2017 PA Nordic Championship Race Recap!

The 2017 edition of PACCSA’s Pennsylvania Nordic Championships took place on February 5th, 2017 at Wilderness Lodge in Wattsburg, PA.  After last year’s poor snow season, combined with this January’s snow drought, fitness was a concern for many racers.  Despite this, over 100 skiers participated in hotly contested Classic, Skate and Kids’ events.  Limited snowfall and a recent thaw had forced the cancellation of the Highmark Quad races a week earlier, and for a time, it looked like PACCSA’s race might need to be rescheduled.  However, the snow gods and expert groomers at Wilderness Lodge combined to prepare an absolutely flawless course. 

Classic Races

The prologue event was the 5k Classic.  Kick waxing was made challenging due to a surprise snow squall that dropped nearly an inch of powder at the start.  Despite this, 41 racers fought a valiant battle over Wilderness Lodge’s challenging 5k loop. 

In the Men’s division, Tony Mathie showed off his monster double-pole, winning with a time of 20:08.  Following him were Byrncliff Nordic standouts Tony Hoffman (20:52) and Justin Gabreski  (21:32).  In the Woman’s 5k Classic, Wilderness Wildcat coach Melanie Nickou defended her 2015 5k win with a time of 26:28.  Taking second and third were Erie stalwart Kristin Lazzara (27:07) and Sharon native Dorothy Cerroni (30:52).  The Youth 5k Classic races were dominated by a group of Ohio Nordic standouts.  The Girl’s race was swept by the Hilltoppers, with Gwendolyn Wright taking victory in 30:04, Eline Lyngaas Torgerson in second (30:48), and Kylie Blackburn in third (41:00).  In the Boys race, Hilltopper Johnny Patterson won in 28:49, followed by PACCSA Yellowjacket’s James Fenn (30:13) and Wildcat Andrew Brown.

Kids’ Fun Races

Next came the Kids’ Fun Races where enthusiastic youngsters tried their hands at 1.2k classic and 2.4k freestyle events.  In the 1.2k, future stars Skylar Hopkins of the Wildcats and Roberto Novelli of the Yellowjackets skied to first place finishes in the girls and boys divisions.  In the 2.4k race, Wildcat Luke Brown skated to the boys victory, followed by Yellowjacket teammates Alessandro Novelli and Matthew South.  Julia Martinez won the girls 2.4k for the Hilltoppers, with teammate Katherine Hamilton in second and Wildcat Maddison Barner in third.  Every Kid’s Race participant received a prize for doing their best.  We thank all of the youth coaches and families involved in Ohio Nordic’s Hilltoppers, the PACCSA Yellowjackets, and the Wilderness Wildcats.  We truly appreciate the good work being performed by these excellent youth programs.

Skate Races

The skating events were as exciting as ever and played host to some of the most interesting stories of this year’s Pennsylvania Nordic Championships.  A total of 47 skiers competed in the skate races, with 17 vying for the title of “Pennsylvania Nordic Champion” in the 20k event.  Unfortunately, problems with the West Field area of the 10k skate loop forced PACCSA to modify the course slightly.  However, this in no way detracted from the competition.        

 In the Youth 5k Skate, Yellowjacket James Fenn won the boy’s division in 21:47.  Fenn was followed by Wildcat Isaac Hammer (25:11) and Hilltopper Cameron Scacheri (26:45).  In the Girl’s 5k Skate, Hilltopper Eline Lyngaas Torgerson won in 25:50, with teammates Gwendolyn Wright (26:10) and Kylie Blackburn (28:58) taking second and third.  In the Adult 10k Skate, Simon Zehr powered to victory in the men’s race with an impressive time of 27:02.  Coming in second and third were PACCSA skiers Ryan Eckel (29:31) and Alan “The Skike-Meister” Hough (30:49).  In the Women’s 10k Skate, 2015 Pennsylvania Nordic Champion Nancy Herbst from Erie flew to victory with a time of 29:17.  Herbst was followed by Erie skiers Kristin Lazzara (31:35) and Kathy Schreckengost (39:31).

The greatest drama occurred in the 20k Skate “PA Nordic Champion” race.  The Women’s 20k proved to be a battle between Erie’s Pamela McCormick and Wilderness Wildcat coach Melanie Nickou.  McCormick exhibited a smooth and seemingly effortless form, earning the 2017 Championship title with a time of 1:00:40.  Nickou took second in a fast 1:05:56. 

The Men’s 20k was anticipated to be a showdown between past champions Sheldon Degenhardt of Maryland and Wildcat coach Jim Samuels of Fairview.  However, newcomers Tony Mathie and Michael Maring – who are both protégés of Coach Samuels and the Wildcat program -- had other plans.  From the start, Mathie set a punishing pace, with Samuels, Degenhardt and Maring doing their best to maintain contact.  As they entered the second lap, only Samuels was able to match Mathie’s impressive effort.  Ultimately, during the final kilometers, Mathie found another gear and streaked to the 2017 Championship title in just 49:48.  Samuels finished a strong second in 50:57, with Degenhardt completing the podium in 53:42.  Maring finished a close 4th in 54:15. 

So there you have it!  Congratulations to Pamela McCormick and Tony Mathie, the 2017 Pennsylvania Nordic Champions!

Thank You All 

Congratulations to PACCSA Race Director Brian Joly and all of the fearless PACCSA volunteers who made this event a success.  PACCSA extends a special thanks to the following sponsors and partners:  Cliff Bar, Cycle Sport & Ski of Greensburg, Emergen-C, Erie Sports Commission, Findley Lake Sporting Goods, Fischer Sports, Frischman & Rizza, GoPro, Miles of Smiles Timing Services, REI, Road ID, Skike PA, Thick Bikes of Pittsburgh, United States Ski Pole Company, and the Erie Wingate by Wyndham.  We also thank Sierra Tufts of WICU Erie and Jack Hanrahan of the Erie Times-News for media coverage.

Finally, PACCSA expresses enormous appreciation to Wilderness Lodge, the Janes family, and their staff for being excellent hosts, lending us their trails, and providing top-notch grooming.  We'll see you again in 2018!