sage Robine of UAF 15th overall) in third. The top Masters woman was M4 racer Alison Arians, in seventh overall.

25 U16 girls raced a 5 k mass start, over a single lap of the same 5 k course. The leaders featured several familiar podium finishers: Quincy Donley in first, Victoria Bassette (+22.4) in second, and Meredith Schwartz (+41.0) in third. All three athletes recorded five U16 girls podium finishes in six Besh Cup races this season.

And 13 U14 girls raced a 3 k mass start. Here Sammy Legate took her fourth victory and sixth podium of the season in 11:00.8, while Heidi Schumacher (+0.6) was narrowly behind in her fourth runner-up finish and sixth podium of the season. Zarah Laker-Morris (+23.4) was third.

Abigail Robinson (AWS) climbs a hill in the Besh Cup U16 girls 5 k skate in Fairbanks, Alaska, in February 2019. Alaska Winter Stars coach Jan Buron is at right. (photo: Juli Robinson Instagram / https://www.instagram.com/p/BteSEjRHYA-/)

The U18 and up men’s race played out similarly to the women’s 10 k: Gus Schumacher notched a wire-to-wire victory while a fight for second played out behind him. Schumacher won the 10 k mass start, held on the same two-lap course as the women’s race, in 26:33.0. Mowry and Endestad reprised their podium finishes from Saturday, taking second (+1:25.5) and third (+1:31.0) once more.

Schumacher’s last race was also a victory, if perhaps a higher-profile one: He anchored the U20 men’s world champion relay team at World Juniors in Lahti in late January, pulling away from Alexander Terentev up the final hill to secure an American victory over Russia by 3.8 seconds.

Schumacher’s margin of victory, nearly 90 seconds, was somewhat greater this weekend in Fairbanks. Nonetheless, the U20 racer found what he was looking for in Besh Cup competition.

“[I was looking] mostly just to get another race under my belt, keep that race fitness a little bit,” Schumacher wrote to FasterSkier. “Also it’s always fun to race in Alaska so I try to take advantage of those opportunities these days.”

Schumacher is undefeated in Alaska races this season, with victories in three Besh Cup Races in Fairbanks and Palmer, two Alaska Nordic Cup races in Fairbanks, and the Race to the Outhouse #1 at Hatcher Pass.

Kai Meyers, who was fourth overall, 15.9 seconds out of third, made up the rest of the U20 podium behind Schumacher and Endestad. Mowry (second overall) led the Senior men’s podium, followed by Julien Bordes (eighth) and Brandon Herhusky (16th). The top Master was Alaska Nordic Racing coach Cody Priest, who started in bib no. 36 in the seeded mass start but quickly moved up to finish seventh overall.

A field of 21 U16 boys raced a single lap of the same 5 k course. Aaron Maves took the victory here in 14:43.6, giving him a tidy six podiums in six Besh Cup races this season. He was followed by Josh Baurick (+8.6, four U16 podiums this season) in second and Eli Merrill (+21.8, two U16 podiums this season) in third.

Finally, U14 boys raced a 3 k mass start. Skyler Amy was one of two boys to break 10 minutes on the hilly course, finishing in 9:54.5. Elias Engman, in 9:59.3 (+4.8), was the other. Murphy Kimball (+10.6) was third.

Team Alaska

Sunday’s race marked the end of a successful, if logistically trying, Besh Cup qualification series. Cross Country Alaska organizers normally meet three times per winter to coordinate the three race weekends; this season’s races required eight meetings. In the end, however, the Mat-Su Ski Club, Tsalteshi Trails Association, and Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks provided six high-quality races, two sprints and four distance races, to Alaskan skiers. Two of them were FIS races. All of them were NRL (National Ranking List) races. None of them was easy.

Kendall Kramer on her way to fourth place in the U20 15 k classic mass start at World Juniors in Lahti, Finland. (Photo: Doug Stephen)

After six races and several hundred miles’ worth of travel, the following athletes were selected to represent Team Alaska at this year’s Junior Nationals in Anchorage:

U16 girls: Quincy Donley, Victoria Bassette, Meredith Schwartz, Katey Houser, Marit Flora, Neena Brubaker, Maria Nedom, Abigail Haas, and Hannah Delamere

U18 girls: Garviey Tobin, Annie Gonzales, Annika Hanestad, Ivy Eski, Maggie Druckenmiller, Tjarn Bross, Maggie Whitaker, Tatum Witter, Morgan Coniglio, Emily Walsh, Claire Nelson, and Hannah Cryder

U20 women: Aubrey LeClair, Emma Jerome, Ellie Mitchell, and Adeline Wright

U16 boys: Josh Baurick, Aaron Maves, Konrad Renner, Eli Merrill, Kai Caldwell, Porter Blei, Aaron Power, Carter Brubaker, and Noah Rehberg

U18 boys: Eli Hermanson, Everett Cason, Joel Power, Samuel Delamere, Dale Baurick, George Cvancara, Max Beiergrohslein, Jonathan Burrell, and Eric Difolco

U20 men: Ari Endestad, Karl Danielson, Kai Meyers, Josiah Alverts, Miles Dennis, and Micah Barber

Additionally, Kendall Kramer, Jenna Difolco, Adrianna Proffitt, Molly Gellert, Helen Wilson, Maja Lapkass, and Anja Maijala, for U18/U20 girls, and Gus Schumacher, Luke Jager, Ti Donaldson, Zanden McMullen, JC Schoonmaker, Maxime Germain, Michael Earnhart, and Alexander Maurer, for U18/U20 boys, qualified on the basis of their performances outside of the Besh Cup series, and are also eligible to race for Team Alaska next month.

Junior Nationals begin March 9 in Anchorage. The 2019/2020 Besh Cup series begins again in December, when skiers and their parents will once more make their way through the Girdwood Tesoro, the Turner’s Corner ice cream stand, the oversize baggage claim area of the Fairbanks airport, and other athletic stations of the cross.

— Gavin Kentch

Results and media: Classic sprint (qualifiers) | Classic sprint (heats) | Distance skate | Team Alaska points list | Podium photos

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