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Liebsch and Dussault capture victory at American Birkebeiner

Sun, Feb  22, 2009 - By Cherie Morgan

HAYWARD, Wis., Feb. 21, 2009 – Matthew Liebsch of Maple Grove, Minnesota and Rebecca Dussault, skied to victory at the 36th anniversary American Birkebeiner Skate Race sponsored by Becker Law. Liebsch captured the championship title today after skiing 50 kilometers to a Main Street finish in Hayward, Wisc. in 2:11:47.9. Dussault captured the women’s championship title with a time of 2:26:39.5.

Bryan Cook, Rhinelander, Wisconsin, skied to a second-place finish in 2:12:30.7 followed by Dan Roycroft, Alberta, Canada, with a third-place time of 2:12:35.2.

In the women’s skate division, Holly Brooks, Anchorage, Alaska, with a time of 2:26:39.6 followed by Swedish-born Kristina Strandberg now living in Bend, Oregon, skied to a third-place finish with a time of 2:26:49.7.

Skiing to the  54K Subaru Classic Championship was, Gus Kaeding of Marquette, Michigan, and Martina Stursova of the Czech Republic, skied to victory during the 54-kilometer Subaru Classic American Birkebeiner.

Kaeding finished the Birkie classic race in 3:00:27.8, and Stursova finished in 3:26:16.3.
Placing second in the men’s classic Birkie division, Bjorn Daehlie of Norway, finished in 3:00:27.9; and Geir Strandbakke. Norway, placed third in 3:00:56.0.

Placing second in the women’s classic Birkie division, Hilary Patzer, St. Paul, Minnesota, finished in 3:33:03, and Kelly Skillicorn, Winona, Minn., placed third in 3:33:30.9.

Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, said skiers from several foreign nations, including Nicaragua, Australia and Japan, and 44 U.S states, including Hawaii, North Carolina and Alaska, had perfect conditions for the 36th anniversary event.

Honorary Starter Sheila Wise, the wife of the late Tony Wise, creator of the American Birkebeiner and Telemark Resort, sent 7,461 skiers on their way beginning at 8:20 a.m. this morning.

Temps hovered at 17 degrees, then climbed as 18 waves of skiers left the starting gates.

The American Birkebeiner is modeled after the Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet, which in turn was inspired by the historic rescue of the infant who would become a celebrated king, Haakon Haakonsson IV. The race symbolically re-creates the flight of the prince, carried on skis by warriors called birkebeiners for their protective birch bark leggings.

Richard Pierce, an engineer at his own firm, Pierce Engineers in Milwaukee and Madison, has skied 23 Birkebeiners, and his best friend Jeff Cummisford, a Vice President-Field Manager with Johnson Bank in the Milwaukee area, has skied 22 Birkebeiners., portrayed the Norwegian warriors who rescued the infant prince on a trecherous cross country trek in the middle of a 13th-century civil war. 

On the trail with them was Richard’s daughter Lyndsey Lewis from Fort Collins, Colorado, who portrayed Inga of Varteig the mother of Prince Haakon. Lyndsey is a former Wisconsin High School Champion, member of the Midwest Junior Olympic Team and an NCAA collegiate skier for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Cloud State University. She is now a stay at home mom of three boys and owner of  LyndseyLew Photography

In the final stretch before the finish line, the friends, dressed in full birkebeiner regalia including helmets, shields and wooden skis, exchanged the baby doll they’d been carrying for 54 kilometers for 17-month-old Piercen Lewis, the infant portraying baby Prince Haakon. Piercen’s mother, Lyndsey skied the full 54 kilometers dressed in a traditional Norwegian wool jumper, hat and on wooden skis. The trio met up with Prince Haakon on Main Street and skied into the finish together.

“The historic re-enactment, and the second largest field ever made the Birkie’s 36th anniversary one for the books,” Zuelsdorff said. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”


CXC Elite Sprints

Junior Birkie

American Birkebeiner