VASA: Tarras wins 27K freestyle on a bad hip

Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael Stump43rd annual North American Vasa Festival of Races 27k men's winner Kevin Tarras skis to the finish line on Saturday 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 – Kevin Tarras is using every chance he can find to get out on the snow and ski.

Tarras, 36, won the 27K freestyle race on Saturday at Timber Ridge Resort in the 43rd edition of the North American VASA in 1 hour, 25 minutes and 45 seconds, doing it all on a bad hip.

Tarras was recently diagnosed with severe arthritis in his left hip and his doctor told him he has the hip of a 70-year-old.

"It's my last year racing on my old hip," the five-time VASA participant and two-time 27K winner said. "I'm getting a new titanium hip in April so you don't know what is going to happen when that is over with. I don't know if I will ever get back to top shape.

"I just wanted to go all out for as many races as I can and see what the hip replacement ends up like and come back next year with some new parts."

Tarras, who is a Grawn resident, has been racing on borrowed time and has been told he may never reach peak performance after his hip replacement, but that hasn't worried him.

"The doctor says I can get back to top form but some people say I'll never get back there," Tarras said. "I am just trying to take advantage of what little time I have left with my old parts.

"I'm not worried, I'll be back here next year."

The 36-year-old pulled ahead of second-place finisher Ethan Kennedy after breaking out of the Jack Pine loop with about 5K left in the race and never looked back. Kennedy finished right on Tarras' heels in 1:25:57, only 12 seconds off of the lead.

Kennedy, who hails from Montague, said he felt better on Saturday than he has all season because he has been dealing with multiple bouts of sickness.

"I have been sick a lot this winter and I hadn't been racing very well, but today I felt good," Kennedy, who is only 22 years old, said. "I had wicked fast skis as the rest of the guys can attest. I just blew away on the downhills."

The top finishers are familiar with each other and used their knowledge of the course and each other to a competitive advantage.

"It is my home course so you know the ins and outs, where every curve is and you know exactly how far you are from the finish at every point," Tarras said. "It is fun because you know the guys and you know their fitness level, so it kind of takes a lot of the guess work out of not knowing who a guy is. It adds a new dynamic to it when you aren't racing a bunch of strangers."

David Maclean (Ludington) finished third in 1:26:17, James Somerville (Traverse City) fourth in 1:26:41 and Peter Mead (Traverse City) finished fifth in 1:28:35.

Sports Writer