IRONWOOD — In what was thought to be the most exciting race and finish in SISU Ski Fest history,
Doug DeBold, of Wayzata, Minn ., raced to a razor-thin win over Santiago Ocariz, of Moorhead, Minn ., in the 42k Marathon-Men's Classic even though both finished in the same time of 2:24:06.
The race was determined by a photo finish and it was lucky the camera had six sensors, because all were all needed to make the final call.
"I had no idea who won," DeBold said.
Santiago said DeBold took off and went into the lead at the 14k mark, but he and Chris Pappathopoulos started "reeling in" DeBold and both said they knew they would catch him eventually. And they did coming down the home stretch.
"It was a sprint to the finish," Santiago said. "I kept thinking I've gotta go harder, but I couldn't. My legs and even my arms were cramping up after skiing hard for two hours and 24 minutes. It was a pretty good suffer-fest."
Even Pappathopoulos was coming hard at the end and thought he "had a chance to win." He would finish .01 seconds behind the top two.
But the camera said DeBold prevailed, even though being a good Samaritan may have cost Santiago the race.
"Right before the start, I broke a strap on my pole," DeBold said. "Santy went to his car and gave me one of his poles. I would never have won with just one pole."
Santiago shrugged it off and said it was "all friendly competition."
Ironwood's Will Andresen was the top local finisher as he finished 13th in a time of 2:46:17. Jason Slining and David Harkness, both of Ironwood, placed 20th and 27th respectively in a race with 75 skiers.
Live Long and Prosper
That was an old saying from the Star Trek TV show in the late '60's, but it could also apply to the SISU Ski Fest. That was the sentiment among skiers, ski fans, volunteers and race officials on Saturday as the SISU continues to grow and become more successful each year.
"Registrations are up considerably, just shy of 600," new Race Director Jonathon Rulseh said. "It's been a great day and the SISU has been a great success. SISU is now in its fifth year and it's still developing. The word is spreading and it will keep growing, for sure."
Ski racer, Dave Rowe, of Ironwood, summed up SISU V in the same way as nearly every other skier.
"It was a very good day out there," Rowe said. "The course was great and the temperatures were very favorable for good times. It was like a town party and everyone had a great time."
The SISU caught a break this year when temperatures "soared" into the high-twenties after days of wind-chill temperatures approaching 45-below zero.
And last year, SISU was forced to cancel with very unusual January warm weather, rain and melting snow.
Rulseh gave credit to Course Chief, Eric Anderson, for his countless hours of grooming the course and Anderson commented on the course on the SISU website a few days before the skiing started.
"The SISU Ski Fest course is looking super," Anderson said. "The course is really shaping up. We have been grooming deep and wide for the last four weeks. There are no thin areas. The snow is better than we have seen in the last five years."
Rulseh and a number of ski racers said it was the nearly 250 volunteers that make the difference at the SISU.
"They're the glue that holds the SISU together and makes it run," he said. "Without the volunteers, SISU would not be possible. They're critical to its success."
Joan Rundman, of Hancock, Mich ., won the 21k Female Classic and said she will continue to support the SISU but not because she is a top finisher every year.
"I enjoy the SISU so much," Rundman said."They do a nice job organizing this event and I like the atmosphere. The volunteers and fans are wonderful people. The volunteers at the road crossings really cheer you on and that really helps. It lifts up your spirits, especially if your body is hurting at the time."
Paulette Niemi, of Ironwood, has raced in all five SISUs and she said the women skiers are very supportive of each other. She said they speak highly of the SISU and the course and that was why the event hade its best registration and competition this year.
Here's a look at how the other races went. Freestyle skiing is more like ice skating and is the faster, more popular style. The classic race is more like a running motion and fresh snow affects every step.
42k Marathon-Women's Classic
Kelly Skillicorn, of Winona, Minn ., blazed across the "Finnish" line in 2:43:55, over 16 minutes ahead of Audrey Weber, of Minneapolis.
"I definitely happy winning in my first SISU," Skillicorn said. "I didn't feel good at the start. I got up at 5 a.m. and came over from our cabin in Hayward. I started feeling better at the 15k."
Skillicorn said she broke away from the pack at that time and skied by herself. There were two men skiers in front of her and she always made sure she kept her distance but always wanted to be able to see them.
"I wasn't sure how close anyone was behind me because I never look back," Skillicorn said. "I stayed with the guys. The last 5k I really pushed it. I never want to slow down when I'm racing."
Skillicorn said skiing conditions were "perfect" with real good snow and tracks with the course being well-groomed and well-marked.
Wakefield's Sandra Pera took 11th place in 4:03:36.
42k Marathon-Men's Freestyle
Adam Swank, of Duluth, Minn. won in his second race in two attempts at the SISU. His winning time of 2:00:18 was almost two minutes faster than Anders Osthus of Duluth (2:02:17).
"I knew it would not be easy because there's good skiers here, so I kept going hard," Swank said. "I'm happy with my race, because I was ahead of the pack and on my own two-thirds of the way. Anders and I traveled up here together, so it was good he finished so high."
Swank said he "loves it up here" because the people are friendly and the snow is "fantastic."
He was the Marathon Freestyle winner the last time he raced in the SISU in 2010.
Ironwood's Rulseh was the top local finisher with a time of 2:07:45 and 8th place.
42k Marathon-Women's Freestyle
Clare Luby, of Madison, Wis ., won the gold in 2:15:35 and edged out second place finisher Jan Guenther of Long Lake, Minn (2:17:31). St. Paul's Christi Nowak took third in 2:20:24 and Vicki Asmus finished fourth.
Ironwood's Niemi skied with Asmus and took a fifth place.
"It's more fun skiing together and we took turns taking the lead, especially in the flats," Niemi said. "I'm happy with my race. My goal was a top 5 finish. We had real nice weather today."
Only a true yooper would call 28 degree weather "nice."
Carolyn Andresen, of Eau Claire, Wis. and formerly of Ironwood, took a ninth place finish.
21k Heikki Lunta Half Marathon-Men's Classic
Twenty year-old Sam Holmes,of Houghton, Mich. won in 1:09:22 and beat his second place competition Seth Mares, of Sarasota Springs, NY by over five minutes (1:14:30).
"I started out at a decent pace and I found myself alone, which surprised me," said Holmes, who has skied for Michigan Tech University for three years . "I didn't feel worried at all. I looked back and no one was there. I wanted to get under one hour and 10 minutes, that was my motivation and I made it."
Holmes started skiing at 1 1/2 years-old and was a competitive skier by seventh grade.
"This was a fun course," Holmes said. "It has stuff I'd never seen before like the downtown finish. That's interesting and something different. It's a good place for the community to come and watch."
Jim Waters, of Ontonagon, took a 14th place finish.
21k Heikki Lunta Half Marathon-Women's Classic
Joan Rundman (1:27:35) edged out Kate Ellis (1:29:17) of St. Paul, Minn. for first place.
"This was a good race for me," Rundman said. "I lost time and had no kick for awhile due to changing conditions such as the humidity. so I changed techniques and went to more double-pole and double-pole kick. I made up a lot of time there. I was not out there by myself, but as I skied through the hills, I felt I was breaking away and getting in the groove. I never look back-I just ski to my ability."
Melissa Santini, of Ontonagon, and Ironwood's Marianee Andresen finished in fourth and 11th place respectively.
21k Heikki Lunta-Men's freestyle
In another ultra-close, photo-finish race, Jeremiah Schubitzke, of Duluth, Minn. edged out Madison's Walter Meanwell for the top spot. Both were timed in 1:08:36.
Erik Lindstedt, of Eau Claire, was a close third with a time of 1:08:42 and Duluth's Tom Tedlund was fourth in 1:09:21. Only six one-hundreths of a second separated places one through three.
David Andresen, of Ironwood was the top local skier in this race. He was 22nd in a time of 1:21:42. Jim Washatka, of Mellen was 24th in 1:22:44.
21k Heikki Lunta-Women's Freestyle
Robin Edlund, of Duluth, Minn. raced to a first place finish (1:17:01) over Sue Schroeder, of Bovey, Minn. (1:20:37). Jackie Powers, of Ironwood, placed third in 1:22:41.
Emily Tuzee (1:26:4) and Kiersten Andresen (1:27:24) finished eighth and ninth respectively.
3k and 5k Junior-girls ages 10-13 and 14-18
Anna Edmunds, of Washburn, Wis. won the 3k junior race in ages 10-13 in 13:29. Erin Moening, of St.Paul, Minn. was the winner in 14-18 year-old age group in 18:40.
3k and 5k junior-boys ages 10-13 and 14-18
Nick Niemi, of Ironwood, took first place in 10:53 in the 10-13 age group. Kiah, Reily and
Blaze Hollenback, of Ironwood, placed sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Ironwood's Anthony Niemi was ninth and Wakefield's Devon Beyers was tenth.
There were no entries in the 5k junior boys ages 14-18.