From January 11-13, I had the pleasure of being at Rainbow Resort north of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota for the U.S. Junior Olympic Qualifying West Itasca Opener event on the diverse and challenging cross-country ski trails at Rainbow Resort.
It's a rare occurrence that the Junior Olympic Qualifier is held in Minnesota, with only the Duluth area hosting an event before and this year's races being the first to be held in Northwest Minnesota. The Junior Olympic Qualifier is for 10-19 year old skiers, both male and female.
Amy Xu along with her husband Mike and Doug and Linda Shumann own Rainbow Resort and it’s one beautiful place! I've been there many times over the years and that is where we have one of our Dick Beardsley Marathon Running Camps each fall You could not find better hosts for all they do!
Over 150 skiers from Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois were competing. You could not have asked for nicer weather for skiing! Light snow fell all three days and the temps were in the high teens above zero and very little if any wind.
I shared announcing duties along with World Class XC skier Chad Geise from Mora, Minnesota. What a talented athlete and nice young man Chad is! One of the biggest XC ski races in the country "The Vassaloppet" is held in Mora every February, Chad is going for his 7th consecutive victory there this year in the 58K freestyle race!
On Saturday the races were 1.5 kilometer sprint races. They had qualifying heats and you moved on based on your time against everyone else. To get to the final you would have had to ski in four races!
The races on Saturday were the classic division then on Sunday the events were either 5K or 10K freestyle or skating as many people call it. Those kids were hauling! The top boys were skiing 10K in under 25 minutes!
The race successfully finished up around 2:30 Sunday afternoon with the awards ceremony. Some of my best friends in the world, Mike and Karen Dunlap, from Sioux Falls were also there to help out with the event and we all had a wonderful time in the snow covered forests of Northern Minnesota!