Colorado skier wins Noquemanon marathon

MARQUETTE – A bitterly cold wind may have slowed down other skiers Saturday, but not Colorado’s Tad Elliott.

While spectators stomped their feet on the sidelines to keep warm, Elliot cruised up and down the course and blazed across the finish line in a time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 22 seconds to win the Noquemanon Ski Marathon’s 50-kilometer men’s classic race.

He raised his poles in triumph after crossing the line as he finished more than two minutes ahead of the next man, Chris Pappathopoulos of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, who clocked 2:33:49.

Elliott, who skis for Salomon Racing and Vail Elite, enjoyed the experience and had lots of praise for the course.

“This was really fun,” he said. “I think that’s what ski racing should turn into. I was really enjoying myself. To have all those transitions and a narrow trail in some places along with turns and downhills where you can make up a lot of time. I really enjoyed the course. It was in great shape.”

Elliott also hopes to compete again next year.

Adam Swank of Duluth, Minnesota, took third place in 2:39:10 and was pleased with his performance.

“I’m happy with it,” he said. “I felt strong and I was happy to hang in there for third. My goal was to try to get to the podium and it wasn’t something that I anticipated. It was just a lofty goal and I got it.”

While the people on the sidelines weren’t particularly enjoying the wind by that point, which was blowing pretty steadily, Swank did and said it helped “blow him across the line.”

Swank said that many reasons brought him to the Upper Peninsula for the race.

“I love Marquette and this course is fantastic,” he said. “They always do a great job and it’s a top-notch event. I’ve done it before and I plan to come back many times in the future.”

The first two area skiers to cross the line were Joey Graci, who finished sixth (2:44.55), and Joe Bettendorf (2:46.20), who took seventh. Both are from Marquette.

Bettendorf has competed in the race a lot and fell in love with the sport at a young age.

“I was born into skiing,” he said. “I’ve been skiing since I was little and I skied at Tech as did a bunch of other guys in the race. I’ll be back next year for sure.”

The first female racer to finish was Natalia Naryshkina of Verona, Wisconsin, in 2:51.40 and she took 12th place among all racers. She was followed by Minnesotans Claire Luby of St. Paul (3:02.55) and Erica Hett of Burnsville. (3:15.14).

Luby was excited to finish in second place after a rough outing in 2014.

“My time was a lot faster than last year,” she said with a laugh. “This is my fourth year skiing this race and last year didn’t deter me.”

Luby also loves the experience and says that’s what keeps bringing her back here.

“It’s a great atmosphere and everyone’s really friendly,” she said. “It’s a really pretty course. It’s a good time with good snow.”

This was Hett’s first year competing in the marathon after doing the 50K relay last year.

“This year, my friend and I wanted to try to do the whole thing,” she said. “My fiance is from Marquette, so this is a really important race for me. It was a lot of fun.”

Other top U.P. skiers in the 50K classic were Stephen Kuhl of Marquette in ninth, Erich Zeigler of Crystal Falls in 10th, Anders Nienstaedt of Iron Mountain in 14th and Mikael Kilpela of Marquette in 18th.

The top area woman skier in the race, who was ninth among all women, was Nancy Uschold of Marquette in 3:42:14. Marquette’s Mary Connor was 18th for the women in 4:18:29.5.

In the 50K freestyle, Robert Douglas of Honeoye Falls, New York, won in 2:20:41.7, not quite two minutes ahead of runner-up Cory Ellertson of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota (2:22:29.9).

From the area, Douglas Kozeluh was 18th overall in 2:33:48.7, while close behind were two more Marquette competitors, Andrew Stevens, 20th in 2:33:57.1, and Matthew Colligan, 23rd in 2:34:54.6.

First across the line for the women was Vicki Asmus of Marquette, 36th overall in 2:40:03.6, nearly six minutes ahead of women’s runner-up Kelly Skillicom of Winona, Minnesota. The third woman across was Angela Palomaki of Marquette, 68th overall in 2:51:46.2.

MacKenzi Kuhl and Lindsey Dehlin of Marquette won the 50K team relay in 3:06:14.8, about 17 1/2 minutes ahead of another Marquette pair, Bethany Wright and Erica Cousineau.

Mike Stoolmiller of Marquette was the 50K touring class winner in 3:31:10.1 with Jack Luukkonen of Au Train third in 4:08:37.0.

In the 24K classic, teenager Benjamin Wright of Marquette won in 1:08:47.8, nearly seven minutes ahead of runner-up Theo Jepsen of Madison, Wisconsin. Duane S. Palomaki of Ishpeming was 11th for the men in 1:26:24.7, while Michael Sauer of Marquette, Jeremy Steele of Negaunee and Julien Malherbe also broke into the top 20.

Joan Rundman of Hancock won the women’s 24K classic in 1:21:26.4 with Janet Koistenen of Gwinn fourth in 1:34:05.9 and Alyssa Padden, June Link and Christie Close of Marquette making the top 11.

For the 24K freestyle, Marquette teen Logan Zueger won the men’s title in 58:56.3, not quite two minutes ahead of another teen, Colin Koss of Bryant, Wisconsin. Austin Rose of Marquette was sixth among men in 1:03:52.0, while Luke Rambo, Thomas Ziegler and Doug Gordon of Marquette broke into the men’s top 20.

Erica O’Hearn of Traverse City won the women’s 24K freestyle in 1:04:34.8 with Hannah Ciesla of Marquette sixth in 1:16:23.1, and Sarah Harriger and Kristin Wodzinski of Marquette breaking into the top 20.

In the male 12K classic, Lance Rambo of Marquette won in 36:47.7, Ethan Hall of Marquette was third for the men in 42:16.3 and Scott Hickman of Au Train fifth for the men in 46:07.8. Gabrielle Hanson-Trudeau of Marquette topped area women in fifth in 1:00:12.6.

In the 12K freestyle, Clay Darling of Traverse City won in 29:07.1 with Stefan Nelson of Marquette ninth in 35:40.9. Isabel Carr of Marquette paced area women, coming in 10th among women in 38:38.3.

In the 15-mile snowshoe race, Jeffrey Devries of Grand Rapids won by nearly 15 minutes in 1:41:24.2, while Neal Collick of Negaunee was third among men in 2:01:52.5 and Dana Sherry of Negaunee and Jay Lonsway of Marquette also breaking into the top 10.

Olivia Juntila of Marquette had the fastest women’s time of 2:11:03.0, nearly 25 minutes ahead of the next woman.

In the 500-meter adaptive ski race, Camille Bigsby of Marquette turned in the fastest time of 2:16.6, with Joy Williams of Marquete second among women and Troy Connors of Negaunee turning in the men’s top time of 3:05.0.