TRAVERSE CITY — A pair of new faces took the 35K classic races at the 43rd annual North American VASA.
Emily Blackmer won the women's title in her first appearance at the longtime event, and Ethan Goss — a 25-year-old grad student from St. Johnsbury, Vermont — won the men's title.
An icy track helped Goss and his fellow competitors destroy last year's race times, coming in roughly 23 minutes head of 2018.
Goss finished in 2 hours, 20 seconds. Traverse City's James Hart, a VASA trail groomer, was second in 2:06:09. Daniel Novak was third in 2:06:44, and Blackmer fourth in 2:08:36.
"The track was flying," Goss said. "It was really icy. I had zero kick.
"I just tried to keep a steady, double pull pace. When I got the hills, I tried to get up them and get right back to the double pulls."
While fewer than six minutes separated Goss from the other contenders, the Michigan Tech student managed to quickly escape their view.
"I never saw him. I started mid-pack," Hart said. "Halfway through people started telling me, 'Oh, you're in second place.' I guess there was someone else out there."
Hart did not compete on Saturday after a night spent grooming trails for the first day's events, but Sunday marked his third VASA since he began competing in 2017.
He was pleased with the runner-up finish.
"I'm super stoked about it," Hart said. "This was the first classic race I've ever done. I don't do a whole lot of racing. I'm just kind of getting into the race side of things."
Hart had a unique perspective as a groomer and racer, and he was more than satisfied with the work so many volunteers did to get ready for the VASA.
"I have major concern for the quality of the track," he said. "When I'm grooming, I focus heavily on creating the best experience for people.
"I think we did a fantastic job all things considered. We had some really tricky weather to deal with leading up to the race. We did the best we could with what we had."
Hart described certain parts of the course as like "skiing on an ice rink" but with control.
"It was cool," he said.
Williamsburg's Randy Smith was fifth in 2:11:03.