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Liebner and Wichern Vasa Grand Champions

Thu, Feb  18, 2010 - By Jim Datsko

The North American VASA  introduced two-day stage racing to the midwest ski scene the weekend of  Feb. 13-14, 2010. Like the Tour de France tests the athlete over various stages, the combined VASA tested the Nordic skiers ability to follow up a fast skating time on Saturday’s VASA with a fast classic time the very next day in the Gran Travers. The racer with the best both-days Nordic combined time claimed some nice hardware at the Sunday late morning award’s ceremony.  The Timber Ridge banquet hall was packed with post-race adrenalin pumped racers eagerly awaiting announcement of the 2010 Grand Champions while enjoying homemade Chicken soup along with the usual post race replenishment snacks. This challenge brought out the best athletes thanks to the prizes generously donated by the award sponsors:

  • GRAND CHAMPION - best combined time for 50km Freestyle & 16km Classic races wins trophy and Fischer Carbonlite (Male) and Rossignol Xium (Female) skate skis sponsored by Grayling's Cross Country Ski Shop
  • RESERVE GRAND CHAMPION - best combined time for 27km Freestyle & 16km Classic races wins trophy and Salomon Equipe 9 racing skate skis sponsored by Cross Country Ski Headquarters of Higgins Lake - Roscommon

The male Grand Champion was Andy Liebner, of Marquette with a 50K freestyle in 2:23:20 followed by a 16K classic in 16:41 for a punishing combined Nordic time of 3:11:01. No other racer came close to this pace. However I take pride as the runner-up was fellow Elk Rapids skier, Jeff Koch in 3:20:03.

The female Grand Champion took her challenge very seriously as the grapevine indicated she was taking some special race-prep coaching from one of our longtime VASA board members, and it paid off. Amy Wichern won her new pair of racing skis with a 50K freestyle in 3:02:11 followed on Sunday with 1:01:40 in the Gran Travers Classic for a VASA combined time of 4:04:51. Amy had pulled so far ahead on Saturday’s skating clock time, that even though runner-up Tracy Hardin made up a minute and a half in the Gran Travers classic, Amy’s time lead was securely nailed down.


Bob Smith with the two Grand Champions, Andy Liebner, and Amy Wichern

Winners of the XC Ski Shop Grand Champion Awards shown receiving their skis from XC Ski Shop manager Bob Smith, are: Andy Liebner, and Amy Wichern.


Some of us consider our fun-meter fully pegged by 27K, and that group produced the 2010 Reserve Grand Champions. In a very close race, Dennis Paull overcame a second place finish to Cliff Onthank in the VASA 27K to fully close up Saturday’s 2:17:00  time gap and pull ahead by 11 seconds in Sunday’s Gran Travers. That supreme effort yielded a Nordic combined time of 2:13:35 and the valuable prize of new Salomon skate racing skis for Denny Paull. He is now cleared to relax and go back to saving your pet’s life.

When Bob Frye donated the shiny new Salomon racing skis to support his Reserve Grand Champion Award he told me that model was known as “the Corvette of racing skis.” Being a devoted fan of 1960’s Sting Rays I was all ears. Fittingly those Corvette skis were won by a lady whose business is insuring classic Corvettes and other vintage cars with Hagerty Insurance. The female Reserve Grand Champion for 2010 is Susan Vigland with a Nordic combined time of 2:39:06.

Susan Viglandand Denny Paull, Reserve Grand Champions

Winners of the Cross Country Ski Headquarters Reserve Grand Champion Award: Sue Vigland, and Denny Paull receiving their new racing skis.