TRAVERSE CITY — Eli Brown made it three in a row.
Erica O’Hearn matched a feat accomplished by her father.
Brown and O’Hearn captured the Vasa 50K freestyle races in contrasting styles Saturday at Timber Ridge Resort.
Williamsburg’s Brown needed a late sprint to edge Leroy’s Alex Vanias by 15 seconds in the men’s race, 2:28:57 to 2:29:12.
Traverse City’s O’Hearn pulled away early in the women’s race, finishing well ahead of the pack in 2:54. Her father — Milan Baic, who was third in the men’s race — was a previous 50K winner.
“I grew up racing and cheering on my dad,” O’Hearn said. “I used to dream about this. Winning the Vasa is amazing. It’s pretty special.”
Her father was there to offer congratulations right after she crossed the finish line.
“Not a surprise,” he said. “She’s a great athlete. This is a dream come true. What a day. At least someone in our family won.”
Baic, skiing in the 50-54 age class, made a strong statement in the men’s race, leading with 12K to go. Brown and Vanias were too strong, though.
“The problem is when you know you’re not the fastest guy out there you don’t do the dictating,” Baic said. “They do the dictating. It basically means you have to ski hard all the time. That’s what I did. I kept plugging away, kept pushing.”
Baic was about 40 seconds back after the first loop before he caught the two leaders.
“My skis were like dynamite,” he said. “I was able to close in on them. But I knew it was a matter of time when they put the hammer down. My legs were jello at the end. I did everything I could. That was probably the best result I was capable of today.”
Baic finished in 2:31:43.
Brown and Vanias tested each other throughout the race. Vanias tried to surge several times.
“I kept attacking, kept putting the pressure on, but I couldn’t shake him,” Vanias said. “He stayed on me and then outsprinted me. I had nothing (at the end).”
Brown, who skipped the White Pine Stampede last weekend because of back pain, expected a battle — and that’s what he got.
“He (Vanias) was putting surges on everywhere,” Brown said. “It was all I could do to stay with him.
“Alex is tough on a bike and he’s really tough on skis. I’m not sure I can do this much more at my age. I’m a little sore right now. I’m going right to the couch after this.”
Brown dedicated the win to his son, Leland, who turned eight Saturday.
“He said, ‘Daddy, you’ve got to do it,’” Brown recalled. “Some presents are really expensive and that was one of them.”
O’Hearn, 30, was competing in her first Vasa 50K. She skied with some guys on the first loop, then was by herself most of the second loop.
“I knew I was feeling strong so I didn’t look back (at the competition),” she said. “My game plan was to go out and see how it went. I felt strong the whole way. I’m happy with that.”