Lions Pre-Birkie Celebrates 35 Years of Skiing

The Hayward Lions Club hosted their 35th annual Pre-Birkie on Saturday, February 11, 2017. Almost 900 contestants enjoyed the mild February weather. This is one of the largest ski events in the area. It is considered to be a great race to help contestants to get in condition for the Birkie race which follows this race in two weeks.

The proceeds from this race go to local projects such as the Hayward Community Food Shelf, Boy Scouts, Habitat for Humanity and Little League as well as international Lions projects. In the past, the club has used some of the proceeds to build a multi-use log cabin/warming cabin at Hatchery Creek. Over the course of a year, the Hayward Lions contribute to several dozen local organizations.

Prior to the race, on Friday, February 10, 2017, the Lions club hosted an all-you-can-eat Carbo Load Dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Hayward Veterans Center. The meal consisted of: spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread and a beverage were served at a cost of $7 per person. Children 11 and under ate free.

The classical-style race began at 9:30 a.m. on a groomed course on the ice of Lake Hayward near the city beach and park. The freestyle race began at 10:00 a.m. at the same location. The skiers headed north over the hills for either the 26K or 42K finish at the Birkie Trail warming cabin at Highway OO. The 42K marathon course crossed Highway OO and proceeded north for eight kilometers to the trail’s high point, turned around and returned to Highway OO. The 26K race had four food stations along the route and there were six food stations for the 42K. Most of the food stations were run by local youth groups. At the finish line, people enjoyed the famous doughnuts along with other refreshments. New this year, participants could celebrate the finish with beer (age 21 and over) and brats. Refreshments were served at the OO warming cabin.

Montgomery Mouw of Hayward won the men’s 26-kilometer classic race in 1:37:02 followed by Chad Korby of Park Center, MN in 1:38:26. Xena Huf of Minneapolis, MN won the women’s 26 kilometer classic in 1:56:46, followed by Christine Young of Duluth, MN in 2:00:33.

Jonathan Rulseh of Ironwood, Michigan, won the men’a 26-kilometer freestyle race in 1:18:46, followed a split second later by Andy Weddle of Wausau in 1:18:46. Alyson Welch, Rochester, MN, won the women’s 26-kilometer freestyle race in 1:32:57, with Paulette Niemi of Ironwood taking second in 1:35:07.

The winners of the 42K races were: Men’s classic: Thomas Krenz, Chicago City, MN, 2:36:03; Ryan Wilson, Minneapolis, MN, second, 2:41:49. Women’s classic: Bonnie Weiskopf, Stillwater, MN, first 2:37:07; Nicolette Reker, St. Paul, MN, second, 2:47:11.

Men’s freestyle was a photo finish, Joel LaFrance of Minneapolis, MN, edged Adam Swank of Duluth, MN by a ski tip. Both had times of 1:58:55.

Women’s freestyle: Marit Sonneskyn of Minneapolis, MN, won in 2:07:28, followed by Elaine Nelson of Duluth, MN, in 2:14:19.

Sponsors for the Lions Club Pre-Birkie were: Hayward Community Credit Union, American Birkebeiner, New Moon Ski and Bike, Riverbrook Bike and Ski, Lynn’s Custom Meats & Catering, Boulder Nordic-Sport, Angler’s Bar and Grill, River’s Edge Business Center, Hidden Bay Graphics, Outdoor Ventures, Coop’s Pizza, Seeley Veterinary Clinic, Apple Awards, L & M Fleet Supply and Peoples Bank.

The coordinator for the Lions Club Pre-Birkie was Stephanie Poplin. She has been the coordinator for the last several years and has certainly done an excellent job of running this event “like a well oiled machine”! Bob Olson was the prior coordinator of this event.

The Sawyer County Record was used as a source for most of the information in this article.