[UPDATE 1/16: Link to 15k results fixed]
As is tradition with the Frosty Freestyle, the weather played havoc with Huron Meadows Metropark in the days leading up the race. As early as the Wednesday before the race, there was full snow coverage and awesome grooming over the entire 15k nature-snow course. By late Thursday night, it was all gone. Temperatures in the 50's and rain had erased the majority of snow from southeast Michigan.
But the 2.5k Buck's Run trail, lovingly covered in man-made snow, thick from edge-to-edge, survived.
Too bad parts of it were submerged under a foot-and-a-half of melt water from all that melting natural snow...
In what is now considered routine, the master of snow and trail, Adam Haberkorn of the Metroparks, directed the crew in a herculean effort to remove the water and repair the trail. A pump was used to clear the water from near the lodge. The lakes in the woods required a different method: a truck-mounted auger was used to drill a hole through the frozen ground to the porous sand underneath, which happily absorbed the water like a sponge. With Friday's natural snowfall and a little more man-made snow, not a skier could detect that water had covered sections of the trail just a day before.
Just another day of trail grooming at Huron Meadows.
The course was fast. A couple short sections turned into sugar snow as the race progressed, and the wind-blown return had a bit of natural snow that skied slower than the rest of the course. Racers who took advantage to the classic track on downhills or used it to marathon skate found it to be fast.
Photo: Greg Sadler Photography. More photos at http://www.backprint.com/gregsadlerphotography)
From the fifties to single-digits. By race time at 10:30am, the temperature had risen to the teens. Everyone was waxed with the coldest glide wax. The trail was groomed wide, with a classic track on one side. A little wind (but not too windy) greeted skiers on the start line. Sun occasionally peeked from behind the overcast skies.
The 5k freestyle race was fast. Twelve-year old phenom Arianne Olson (AKA, "Jessie Diggins") of Holland, Michigan, came back and defended her 2017 women's title with a win in 14:50, a blazing 2:58 / kilometer pace. Ann Arbor's Sonia Glab (age 16), just just 15 seconds behind, took second in 15:05. And just behind her was ANOTHER Olson from Holland, Abby Olson (15) who took third in 15:36. Note the three girls were third, fourth, and fifth overall including men!
In the men's race, Matt Villalta (21, of Ann Arbor) skied at a 2:53 pace to win in 14:26. Northville's Daniele Castiglioni tried his best, but finished three seconds behind in 14:29. William Speece, was glad he drove up from Ohio. The North Jackson native took third in 17:15. Villalta was second overall in last year's 5k event: obviously he returned this year in good form to take the top position.
The 15k women's race was won by Kaitlyn Patterson of Ann Arbor, who missed last year's race. She skied the race by herself, winning in 38:57. Grand Rapids' Elizabeth Embrick was second in 43:11, with last year's third place finisher, Laura Kangas of Pinckney, taking third again in 43:49.
The men's race was close - very close, with a sprint to the finish by the top three men. In an exciting finish, Vasa's Sam Holmes retained his 15k title with the win in 34:35, edging out last year's second place finisher Jay Woodbeck. Kyle Hanson was edged out by Jay to take third in 34:37. The top men finished together in less than two seconds. Both are members of Team NordicSkiRacer; Woodbeck lives in Farmington Hills, Hanson in Wayne. They skied a 2:18 / kilometer pace.
Holmes, Woodbeck, and Hanson were a minute and a half faster than any other skier...they lapped me out on the course like I was standing still. (Thanks for the shout-out as you passed me, Jay!)
Although many skiers thanked me or Ken Roth for another fabulous race, in fact it was the efforts of Huron Meadows Metropark to make sure we had a course, and Epic Races to organize the timing, food, and awards this year, for both the Frosty Freestyle and Krazy Klassic. Ken (mayor of Northville), Adam Haberkorn and I were happy to let Epic take the leadership this year. Ken and I simply provided a supporting role. We're thrilled to have Epic Races on board to help take the Frosty Fest to another level!