By Marc Swanson –
Even within the spectrum of comic tragedies, Shakespeare himself may not have had the guts to draft this one.
It’s been a great season for the Seahawks ski team minus one rather critical element….yeah, the white stuff. Since the season started the first of November we’ve been able to squeeze off perhaps a dozen practices on snow. This has meant mixing it up with dryland, running, bounding up the Jeep Trail and, when possible, ice skating. Meets have been far and few between. Our last meet was the oatmeal slush 3 weeks ago. Since then meets have been cancelled including last week’s Seward Invite.
So it was beyond ironic that this past Friday the ski team left Seward in a wind driven blizzard to travel to Boroughs in Soldotna where we were greeted with sunny skies, red flag warnings, and a strip of dirty ground up ice to ski. No, the irony wasn’t lost upon us.
There were 7 that attended boroughs—Jerry Swanson, Josephine Braun, Logan Smith, Hunter Kratz, Brooke Estes, Dylan Gillespie, and Nick Zweifel. This meet, along with next week’s Region would determine which, if any, of the skiers would go onto the State Competition. Considering conditions—the chewed up snow, the trees falling in the wind, the patches of sheer ice, the forest debris littered on the trail – well, the Tsalteshi Trails offered a plethora of extra challenges beyond the normal ski event.
However, despite appearances, in the end conditions were generally fast—well, with the exception if one were to hit one of the many pinecones or twigs scattered by the wind. A misplaced ski on one of these would suddenly put on the brakes while the face of the hapless skier would be planted firmly into the ground ice.
Despite the challenges Zweifel managed the challenges well clicking off the 10km in 34:05 minutes. Swanson, also skiing Varsity came in at 38:23 minutes.
The first day did send one person to the podium, Brooke managed to avoid any of the pinecone stops to score the 10th place in the JV slot.
Gillespie, on the other hand, continued to redefine the course……again. During the last meet (in Kenai oh so long ago) Dylan scored 1st place in the JV field but was DQed for shortening the race….by half. Dang. This race Gillespie took yet another wrong turn—this time lengthening the prescribed mileage. Ya gotta give the Seahawks credit for creativity. Even still he came in a respectable 12th JV finish.
The next day dawned clear and calm. The trail had been cleaned up for a 5 km sprint race. The mighty Hawks must’ve woken up hungry—they decided to ramp it up a bit.
Of special note is Josephine, Hunter, and Logan. Ribbons are only awarded for time; however, if one was to consider attitude, these guys would get gold. It was to be Josephine’s last (and sadly second) meet of the season: Hunter and Logan are new to the Seahawk team. Yet each of them shrugged off the conditions as if ground up ice and pinecone strewn trails were just part of the fun. Hunter especially seemed bent on enjoying himself all the more as conditions deteriorated during the year. Logan, wasn’t so pleased with his Friday ski (Hello Logan, like this was the first meet you’ve been able to ski!). He ended up hitting the trail early on Saturday in order to reanalyze the trail and technique. Their combined attitudes outweighed any ribbon or trophy in my book.
In the end Brooke and Dylan both had excellent races. Brooke moved up into 4th place JV. Dylan stooped to convention to realize the rewards to skiing the prescribed race course. He scored a 3rd place JV finish. Later Gillespie said it was the 1st race he nearly puked in the finish chute. Queried, he wasn’t sure if it was from sheer exertion from the race or the glazed donuts for breakfast.
Of note was Zweifel’s last place. It’s not always that such a place would be worth note. However, with his berth @ state secured by Friday’s race. Zweifel took a bullet for the team by holding back to pace and encourage team mate Swanson who interval started a minute behind. As a result Jerry skied a clean 16:42 finish in the Varsity field and sealed his bid to State.
In the end the team did themselves proud. But its nature, Nordic skiing is a character building sport. This is doubly true with the fickle winter weather of Seward. But throw in a curve ball like this winter…well, their attitude stands by itself. These guys are awesome!