A brisk Saturday morning at Trail Creek Nordic Center made for near-perfect conditions for the 70 or so racers who braved the morning chill for a bit of holiday racing.
Among them, Cirque Gammelin cruised well ahead of the 10-kilometer field as he crossed the line in first place in 29 minutes, 45 seconds — 21 seconds ahead of George Cartwright in second place.
The Alta native and current senior Nordic racer for Bowdoin College in Massachusetts returned Saturday morning to Trail Creek, not so much with designs of winning but more for an opportunity to see some live racing before he heads back east and resumes the NCAA carnival circuit.
The Betty Woolsey Classic allowed him to test his lungs’ performance at high elevation. It also offered a chance to experience quintessential Wyoming cross-country ski racing, where just about anything can be seen from the grooved tracks.
“There was a deer carcass on the course, which was pretty exciting,” the Alta native said with a laugh. “It was pretty new, because it was on top of the new grooming, so that’s always fun. Racing in Wyoming is great.”
The picked-apart carcass aside, Saturday’s race served as both an opportunity for community racing and a chance for some of the more goal-oriented skiers in Jackson Hole to shake holiday rust from their legs.
Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club’s Birch Klomparens broke loose from the lulls of Christmas break as the top woman in the 10-km race, going 40:43 for the win and 11th place overall.
“To be quite honest, because this is just a small local race, I was just trying to get a good workout in,” she said. “Yesterday I was thinking I was just going to ski this easy. So knowing I can be flexible and kind of change my plans like that and still have a good outcome makes me feel really good.”
It’s a great little jolt of promise for Klomparens, because her biggest race of the season so far is peeking over the horizon. The Ski Club is set to host an Intermountain Division Junior Nationals Qualifier race on Jan. 17 and 18 on the same course she clipped her 10-km on Saturday.
And that was, essentially, the primary focus of the race.
“Having the opportunity to do a 5 or a 10K on our course here and just feel what that’s like, they need to find those gears in certain distances,” Ski Club Nordic program director Ben Morley said. “To do it at home, in a low pressure environment is kind of priceless really.”
The coming race will serve as both a nationals qualifier and as a high school race, and Klomparens has her eyes on punching her first ticket to Junior Nationals there after entering the season with perhaps her highest fitness level yet.
“I’m just hoping to keep my training really solid, and then perform well at the Junior Nationals qualifiers and hopefully qualify,” she said. “And then maybe the top half of my age group once I’m there, but we’ll see. It’s a big goal.”
She’s not alone in having carried big goals with her on the tracks Saturday at Trail Creek. Gammelin is approaching his final season of collegiate racing back in Massachusetts, and he has places and qualifications on his mind as well.
“I think my goals are to be in consistent Top 30 finishes in the carnival circuit, that’ll be really great if I can do that,” he said. “[Qualifying for] NCAAs would be an awesome reach goal, but it’s definitely a reach goal.”