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Sunday, February 4, 2001 -- Confluence, PA
PA Nordic Championship XC Ski Race
Story and photos by Dave McKain

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5]

Traditional XC Skiing
Cross country skiers gathered at the Laurel Ridge Cross Country Ski Area in southwestern PA for the 2001 Pennsylvania Nordic Championships. The course was in excellent condition as 6 inches of new snow had fallen in the previous 2 days. The trails in the area were well groomed with moderate elevation changes along the course. Weather conditions were excellent for racing with temps hovering around 30 and overcast skies.

The first race for the day was a 5.5K Classic XC race. Perrenial favorite Jim Samuels (20:05) edged out Mac Martin (20:27) to take the win while John Brockenbrough (22:51) narrowly beat Emmanuel Birstein (22:54) to take third place. Kitty Tuscano (30:45) was the first women to cross the line, beating out Robin Gorrell (31:59) with Mary Siemann (34:22) taking third.
With the freestyle races looming - skiiers checked the thermometer hanging outside the center to see if they had the right wax for the day. Several competitiors could be found inside the center changing the wax and hoping that it would be the right match for the conditions. Many of the top finishers from the classic race were entering the freestyle races including Jim Samuels and John Brockenbrough (17K) and Mac Martin and Emmanel Birstein (8.5K). Also entering the 17K freestyle race was five time winner Debbie Mizikoski. When asked why he didn't race in both the classic and freestlye races, Bob Dizort answered that he would be "dead tired" after one race - let alone racing in both. The second race would determine whether those doing both races were mere mortals or superhuman.

Race Pic
Technique is the name of the game
Since the races started out in similar fashion to a time trial with pairs of skiers starting at 30 second intervals, it was difficult to ascertain how the race was going. The only way to gauge your performance was whether you were passing or being passed. In the case of Jim Samuels (17K - 47:55), the easiest thing to do was get out front and stay there. John Brockenbrough, last years runner up in the 17K, put in a valiant effort to dethrone Samuels but fell a minute and a half short (17K - 49:30) followed by Tom Dailey (17K - 51:24). Debbie Mizikowski (17K - 53:00) bested Nancy Herbst (53:52) to take first in the womens class and an impressive 6th overall.

Race Pic
Jim Samuels enjoys the win
In the short race, Mac Martin (8.5K - 23:46) took the win with youngster Matt Reade (8.5K - 27:54) taking second followed by Emmanuel Birstein (8.5K - 29:18). Finishing fifth overall in the short race and first in the womens class was Melanie Reade (8.5K - 31:05) followed by Laura Brockenbrough (8.5K - 31:43). Overall the race was a great success with over 80 participants and plenty of spectators. Kudos to Rich Garstka, Bill Kircher and their support staff for preparing for and putting on an excellent race.

NOTE: For those not familiar with cross country skiing, classic skis have a textured bottom which grips when you push backwards (propelling you forwards) while freestyle skis slide forwards and backwards and are used more like ice skates or roller blades to get forward motion.