Gunnar Hagen Race Report

 Many thanks to Rob Corkran for this awesome Gunnar Hagen race report and photo!

About a month ago the club received a missive about the devastation wrought on the World Cup course at Lillehammer.  Accompanying was a rather blithe commentary about how this would have been no problem for a dedicated band of Kongsbergers.  Little did the author imagine that the club would soon face such a challenge, not from a single event, but from a cascade of falling trees. 

Some time in December the trees started falling and they kept falling for days, then for weeks. Our hard working and dedicated groomer, Nick Whitman and his crew, kept control of the situation for a while, cutting up numerous fallen trees and pushing them from the track. But not without expense; one of his Sno Cats was seriously disabled in the effort.  Nick called for help and the Kongsbergers responded.  On the Monday and Tuesday preceding the race, first Joe Seemiller and then Chief of Course Don Brooks, assisted by brother Erik, bucked up many, many trees.  Apart from Nick’s services, those were perhaps the most important contributions to the completion of a successful race, notwithstanding the fine job of our Chief of Race, Tim Melbourne, and the essential efforts of the timing crew, led by Augustina Harper.  Of course others answered the call by cutting off branches and picking up, pushing, rolling, and casting aside the rounds and associated detritus.  Most annoying were the branches driven deep into the track on the bottom side of the fallen trees.  They were removed by shovel as best could be done since they posed a threat to Nick’s machinery.  The Forest Service would have been pleased, given its proscriptions on the use of power tools, to have seen Jeff Clark bucking up logs using a single handled “misery whip,” a 1950’s era trail crew crosscut saw! 

If you worked on the course in the days before the race, it may have occurred to you that this was one of the most successful public relations campaigns in the history of the Kongsberger Ski Club. Hundreds of skiers thanked working members as they passed and expressed awe at the groomer’s intrepid work.  Some joined in, especially if Joy Cordell’s friendly but insistent voice was present. If a skier expressed admiration for her hat, she could be told that the designer of the logo on the hat, some sixty years ago, was out shoveling snow right then, our own June Lindsey.  It was, however, an expensive campaign costing thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of grooming dollars.


The race itself could have hardly progressed in a more successful manner.  The benign weather muted the loss of the cabin as a gathering spot and made the completely outdoor venue work.  Bib distribution, refreshments, medal pick up…all outdoors.  Canopies lent a festive air, with Madshus providing services under one of them.  There was Lisa Newton as starter, and later announcer, in the recently dedicated Newton Stadium.  Apart from the prevalence of masks in the stadium area, one would not have guessed that it is yet another Covid year.  The atmosphere was one of excitement and enthusiasm again…finally.


Waxing was straightforward, something of a novelty at the Gunnar Hagen.  But there were variations.  The two age-adjusted winners, Rune Harkestad and Suzanne Corkran, brought skis previously waxed at home. Of course Rune came with choices: one pair waxed with Rode Multigrade and another with the new, improved Rode Multigrade!  The Momentum Team had the full set-up, with coaches waxing on the bench.  Over at the Bush camp, Coach Alban Howe was smearing on universal klister from a can, something this writer had never seen!  Jeff Hashimoto was counseling his Ellensburg skiers on the basics of standing on klister skis. There were the occasional skins and zeroes.  Tim Billo did not like the grab of his klister skis and elected to go with zeros.   Paavo Taipale from St. Paul, Minnesota, was, not unsurprisingly, on a pair of Finnish no-wax skis.  The practically invisible patterned part stretched from the heel plate to the tip of the ski.  Gaining places on the hills, he would lose them elsewhere. 


Results wise, the race was also a success.  The perennial contenders Kent Murdoch (M6), Rune Harkestad (M6), and Jeff Hashimoto (M5) were upset by a younger skier, Chris Pappathapoulos (M3).  As Jeff said, “M5’s should not be winning the Gunnar Hagen 30k!”  Chris had the best per-kilometer time of the day, 2:54.  Rune was second at 2:58/k.  Michael Karas (M3), always near the top, took third with a 3:02/k time. In the women’s division, Ellie Hands (SR), a Stillwater, Minnesota, native, took highest honors, if not without a serious challenge. Given her age (25) and provenance, she probably grew up with an eye on Jessie Diggins!  Her per-k time was 3:30.  In second was Sonya Jampel (SR) right behind at 3:31/k. With live World Cup timing, this would have been the most suspenseful race of the day.  After 2 laps their times were within 0.8 seconds; at lap 3 the difference was 0.05 seconds.  Starting just a few minutes apart they must have passed each other on the road at almost the same spot each lap!  Ellie was able to prevail in the final lap by 6 seconds!  Third went to Nora Gilbertson (SR), another fast Minnesotan, at 3:48/k. 


In the overall 7.5k, young Kian Reid (U14) garnered first with a great 3:18/k.  He was followed in short order by Stacey Marion (M1) at 3:20/k. Andrew Herstein (M3) with a 3:28/k rounded out the overall 7.5k podium.


The day concluded with a 7:00pm Zoom presentation of awards and the draw for prizes from our sponsors, hosted by Jeff Hashimoto.  Thank you, Outdoor Research, Nordic Ultratune, Rex, Winthrop Mountain Sports, and Madshus.  It is good to be supported by great companies!