By Marc Swanson –
Well, as seems to be the general rule for the Seahawks, the past Nordic ski race in Kenai was an unforgettable moment that didn’t fail to entertain.
We traveled by golden chariot to the Kenai meet last Friday – during the driving rain and wind storm—not exactly prime ski conditions. Our driver and number one team cheerleader Duane Chase got us there safe and ahead of the avalanche guns.
There were only five skiers that could make this race—Brooke Estes, Jerry Swanson, Nick Zweifel, Dylan Gillespie, and Hunter Kratz. It was to be a classic race—problematic on oh so many levels. Classic Nordic Skiing relies on grip wax—a wide range of waxes specialized for certain conditions. The colder and dryer the conditions, the easier it is to match the wax. As the temperature warms the required grip wax becomes finicky, soft, and more like smearing honey on the skis—and gloves – and clothes—and really anything within a 10 foot radius. Not pretty by a far sight. Add to the fact that our bus needed to be changed due to repairs during waxing which meant trying to match wax while reloading a new bus—in drippy, sloggy conditions. Yeah, it was a Tylenol moment.
But the Seahawks persevered as the skies broke open and the rain stopped. Even still, conditions were tough. Kenai had received a good foot and a half of snow the day prior. Combine that with heavy rains and it had the consistency of bottomless oatmeal. Skiers warming up looked as if in slow motion—this was going to be a tough race.
But there were other issues as well. The race was planned as a staggered start with waves of 4 with gaps between Varsity and JV and between boys and girls. This somehow got changed into a continuous progression of waves which resulted of all the skiers, Varsity / JV, Boys and Girls being on the course at the same time. Another result of the unexpected change was that skiers from all teams were missing their assigned wave and going out late. The Seahawks were not immune to this. Nick Zweifel’s translation was to actually start early—realize his mistake 50 yards down the trail, ski back, and start with his correct wave. Didn’t really hurt him too much though. Although Nick would admit to being a bit “choked” up over his ribbon, he was awarded 10th place JV. Not bad Nick for skiing extra territory.
Brooke plumb missed her start by a good two minutes as she had been told that the girls wouldn’t start until after the boys finished. Likewise, Brooke nailed down a 10th place JV position.
Dylan, Jerry, and Hunter had good starts—but also added to the entertainment. The boys skied 7.5 K which meant 2 loops passing by the stadium area twice. Gillespie, on his first loop, broke his binding which laid his ski at a weird angle. Some kind soul saved Dylan struggling and gave him a skate ski to make it off the course. Unfortunately, the only way off the course was through the barricaded finish line. The finish line judges didn’t pick up on the situation and at the awards ceremony Dylan received the 1st place JV award with the blistering time of 34:34– well ahead of the pack and many of the varsity skiers. Oops. It was later sorted out but not before Gillespie proudly, if not a bit awkwardly, stood on the winner’s podium.
Swanson had a flawless if not spectacular race considering the oatmeal he was trying to ski on. But skier of the day belongs to Hunter Kratz—new to the boards—who ended up face planting more times then he’d like to recall. Of particular note were the last two falls in front of all the spectators as he struggled through the paste in the stadium area. True to form after the race he kept bugging his teammates to go ski it again. “Come on guys, let’s go.” All the rest declined and regarded him with a bit of reserved caution. Brooke summed it up by saying, “You might be the only one that actually enjoys this.” Yeah Brooke, I think he does.