By MIKE ECKERT
MANCELONA — Alex Vanias and Amy Powell each skied the 40K at the White Pine Stampede for the first time on Saturday.
Both came away with first-place finishes.
Vanias was the men's freestyle champion at the annual point-to-point cross country race in 2 hours, 20 seconds. Powell was the women's champion in 2:22:17.
"I was with the lead guys for probably the first 5K," Vanias said. "I just took my turn at the front, and they didn't stay on. I just went with it."
Vanias, a 22-year-old from Leroy, had never won a cross country race prior to Saturday. He wasn't sure how he'd celebrate his win, but whatever it was couldn't last too long. Vanias had more racing to do on Saturday evening.
"I'm going to do a (fat tire) bike race later," Vanias said. "So I saved a little energy for that."
Whether saving energy or not, Vanias finished nearly 5 minutes ahead of runner-up Milan Baic — the defending and 11-time champion at the White Pine.
"He's an extremely fit guy," Baic said of Vanias. "He's a top-level bike racer and he's climbing the charts on the ski trails too. He's a young kid with a good set of lungs and heart. I give him a lot of credit, because he went out there on a day where it would've been easy to hold back and make a move later. He was out there by himself for the better portion of the day."
Baic finished just ahead of Daniel Yankus, who was less than 30 seconds behind for third. Both competed at the
Noquemanon last weekend in Marquette, and said that played into Saturday's race.
"It was tough after a 50K last weekend," Baic said. "Today's conditions were cold and slow. A 40K felt a little longer than a normal 40K today. It was harder to get going. It was a tough day, but a really nice day."
Overnight snow added fresh powder to the groomed trails. However, the sun came out during the race, making for a scenic course.
"It was absolutely gorgeous," Powell said. "It was a beautiful trail and in great shape. It was just wonderful."
Powell won the 20K at the White Pine two years ago — last year's race was cancelled due to poor weather — and was happy to win the 40K in her first attempt. Like Yankus and Baic, she had also competed in the 50K in Marquette last week.
"I was out there a little bit alone at the beginning, but I ended up with some guys," Powell said. "They helped me, so that was nice. It was so great to pull this off."
While Powell was able to stick with a group of guys, runner-up Kaitlyn Patterson was by herself for much of the race. The 2009 Cadillac grad said she just got in a zone and tried to stay relaxed.
"Amy's just really good," Patterson said. "I'm going to school at Michigan, so I haven't been able to train the last few weeks. And this was my longest race ever."
Patterson ran cross country for the Wolverines, but when her senior season ended this fall she decided to get back to skiing. She has a good training partner, since Vanias is her boyfriend.
In the 40K classic, Kip Knight from Elk Rapids was the men's champion in 2:58:14 while Kjell Svensson from Indianapolis was second in 3:05:31. Cheboygan's Tracy Hardin was the women's champ in 2:59:29 while Amy Kostrzewa from Northville was second in 3:35:03.
Ross Williams from Williamsburg won the 20K freestyle in 55:57. Clifford Onthank from Traverse City was second in 59:57.
For the women's 20K freestyle, Erica O'Hearn from Traverse City won in 1:09:14 while Boyne City's Bridget Foltz was second in 1:21:37.
Randy Smith from Williamsburg won the 20K classic in 1:12:47 while Jim Pryor from Saginaw was second in 1:23:11. Shelly Ottimer from Harbor Springs was the women's 20K classic champ in 1:44:44 while Cedar's Marnie Sutter was a minute behind in 1:45:48.
Eivind Kragebakk won the men's freestyle 10K in 27:56 while Sean Brownell was second in 28:13. Erin Lipp was the women's freestyle champ in 30:44 while Sarah Goble from East Lansing was second in 31:25.
In the 10K classic, Hannah Steffke from Weidman had the best time on the course in 42:59. Spring Lake's Linda Maat was second in the women's race in 56:27.
Northville's Matt Decker was the men's 10K classic champ in 44:02 while Barry O'Brien from Traverse City was second in 45:05.