CALUMET, MI – A record 730 skiers took to the Swedetown ski trails in Calumet for the 37th running of the UP Health System Great Bear Chase Ski Marathon on Saturday. Racers could choose from among seven races of various distances and techniques.
Two former U.P. college skiers took the victories in the 50km skiathlon: former Michigan Tech standout Deedra Irwin of Pulaski, Wisconsin, and Northern Michigan alumnus Kyle Bratrud of Marquette, Michigan. Bratrud eked out the win with just 1.4 seconds to spare. (Bratrud also won this year's Noquemanon Ski Marathon)
The skiathlon incorporates the two different styles of cross country skiing – the traditional classic diagonal stride technique and the freestyle or skating technique. Skiers cover 25km (about 15 miles) of each, for a total of 50km. The Great Bear Chase also includes competition in each technique at distances of 50km, 25km, and 10km.
“Conditions were very fast this year,” said race director Angela Luskin. “As they do every year, skiers said they enjoy our course, and we have the best snow conditions in the Midwest. Our groomers did a great job, and I can’t say enough about our volunteers. Without them, we would not be able to put on a race of this caliber.”
In the 50km freestyle competition, Sarah Lyle of Chassell, Michigan, took first place among women and Nikolai Anikin of Duluth, Minnesota, was the top male. Two Minneapolis skiers won the 50km classic, with Anda Tanaka taking the women’s title and Matthew Egger winning the men’s event.
In the 25km freestyle, two Minneapolitans took the titles: Nicole Harvey and John Munger. Joan Rundman of Hancock, Michigan, and Josh Albrecht of Sillwater, Minnesota, were the 25km classic winners. The 10km freestyle winners were Maria Vela of Chassell, Michigan, and George Jarvinen of Minneapolis, while Sophia Schenzel of Wausau, Wisconsin, and Riley Nilsen of Waukesha, Wisconsin, took the 10km classic titles
This is the third year for the Great Bear Chase skiathlon event, which organizers believe is the only marathon-length event of its type in the country “We are attracting some of the top skiers in the Midwest, and they love the skiathlon,” Luskin said. “It is challenging enough to ski 50km, but to do so with two different techniques and an equipment change in the middle – that just adds to the excitement.”
The Great Bear Chase is also the concluding race in the CXC Ski Marathon Cup, which includes six of the biggest cross country ski events in the Midwest.
Results and photos are at www.greatbearchase.com. The 2018 Great Bear Chase will take place March 10.