FAIRBANKS — A pair of University of Alaska Anchorage skiers outsprinted a former Alaska Nanook to win the freestyle division of the Sonot Kkaazoot 50-kilometer cross-country ski race Saturday afternoon on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks.
On a cool and breezy day where the temperatures were in the single digits, UAA’s Viktor Brannmark outsprinted teammate Lasse Moelgaard and former Nanook Cody Priest to win the grueling 50K race from the William R. Wood Memorial Foot Bridge on the Chena River to the Jim Whisenhant Ski Trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area and back.
“This is the hardest race I’ve ever done in my life,” Brannmark said as he stood on the frozen Chena River in the center of the Golden Heart City. “I was glad to see the finish line.”
Brannmark completed the grueling race in 2 hours, 37 minutes, 7.5 seconds, to finish 6.8 seconds ahead of Moelgaard and 10.4 seconds ahead of Priest.
An inch or so of tough snow, cooler than normal temperatures and a sometimes brisk wind during the final 10 kilometers on the Chena River made the race tougher than usual, according to Priest.
“It was really slow out there,” Priest said. “It was good skiing with those two guys.”
Priest acknowledged the cool temperatures made things a bit difficult.
“I think every part of me was cold at some point during the race,” he said.
Moelgaard posted a time of 2:37:14.3 and Priest crossed the line in 2:37:17.9.
A pair of Alaska Nanooks rounded out the top five, with Max Olex posting a 2:41:16.0 for fourth place and Alex Morris take the fifth spot in 2:42:41.9.
Tyson Flaharty won the men’s 50K classic race in 3:07:49.8. Since he started 30 minutes in front of the freestyle group, Flaharty finished just behind the lead pack.
“I was hoping to finish ahead of those guys,” Flaharty said. “I could see them coming with about 5K left and I thought I might be able to make it, but they finally caught me with about 1K to go.”
Flaharty said Friday night’s dump of about an inch of snow made the race difficult for everyone.
“The new snow really made it hard for everyone,” he said. “I couldn’t use the tracks on the White Bear Loop, so I was just running along the trail.”
Flaharty had another reason to hurry along on Saturday. His wife Davya is due any day now with their first child.
“I had my phone with me just in case,” he said. “She was due on Monday, so it could be any time now.”
West Valley High School skier Jonathan Koenig won the men’s 40K race in 2:24:47.0, while Gary Knuepfer was second in 3:13:14.8 and Bruce Gard was third in 3:13:31.9.
“It was slow and up at Birch Hill it was only one degree,” Koenig said. “Coming back on the Chena we started to get a little headwind, which made things tougher.”
Tristan Sayre won the men’s 20K race in 1:00:56.9, edging out Jesse Mayo by 0.6 seconds. Ben Koenig was third in 1:03:11.8.
50K age group winners were: Riley Troyer, Older Junior and Younger; Brannmark, Senior; Peter Abraham, Masters 1; Tyler Lewis, Masters 2; Max Kaufman, Masters 3; Gary Holton, Masters 4; Jim Lokken, Masters 6, Dave Edic, Masters 6; Raymond Halderman, Masters 7; Masters 7, Tom Wickwire, and Alan Delamere, Masters 10.
40K age group winners were: Jonathan Koenig, OJ and younger boys; Ross MacDuogall, Senior; Jeffrey Rose, Master 2; Brandon McGrath-Bernhard, Masters 3; Bruce Gard, Masters 5; Gary Knuepfer, Masters 6; Tom Livingston, Masters 7 and Don Pendergrast, Masters 8.
20K age group winners were: Logan Fox, Junior 5; Sam Delamere, Junior 4; Ti Donaldson, Junior 3, Sayre, Junior 2; Mayo, Junior 1; Colin Campbell, Senior; Damien Wilde, Masters 1, Ian Wright, Masters 2; Patrick Lovely, Masters 3; David Underwood, Masters 4; Ralph Destefano, Master 5. Wes Graf. Masters 6 and Keith Pollock, Masters 7.
Complete race results are in today’s Sports Scoreboard on Page C3.