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Wild Rumpus Sports
 

Inaugural Qaniq Challenge in Valdez Has Low Snow, Low Turnout, But Big Payouts

The entire field at the post-race banquet in Valdez.

The entire field at the post-race banquet in Valdez.

VALDEZ, Alaska — The City of Valdez hosted the inaugural Qaniq Challenge last weekend, a two-day race format of 17.5-kilometers each. At least that was the idea, but an unprecedented snow drought plagued the event in a city known for epic snowfalls. As a result, the courses were shortened and reworked to accommodate the snow, resulting in races of approximately 14 and 16 k, respectively.

Valdez is better known for extreme skiing due to its proximity to the Chugach Mountains, and for oil, as it is the terminus for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, where oil from Alaska’s North Slope oil production is loaded into tanker ships for distribution to world markets.

So how does a small town like Valdez, not especially known for cross country skiing, attract big crowds to their race? Put up prize money, and lots of it. A $10,000-dollar total purse was up for grabs, with $3,000 for first, $1,500 for second, and $500 for third in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

Even with all that money on the line, interest in the event was low until the last minutes, when a small flurry of Alaska Pacific University (APU) Elite Team members signed up. Notable entrants included current APU skiers Becca Rorabaugh, Lauren Fritz, Lex Treinen, and Scott Patterson, along with former member Peter Kling and former Elite Team coach Dylan Watts.

The Racing

Saturday’s individual start classic race proved to be the most important, since large time gaps in the field proved impossible to overcome in Sunday’s mass start skate race. Treinen took first place in the men’s race, double poling the 14 k course in 28:03.5, with Patterson in second (+28.1), Watts in third (+1:09.8), Kling in fourth (+1:38.8) and University of Alaska Anchorage volunteer coach Adam Verrier taking fifth (+4:07.4).

In the women’s race Rorabaugh posted the top time, double poling the course in 32:36.9, with Fritz coming in 25.7 seconds later to take second. Unaffiliated dark horse and Fairbanks local Shalane Frost came in third (+5:03.8), followed closely by Tara Masters in fourth (+5:10.2) and Masters’ sister, Erin Hamilton, in fifth (+6:07.8).

Sunday’s race did little to change the overall outcome. Patterson won in 36:20.2, but it was not enough to close the gap with Treinen, who kept Patterson close, finishing 15.5 seconds later. The only upset of the weekend occurred when Kling took third (+56.9) by enough of a margin to bump Watts to fourth overall (+1:39.8 in Sunday’s race). Verrier took fifth (+3:16.1).

Rorabaugh won again on Sunday, blasting the course in 42:19.9, with Frost barely edging Fritz in a sprint for the finish to take second (+33.2) while Fritz took third (+33.5). Former Team Atomic skier Aubrey Smith grabbed fourth (+39.2) with Masters right on her heels in fifth (+41.1).

Overall, Treinen and Rorabaugh walked away with the $3,000 top prize, Patterson and Fritz took home $1,500 each, and Kling and Frost took $500 for their troubles.

The Qaniq Challenge is fully funded and slated to return in 2016.

Results

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