2015 Pennsylvania Nordic Championship Recap!

The 2015 Pennsylvania Nordic Championships were held at Wilderness Lodge in Wattsburg, PA for the second year in a row on February 8, 2015.  Although warm temperatures and a 90% chance of rain threatened to turn the expertly groomed course to slush, not a single drop of rain fell on the event.  In the end, the Pennsylvania Cross-Country Skiers Association (PACCSA) held one of the most exciting races in recent memory. 

For 2015, PACCSA used a new 10k loop for both the classic and skate races which included a cut-off for the 5k classic.  The course highlighted everything that Wilderness Lodge has to offer, including technical rolling terrain, sweeping downhills, steep climbs, and tranquil wooded areas.  The grooming crew at Wilderness had to deal with nearly two feet of lake effect powder during the 10 days leading up to the race, followed by unseasonably warm temperatures during the 24 hours proceeding race day.  Despite these challenges, the trails were in outstanding shape and groomed to perfection.  The only negative was the fact that the wet snow resulted in brutally slow skiing conditions.   

PACCSA broke last year’s record for participation and attracted skiers from Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio and West Virginia to race against Pennsylvania’s finest.  PACCSA thanks everyone who came out to enjoy the races.    

The day started off with the classic races, which included 5k and 10k events.  In the Adult 5k Classic race, Wilderness “Wildcat” coach Melanie Nickou had the best overall time (for both women and men) with a 26:54 effort.  She was followed by Devon O’Hern (32:24) and Kathy Schreckengost (35:46).  The Men’s 5k classic win was claimed by Daniel Kowalik (27:51), who was followed VERY closely by Harry Wright (28:01) and Phillip Rewer (28:02).  The Youth 5k Classic Boy’s title was taken by 15 year old Simon Zehr, whose time of 25:33 was faster than any of the adult competitors.  Simon was followed by Colton Martin (25:55) and Rylan Hodgson (27:05).  In the Girl’s 5k classic, victory was claimed by Rochester Nordic’s Grace Mattern (28:05), with Leah Shaffer (28:35) and Gwen Wright (33:18) close behind. 

In the Adult 10k Classic, 2014 Men’s Pennsylvania Nordic Champion Jim Samuels showed excellent form, winning in 41:29.  Jim was followed by Jared Cregg (41:48) and Michael Schaefer (43:22).  Pamela Jewell skied alone in the Women’s 10k Classic, posting a winning time of 1:06:56.  In the Youth 10k Classic, Wilderness “Wildcat” Tony Mathie tore up the course, taking victory in 42:13.  

Next came the Kids’ Races, which are always a highlight of the Pennsylvania Nordic Championships.  For 2015, 25 children competed in the 1k and 3k events.  In the 1k race, PACCSA Yellowjacket Matthew South skied to a first place finish.  In the 3k race, Rochester Nordic took both the Boys’ and Girls’ titles, with Rylan Hodgson posting a time of 17:12, and Grace Mattern finishing in 19:09.  Everyone who participated in the kids’ races received an award for their efforts.  Special thanks goes out to all of the coaches and families involved in PACCSA’s Yellowjackets program, the Wilderness Lodge Wildcats, Ohio Nordic’s Hilltoppers, and Rochester Nordic’s Youth Skiing Program.      

The skate races proved to be fiercely battled.  In the Adult 10k Skate race, Wendin Smith took victory on the women’s side (47:17) followed by Kathy Schreckengost (her second podium finish of the day in 52:43) and Lydia Maring (57:12).  On the men’s side, less than a minute separated the top three with John Lynch in first (38:44) followed by Craig Mattern (39:22) and Frank Pattison (39:24).  In the Youth 10k Skate race, members of the Wilderness Wildcats stole the show.  On the girls' side, Wildcat Haile Martin won with a time of 42:49, followed by teammate Rowan Hayes (44:45) and Hilltopper Amelia Seger (51:03).  In the boys’ race, a trio of Wildcats took the podium with Michael Maring taking the win (36:16), followed by Tony Mathie (his second podium of the day at 38:48) and Colton Martin (also his second podium at 38:50).  What is truly remarkable about the efforts of these three young men is that their times were all good for podium finishes in the Adult 10k Skate race.  Also of note was the fact that the speedy Michael Maring literally set the pace for the 20k leader’s group before peeling off for his victory in the Youth 10k Skate.       

The main event was the 20k Skate “PA Nordic Champion” race.  2014 Champion Nancy Herbst of Erie, PA, defended her title in style with a time of 1:22:05 in the women’s championship.  Kristin Lazzara earned silver in 1:30:07, with Melanie Nickou taking bronze in 1:32:20 (her second podium of the day).  The men’s race was full of excitement, with 2014 PA Nordic Champion Jim Samuels -- fresh off of his earlier victory in the 10k Classic -- leading a pack of 5 skiers at the mid-way point.  Hot on his heels were Maryland’s Sheldon Degenhardt, PACCSA skier Jason Zimmerman, and Ohioans Tom Franek & Michael Schaefer.  With just 1k to go, the pack of 5 had whittled down to two, with Degenhardt and Zimmerman glued together.  This set up an exciting sprint finish, with Sheldon Degenhardt claiming the men’s 2015 PA Nordic Championship for Maryland in a time of 1:14:04.  Jason Zimmerman’s time for silver was 1:14:08, with perennial champion Jim Samuels taking bronze in 1:15:19. 

It was a great day of racing and fun was had by all who participated.  PACCSA would like to extend special thanks to the Presque Isle Cycling Club, Miles of Smiles Timing Services, Whole Foods Market of Wexford (which donated the post-race oranges and bananas), and REI, which has always been a great supporter.  We also thank Wilderness Lodge and the Janes family for inviting us back to their spectacular venue, providing top-notch grooming, and being exceptional hosts.  Also, congratulations to PACCSA Race Directors Brian Joly & Dave Jenkins, as well as all of the fearless PACCSA volunteers who helped make this a successful event.

Most of all, congratulations to Sheldon Degenhardt and Nancy Herbst, the 2015 Pennsylvania Nordic Champions!