TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City’s Jennifer Brown won the Vasa women’s 50K classic by the seat of her pants Saturday.
After seemingly having the race in hand, Brown slipped and fell a few yards from the finish.
Shelter Bay’s Deb Laurie was coming up from behind so Brown scooted to the finish line and pushed her ski across just in time to win the race — and a bottle of champagne. Both racers were clocked in 4:43:23.
“Did you like that?” Brown said of her scoot. “Nothing like improvising.”
Brown and Laurie went “back and forth” throughout the race until Brown opened a lead at Jack Pine.
“I was a bit way out in front with nobody behind me,” Brown said. “Then I turned around with about 3K to go and saw Deb. I said, ‘Whoa. I’ve got to kick it in.’”
It was Brown’s first 50K.
“The first 25K I was trying not to go out too hard because I wanted to save myself for the second,” she said.
Laurie said she picked up some energy as she made a late surge.
“I picked it up, but I knew I wasn’t going to catch you,” Laurie told Brown afterwards.
But then Brown fell and Laurie closed in.
“That’s why I scooted.” Brown said.
Negaunee’s Rob Fox won the men’s 50K in 3:14:28.
The men’s 27K classic turned out to be an extremely close race, too. Petoskey’s Jim Harrington edged Notre Dame senior Kevin Bednar by one second, 1:43:12 to 1:43:13.
“He attacked on an uphill with about one K to go,” Bednar said. “That was a good move. I couldn’t keep up with him.”
Bednar led the first 15K before Harrington caught him. The two then skied together.
“We have different strengths,” Harrington said. “There were sections of the trail where one of us would be faster. I was a little stronger on the uphill so I figured I would go there (with 1K to go) and see what happens. It worked out OK.”