Comfortable temperatures and fair weather greeted 208 racers for the 12.5K and 25K events at the 20th running of the North End Classic on Sunday, Feb. 9, presented by the North End Ski Club in Cable. Another 25 young skiers took part in the North End Cookie Classic kids race.
This year’s North End Classic was hampered by the weather of the weekend before the event, when for two days warm temperatures softened the deep snow base on the trails. Then the subsequent deep freeze left the trail with a concrete-like icy surface.
“Conditions like this present a tremendous challenge for our groomers,” explained Ron Bergin, North End Classic race coordinator. “With light equipment such as a snowmobile and a pull-behind grooming implement, it is difficult to return the trail to a state where we can set good tracks for our classic technique race,” he added.
But the ski club marshalled a dedicated corps of 10 volunteer groomers who were out on the trails daily last week to gradually return the trail to skiable condition.
Zach Nelson of St. Paul won the 25K North End Classic, finishing in 1:15:15, more than a minute ahead of second-place finisher Connor Canfield of Plymouth, Minnesota, who finished at 1:6:33.
Third-place honors went to a familiar face at local and regional events, Adam Swank of Duluth, who finished at 1:18:13.
Brandy Stewart of Minneapolis clocked in with a time of 1:26:54 to take top honors in the women’s 25K field, which was also good enough for 14th overall among all competitors. Annie Bunio, also of Minneapolis, finished second at 1:33:13, followed closely by Kelly Skillicorn of Winona, Minnesota, at 1:33:51.
The 12.5K North End Classic, often a showcase for youthful cross country skiing talent, once again fulfilled that role as top finisher 22-year-old Carter Scheele, skiing for St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, claimed victory with a blistering time of 38:28. Runner-up Caden Albrecht, just 16 years old, was 19 seconds off the pace finishing at 38:47. And finishing at 40:00 flat, John Hallet of Oconomowoc filled out the men’s podium in third place.
Also skiing for St. John’s, Maggie Mahota, 19, finished first in the women’s race at 46:34 and sixth overall. Bonnie Weiskopf, a North End Classic regular, came second at 51:20, with Jenna Ruzich of St. Paul coming in third at 52:18.
The North End Classic is the primary fundraising event for the nonprofit North End Ski Club. The event also coincided with the launch of a major grooming equipment fundraising campaign, Bergin noted.
“We want to maintain the North End reputation of frequent, consistent and quality grooming,” he said. “To do so, we need to be sure that our groomers have the tools they need to help them do their job as easily and comfortably as possible.”
The club has set a goal of $41,500 to acquire a variety of newer and more capable grooming equipment. For more information or to make donations, call (715) 798-3599 or visit the North End Ski Club website at northendskiclub.org.