Granddaddy Gold Rush turns 35
FRISCO – Throughout it all, the Frisco Gold Rush has been about scenes like this. The winner and runner-up cross the finish line no more than 30 seconds apart. The second-place finisher congratulates the winner on a race well skied, but the winner wants none of it, instead throwing the praise back at the runner-up. It goes on like this, mutually sincere complimenting, for a few minutes. Then the racers smile at each other, shake hands and go their separate ways, humbly and happily.The Frisco Gold Rush – the Super Bowl of citizen Nordic races in the West – celebrated 35 years on Sunday. More than 300 competitors took part in the historic event, and the sport’s time-honored sportsmanship virtues once again stood on center stage.After crossing the finish line of the day’s premier competition, the 20K skate (a discipline that didn’t exist when the Gold Rush began in 1971), Kremmling’s Shawn Scholl and Vail’s Stephen White wheezed next to each other as snot dripped from their noses.Scholl, who won with a time of 55 minutes, 2 seconds, told the runner-up White he felt lucky to have held White off. White praised Scholl’s move some 10K into the race, when Scholl pulled away from the pack en route to winning by 25 seconds.The victory was the first of Scholl’s 10-plus Gold Rush experiences, and in doing so he flip-flopped White’s supremacy of the day before, when White finished second and Scholl fourth at the 42K Alley Loop in Crested Butte.
“I bided my time for 10K then put the hammer down, and it worked,” said the monstrous (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), telephone pole-legged Scholl, who fell 1.5 seconds short of making the Olympics last summer as a two-man-boat rower. “I tend to have good second days on back-to-back race days.””He got away and I couldn’t bring him back,” said White, who has finished second or third a number of times at the Gold Rush, but has never won. “I shouldn’t have let him go.”University of Wyoming racer Riley Hopeman (55:51) took third, and Breckenridge’s Jeff Covey (57:37) grabbed fourth to lead the local finishers in the showcase race.Another Wyoming Cowboy, 21-year-old Kristen Boroff (1:07:45), won the women’s 20K in her first race at that distance. Boulder’s Katie Meyer (1:08:06) and Dillon’s Mary Frielingsdorf (1:09:47) rounded out the podium.Clinton Kay of Boulder won the 10K skate race for the men, holding off Breckenridge’s Isaac Barnes (29:20) by 15 seconds. Frisco’s Theodore Fleming (29:45) skied to third.Boulder 24-year-old Carmen Small ran away with the women’s 10K skate, winning in 29:56. Lisa Shik, also of Boulder, took second in 34:44, while Silverthorne skier Anne McNelly (35:12) finished third.
Wyoming’s Joe Howdyshell led a pack of college racers in the 10K classic, winning in 28:22. Fellow Cowboy (or Cowgirl) Kari Boroff preceded her sister’s 20K victory by winning the women’s 10K classic in 34:30. Twenty of the first 22 10K classic finishers hailed from either the University of Wyoming or the U.S. Air Force Academy.In the 5K classic, 14-year-old local phenom Thomas Sawyer (15:54) won his first Gold Rush race by a whopping 52 seconds. He beat, among others, his Summit Middle School coach Tom Fatora, who took fourth in 18:22. The 5-foot-10 Sawyer, a powerful strider in the classic discipline, is undefeated in middle school races this year, and has a chance to make the Junior Olympics in the J2 division.Breckenridge’s Asa (editing note: there should be a little circle above her first “A,” to give it that European touch) Armstrong (20:58) won the women’s 5K classic, ahead of fellow locals Sharon Crawford (23:24) and 13-year-old Heidi Armstrong (27:19).Frisco 13-year-old Dana Meeker won the women’s 5K skate in 18:24, while Karen Castor (22:53) and Pat Schehrer (22:58) made it an all-Summit podium. Ian Odell finished first in the men’s 5K skate, winning in a speedy 14:26.In the snowshoeing races, which were added to the Gold Rush’s menu a few years ago, Breck’s Barnes followed up his second-place showing in the 10K skate by winning the 10K snowshoe, his specialty. His time of 43:57 held off, among others, third-place Hal Clark of Dillon (45:08). Gunnison’s Keri Ann Nelson won the women’s 10K in 52:48.Andrew Feeney of Boulder won the men’s 5K snowshoe in 23:56, and Dillon’s Beth Huron (31:52) stomped to victory in the women’s 5K, with Keystone’s Philipe Silva (32:20) in second.
One of the prevailing themes of the day, as it has always been, was the repetition of surnames on the results sheet. It spoke to the true nature of the event.”The Gold Rush just brings everybody in the family out,” said Blue River’s John Swartz, who competed in the inaugural 1971 Gold Rush and took 11th in Sunday’s 10K snowshoe. “Nobody has an excuse for not doing it.”Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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