VASA: Blackmer wins 35K in first appearance

Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael StumpWomen's 35k classic winner Emily Blackmer at the 43rd annual North American Vasa Festival of Races on Sunday at Timber Ridge Resort in Traverse City. The freestyle skiing events, fat bike races and junior vasa races were held on Saturday, while the classical skiing races were held on Sunday.

TRAVERSE CITY — Emily Blackmer wasn't just in contention to win the women's 35K classic title at Sunday's 43rd annual North American VASA.

The 29-year-old Michigan grad student stayed with the overall race leaders throughout, ultimately finishing as the top female competitor and fourth overall with a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 36 seconds.

Blackmer grew up skiing in New Hampshire and after moving from California to Ann Arbor, she had to compete at VASA.

"I knew the North American VASA existed, but I didn't know it was in Traverse City," Blackmer said. "When a friend told me, I said, 'I definitely have to go do that.'"

With her skiing background, which includes a couple years of competitive skiing after college, Blackmer's goal was to win the race and she did by a long shot.

Her closest competition was Pinckney's Sarah Newmister, who crossed the finish line nearly 28 minutes later (2:35:16).

"That first 35K wave was pretty small," Blackmer said. "I was never in the very front, but I tried to move up toward the front and find some people who were going the pace I thought was the right pace."

Ethan Gross was the overall race winner in 2:00:20.

Blackmer said some of the tracks glazed over a bit on the second lap, making it very difficult to find traction with her kick wax. She opted to leave the tracks in search of softer snow on hills, and she did her best to avoid some "sketchy corners."

Newmister thought at least one competitor was ahead of her during the race, but she skied the entire second lap by herself, unclear of her standing.

"End of the first lap I was part of a pack, and they just disappeared," she said. "It was fun. I had a great time. I love this course. The trail is always really nice, and I just love coming up here."

Anne Somerville (Traverse City) finished third in 2:43:00, Gabrielle Armstrong (Lake Placid, N.Y.) was fourth in 2:50:36 and Jennifer Brown (Traverse City) was fifth in 3:04:26.

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