Showshoers glide to top finishes

G. Sean Kelly

It wasn’t exactly a home course advantage, but it was close enough.Racing at the Solitude Ski Resort Village Trails outside of Salt Lake City, Coloradans swept the top three spots on the mens side of the U.S. National Snowshoe Championships held March 29.Vail’s Josiah Middaugh outsprinted Bernie Boettcher of Silt for the national title, while Charlie Wertheim of Glenwood Springs took the third spot.Middaugh finished the 10-kilometer course with a time of 47 minutes, 57.7 seconds, 3.5 seconds faster than Boettcher.”It came down to a sprint to the finish,” said Boettcher, who knows Middaugh well from races in the Glenwood and Vail area. “I can’t beat him in a sprint, he’s just too fast. It was a really exciting race and I still feel like I had a great day. Josiah is just better than everyone when he has a good day.”Wertheim clocked a time of 49:13.7. Dave Dunham of Massachusetts was fourth at 49:23.1 and California’s Peter Fain was fifth at 49:24.9. The top five overall finishers were named to the U.S. National Team.While Middaugh and Boettcher were in a two-man race for much of the event, they did have to pass a chunk of the field twice.Roughly a quarter of the way into the course, the pair built up a 20-second lead on the pack, but gave it back, and then some, with a wrong turn.”We didn’t notice at all,” Boettcher said. “A guy from California started yelling at us and neither one of us believed him at first.”The blunder cost the pair roughly 40 seconds and, more important, dropped them back to eighth.”It’s a real mental drain to try to pass everyone again,” Boettcher said. “At the moment I thought, `Oh man, I had a good shot’ and I thought I’d blown it.”Middaugh and Boettcher were able to recover, however. Boettcher got a much-needed pat on the back as he passed Wertheim, and by the midway point of the race the two leaders were alone in front again.The race for third turned into a four-man battle. As competitors got deeper into the course, Wertheim’s goals got higher.”My (personal) expectations changed,” Wertheim said. “I went from hoping for a top-10 finish, to hoping for top 5 to trying to hold on to third.”Wertheim held on for the top three Colorado sweep, beating Dunham -last year’s runner-up – by almost 10 seconds.”I went past Dave on the downhill and kept waiting for everybody to catch me,” Wertheim said. “It wasn’t a sprint to the finish, but I didn’t know where he was.””Bernie’s finish wasn’t much of a surprise,” he added. “But mine was.””Charlie had the race of the day I think,” Boettcher said. “He rose to the occasion, so to speak.”Along with being named to the national team and All-American, Boettcher and Wertheim also finished 1-2 in the masters division (40-49 years old).”I never really believed I could be the national champion because Josiah has been so dominant all season,” Boettcher said. “It was in the back of my mind to be the master’s national champion, and that gives me the greatest satisfaction.”Two other area racers also earned All-American honors for finishing in the top 5 of their age class.Silt’s Larry Rose posted a time of 1:08:04.35 for second place in the men’s senior division, while New Castle’s Heidi Vosbeck was second in the women’s masters division with a time of 1:06:09.31.”Everybody got to go up there and get something,” Wertheim said.The Rocky Mountain Region – which includes Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico – won both the men’s and women’s region title for highest finishers.Wertheim and Boettcher admit it was to the Mountain Region racers’ benefit to have the race be at altitude.”A big factor was the elevation,” Wertheim said. “It was 8,200 feet where we started.””There were some far more capable runners (than the results show) from Massachusetts. I would credit the altitude to being of great advantage this year.””I think without a doubt it had an effect,” Boettcher added. “Last year’s race was geared to their type of course; this year it was our type of course.”I don’t know if it was entirely altitude, but, for some reason, it was not the East Coast team’s day,” Boettcher added. “Colorado was definitely at the top of the charts this time around.”In the women’s overall, Colorado’s Kelli Lusk won the title in 59:17.1, followed by Nikki Kimball of New York, Helen Cospolich of Colorado, Anita Ortiz of Colorado and Jennifer Rappaport of Massachusetts.

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