With hundreds of skiers from all over on hand at Whistler Olympic Park, local racers defended home turf well on Saturday (Feb. 23) by topping a number of categories in the third annual Sigge’s P’ayakentsut.
Whistler’s Camille Cheskey and Pemberton’s Sylvie Allen took first place in the men’s and women’s 30-kilometre races, respectively, while teen skier Nicki Murdoch was the fastest female over the 15 km distance, adding to a number of great showings by locals.
Cheskey was thrilled with his victory, completing his race in one hour, 31 minutes, 25 seconds to beat the field by 75 seconds.
“I’m very happy,” said Cheskey, a former Callaghan Valley Training Centre athlete. “On race day, you have this idea in your head of how things should unfold, so when they do … it’s unbelievable.
“A win’s a win, but putting a race together like that — where your body can respond to what your mind is thinking — is something else.”
Cheskey was part of a small group of skiers breaking away on the first lap, then set a blistering pace through the prime section — the climb away from the stadium to open the second lap — and continued to pull away through the race’s second half.
“I took off on the hill and nobody else followed,” said Cheskey, who also claimed cash for the fastest prime time. “I got to the top and my coach said, ‘Just keep going, ski on your own.’ So I decided to keep pushing overtop of the hill and built up a gap.
“It was a pretty cool feeling to ski the last 15 K alone.”
Other impressive local finishes in the men’s 30 km came from Dave Burch (1:38:39), who was sixth overall and first in the 35 to 39 age group, and Brent Murdoch (1:43:31), who won the 50 to 54 division with a 13th-place finish overall.
Allen clocked in at 1:44:38 and similarly held a comfortable advantage when reaching the finish.
“I felt really great,” said Allen. “It was a great course … and overall the conditions were great. I had a faster time than last year, and I’m probably most stoked that my body held together.”
Allen said she was motivated when finding out midway through her first lap that she was out to an early lead, which was never threatened the rest of the way. She also captured the prime as the only skier to complete the climb in less than two minutes.
Whistler’s Maureen Harriman finished 1:48 off Allen’s winning pace, which put her on the podium in third spot overall and atop the women’s 45 to 49 race.
Phil Villeneuve of Canmore, Alta., was triumphant in the men’s 50 km main event, beating out Elliot Holtham by less than a second in a finish-line sprint. Villeneuve, the third-place finisher each of the last two years, set a new record time of 2:27:25 as he and Holtham were more than eight minutes clear of third place.
“It was a great little cat and mouse battle we had,” said Villeneuve. “We broke apart about halfway through and it was just the two of us from there.”
Whistler’s Munny Munro (2:52:05) had the top local result in the 50 km, finishing seventh.
“I totally didn’t expect that, so I was really happy,” said Munro, who credited the work of wax techs who had his skis running well on Saturday.
In the women’s 50 km, Oregon’s Sarah Max took first place with a time of 2:45:29.
Nicki Murdoch was almost two minutes ahead of the next 15 km women’s finisher, crossing the line in 51:13 to also beat the men’s field in the distance. Vancouver’s Alain Prat won the men’s race, but Pemberton’s Tony Feuz edged Russell Stothers for the runner-up spot.
Several Whistler youth skiers were also excellent in their respective 15 km races. Michael Murdoch (53:24) finished second for the boys, while Joe Davies (57:53) and Fraser Doak (58:51) were also in the top five. Lauren Kilfoy McKay (59:27) was the top local in the girls’ event, and more Sea to Sky skiers poured over the line behind her with Alisa Feuz (1:00:24), Benita Peiffer (1:00:36), Mila Wittenberg (1:00:37) and Kaede Kawano (1:01:01) taking the next four positions.
Lou Gibson (49:35) was the winner on the 10 km sit-ski course. Visit www.zone4.ca to view full results.