Summit High School in Frisco, CO was the site for the 2012 National Snowshoe Championships. Set at over 9,000 feet in altitude, this race was the highest location for the National Championships to date.
The course was set, measured, and documented on the website nearly a year prior to this weekend’s event. The elevation profile and the course map were set up in order to prepare the athletes for what would be in store for them once they reached Frisco. Two weeks prior to the National Championships, they even had a preview of the course as they ran the national course in reverse for the Love Me Tender Snowshoe Race. However, when qualifiers reached Frisco for the National Championship weekend, they were in for a big surprise. A couple of days before the race, the course and elevation profile on the website were completely changed. For those who were able to reach Frisco by Friday night, there was an opportunity to preview the suddenly changed course the day before the race. Although quite different from the original course, the new course seemed to be at least measured accurately.
The morning of the actual 2012 US National Snowshoe Championships, the athletes, were unfortunately greeted with yet another last minute course change. At 5:30 am on the day of the race, the course was feverishly and hastily altered once again. A section through the woods was eliminated along with the second half of the long hill. The start was pulled back well behind the school and a completely ungroomed and sloppy loop of powder was added into the middle of the race.
It was a sunny day with swirling and sometimes insane gusts of wind. At several points during the races, there were giant whirlwinds of snow… almost mini-tornadoes twisting around the course. At 11:20 am, the men’s field started making their way to the starting line. They sloshed around in the long, narrow, ungroomed path to the starting line. As most of the athletes lined up, it was announced that there were still seven minutes until the start of the National Championship race. The athletes went through their final preparations and lined up ready to race. A few last minute thank yous and announcements were made and a count-down was issued for the start… 30 seconds… 15 seconds… 10 seconds…. GO!
The snowshoers took off in a flurry of sloppy snow. White powder consumed the group as snowshoes whisked the snow through the thin mountain air. A pack of 6 snowshoers took off in a flurry. Two time national runner-up Scott Gall of Iowa, two time national team member Kelly Mortenson of Minnesota, multi-national team member Josiah Middaugh of Colorado, Travis Macy also of Colorado, 2011 National Champion Eric Hartmark of Minnesota, and two time 6th place national finisher Jared Scott of Arizona. The snowshoers scampered down the narrow corridor with Middaugh going to the front and immediately slowing the pace. Following Middaugh, it was Gall, Macy, Mortenson, Hartmark, and then Scott. It looked as if the lead group were slowed to a near walking pace. As they continued on, the pace picked up slightly, but not much. Hartmark moved up on Mortenson who was in 4th place. Hartmark called out to get by and Mortenson, following USSSA guidelines quickly and graciously stepped to the side for a second, allowing Hartmark to pass on the narrow path.
As the snowshoers rounded the school, Middaugh, Macy, Gall, and Hartmark made a quick surge. Once around the school and back on the single-track, Middaugh slowed down the pack to pedestrian pace once again. The group continued along the single-track trail around the fields.
The way the course was set up, there were virtually no places on the entire course which provided for an opportunity to pass… making the USSSA rule on stepping to the side and allowing an advancing racer to pass, extremely crucial. Most of the championship course was single track with extremely deep, thin powder to each side of the trail (it snowed 8 fresh inches of powder two nights before the race). The only opportunity in which to present a clean pass was during a broken up 300 meter stretch near the school. Why a championship course would be set up in this matter is beyond comprehension.
As the lead pack continued slogging along slowly along the perimeter of the field, spectators watched as the racers almost tripped over each other with each step of their snowshoes. It was uncomfortable to watch as it felt like the group would get tangled up in a massive pile of snowshoes at any moment. The first road crossing could have easily been set up as an extremely quick opportunity to pass, by making a wide snow path across the asphalt. Unfortunately, the road crossings were merely a few inches of snow spanning two feet across with not nearly enough snow to protect the racers snowshoes, let alone providing them any room to pass. As the lead group neared the crossing, Middaugh started walking away from the group. Macy seemed unconcerned by this and held back the other racers as his fellow Coloradan extended his lead. When the chase pack hit the road crossing, Hartmark made a quick move, trying to pass Gall and Macy. However, instead of letting him by, Gall made a move of his own going shoulder to shoulder with Macy. Hartmark was unable to get through as they ran across the narrow ribbon of snow which delicately “covered” the road. The athletes’ metal crampons could be heard grinding on the asphalt below the dusting of snow.
As they climbed the small hill on the other side of the road, Gall stepped in front of Macy to move into 2nd position. The pace continued on slowly as Middaugh continued to walk away from the group. Hartmark called out “track!” to Macy in order to get by, with no response. The group continued to almost trip over each other as they wound their way through the short brush section of the course. It looked as if the short sleeved Hartmark called out several times to the racers in front of him, again with no response. Hartmark then made a move to pass Macy in the deep fresh powder to the side of the trail. He sunk immediately, doing a face-plant, his bare arms plunging shoulder deep into the icy snow. He struggled to free his snowshoes from the deep powder and in doing so, his snowshoe came loose. Middaugh, Gall, and Macy pulled away from Hartmark and Scott moved in right behind Hartmark in 5th.
Hartmark made a quick surge with the loose snowshoe, catching Macy and Gall shortly thereafter. Hartmark called again to Macy and made a move around him without Macy stepping off of the trail to allow him to pass. Hartmark then got up behind Gall and made a quick move to the left trying to get past Gall, risking another fall in the deep snow. Hartmark was well behind Middaugh at this point as Middaugh was easily able to gap the slow-paced trailing group. Once Hartmark made it out of the group, he began to make up ground on Middaugh throughout the now shorter uphill stretch.
The group flew down the next long straightaway with the distance between Middaugh and Hartmark remaining the same. Jared Scott made his way up the hill, first passing Macy and then catching Gall on the long downhill. Once Scott caught up to Gall, he asked him to pass and said that he would make a move to his left as they careened down the nearly impassable narrow trail.
The group then raced one by one across the second road crossing. It was a great course for spectators as we were easily able to get from one point to another, offering several vantage points for the championships. The clicking and sometimes grinding of the crampons were heard at this water-stop as the racers leapt down a 2 and a half foot drop onto the nearly uncovered road.
The next stop for the national contenders was the sloppy powder of the field which was thrown into the race at the last minute. The racers slowly plodded around the field, making their way to the next section of the course.
As the racers hit the section of the course dubbed “heartbreak hill,” it was Middaugh in 1st, followed by Hartmark, then Scott in third, Gall in 4th, and then Macy. Kelly Mortenson and Peter Maksimow switched positions back and forth as they made their way through the first loop of the course. “Heartbreak hill” led the snowshoers up a steep hill which led to a sharp left turn along a narrow ridge. It looked as if a few of the racers slipped and fell down the slope a bit from the fall marks in the snow. The racers made their way over a few exposed roots and branches as they zig-zagged through the short wooded section. They ran along a very short ridge, took a sharp right and bombed a steep hill that was nearly straight down. As they rounded the corner and made their way towards the loop by the school, Maksimow was in 6th place. He turned short of the turnaround point and into the deep field of snow. He quickly realized his mistake, turned around and the gracious Mortenson allowed for Maksimow to step back onto the course ahead of him to regain his position.
As the snowshoers completed their first clockwise loop of the course, the top 7 consisted of 4 guys living at altitude (Middaugh, Scott, Macy, and Maksimow) and 3 lowlanders (Hartmark, Gall, and Mortenson), who were fairing quite well considering the 9,200 foot elevation. As they made their way around the start/finish area, the announced exclaimed “It’s Josiah Middaugh in the lead followed by the reigning 2011 US National Snowshoe Champion, Eric Hartmark, who still has Middaugh in his sights.” After Hartmark it was Scott, then Gall, followed by Macy, Maksimow, and Mortenson.
The top seven was fairly spread out with the exception of Mortenson and Maksimow who were running close together. As the runners made their way along the perimeter of the course, through the first road crossing, and up the long hill, it looked as if Scott and Hartmark were slowly making up ground on Middaugh. The question now became, would they have enough room to catch him on this last minute course which was now well short of the original 10k. The racers made their way down the long downhill section and traversed the 2nd road crossing, with the order remaining the same. Seeing the three mid-westerners still in the top 7 was surprising considering the Midwest has been completely barren of snow for the past two months.
The snowshoers made their way to the sloppy powder loop of the course. It looked as though the experienced snowshoer, Jared Scott was making up ground on Hartmark in his 3rd ever race on snowshoes. As they stumbled their way through the awkward terrain, it looked as if the duo may be running out of time if they wanted to make their move on Middaugh. Slightly after the loop, Hartmark moved to the side to allow for Scott to make a pass. Hartmark ran along behind Scott through the next straightaway and the duo scrambled their way up heartbreak hill. Middaugh flew down the other side, with Scott and Hartmark looking out of control as they bombed the steep hill.
Middaugh made his way around the final corner and raised his arms several times in victory as he crossed the line. A hard finishing Jared Scott made the way onto his first ever national team after finishing 6th the last two years. Rounding out the podium finishers was Eric Hartmark. Two-time national runner-up Scott Gall crossed the line in 4th, with Travis Macy claiming the final spot on the USA National Snowshoe Team. Maksimow and Mortenson finished 6th and 7th respectively.
A citizen’s race followed the national championship and athletes were able to get refreshments after their races including Powerade, apples, oranges, banana halves, and Honey Milk. There was an awards ceremony held several hours after the race in the auditorium, but no sit down dinner as was the case at the 2010 and 2011 Championships. Unfortunately, there also was not a social gathering or a dance at the Frisco championships this year. In years prior, this was a great way for the athletes to get to know one another and to wind down after a long day of competitions. Hopefully Oregon will return to the fun of previous championships as they play host in 2013.
1 Josiah Middaugh CO 42:24 30-34
2 Jared Scott AZ 42:45 30-34
3 Eric Hartmark MN 43:00 30-34
4 Scott Gall IA 44:04 35-39
5 Travis Macy CO 44:59 25-29
6 Peter Maksimow CO 47:30 30-34
7 Kelly Mortenson MN 47:57 40-44
8 Bernie Boettcher CO 49:32 50-54
9 Tim Hola CO 50:03 35-39
10 Craig Depperschmidt CO 50:13 25-29
11 Jeremy Drowne NY 51:09 35-39
12 Bill Perkins CO 51:19 50-54
13 Kevin Minard CO 53:07 40-44
14 Eric Kowalik NY 53:28 20-24
15 Darren Brungardt CO 53:37 30-34
16 Mark Thurston AZ 53:48 50-54
17 Nate Canton IA 53:50 30-34
18 Ben Palladino NY 54:13 20-24
19 Charlie Nowacki CO 55:01 30-34
20 Bill Raitter NV-ARMY 55:31 40-44
21 Brian Krombein CO 55:58 40-44
22 Michael Cozza IL 56:44 25-29
23 Rob Class MN 56:58 50-54
24 Josh Jorde MN 57:32 35-39
25 Kevin Cooper OR 57:37 40-44
26 Matt Dreier NM 57:41 35-39
27 Ian Connor IL 57:56 25-29
28 John Swartz CO 58:16 60-64
29 Kris Borchardt WI 58:22 30-34
30 David McMillan CO 58:27 35-39
31 Dave Patalano CO 58:33 25-29
32 Peter Keeney ME 58:40 45-49
33 Mark Macy CO 58:45 55-59
34 Ed Oliver CO 58:48 40-44
35 Mark Rickman CO 58:53 50-54
36 Charlie Andrews NY 58:58 55-59
37 Larry Buerger MI 59:08 45-49
38 Jacob Fortman MI 59:38 20-24
39 Neeraj Engineer CO 59:45 35-39
40 Arne Leonard NM 1:00.17 45-49
41 Bob Cottrell CO 1:00.20 50-54
42 Adam Chase CO 1:00.29 45-49
43 Cees Hofman ID 1:00.37 20-24
44 Jim Heuck CO 1:01.06 35-39
45 JP Ingebrigtsen Norway 1:03.17 50-54
46 Rob Williams IA 1:03.42 35-39
47 Bob Cooper CO 1:03.45 60-64
48 Jim McDonell MN 1:03.52 55-59
49 Rob Mischler NY 1:03.57 35-39
50 Jeffrey Kasyon CO 1:04.54 50-54
51 Jim Cihak MI 1:05.20 60-64
52 Chris Peterson NY 1:05.26 20-24
53 Brent Weigner WY 1:06.19 60-64
54 David Kelble CO 1:08.17 55-59
55 Ed Myers PA 1:08.25 60-64
56 Henry Schneider NY 1:08.38 35-39
57 Austin Budlong MN 1:09.21 30-34
58 Robert Kowalik NY 1:12.26 55-59
59 Jim Graupner MN 1:12.54 65-69
60 Scott Sayler CO 1:13.54 55-59
61 Mark Blondin WA 1:15.10 25-29
62 Andy Bradford CO 1:16.10 30-34
63 Bill Faulkner CO 1:18.10 70-74
64 Jared Graham GA-ARMY 1:18.23 25-29
65 Bryan McCarty IA 1:20.18 25-29
66 Scott Vance IA 1:22.31 50-54
67 Bob Dion VT 1:28.07 55-59
68 Keith Johnson WA 1:33.56 65-69
69 Bill Moyle CO 1:42.52 70-74
70 Phillip Gary-Smith MN 1:43.26 60-64
71 Rich Busa MA 2:13.46 80-84