GIRDWOOD -- Girdwood offers a variety of winter activities -- Alyeska Resort for alpine skiers, miles of trails for nordic skier and plenty of wooded areas for fat-tire bikers. On Saturday, athletes combined all three sports in the second annual AK Skimeister Challenge.
"We're incorporating the whole community and all the things we like to do in this town," co-race creator Jeremy Anderson said.
Mark Iverson was the top man in 50 minutes, 17.72 seconds. Four-time Olympian Kikkan Randall was the lone woman to finish in under an hour, and her winning time of 59:53.01 ranked her sixth among all individual competitors. The trio of Rachelle Kanady, Michael McCambridge and Liam McMahon won the team title in 56:25.
Iverson was in second place after the first leg, in which athletes skied from the top of Mount Alyeska down to the Hotel Alyeska, where the six-kilometer nordic leg began.
Once on cross-country skis, Iverson said he kept pace with Reese Hanneman. Not an easy task -- Hanneman is fresh off a U.S. National Championship mixed relay victory.
"I managed to stay with him," Iverson said.
Iverson pulled away in the bike leg to beat Hanneman by nearly three minutes. The race's final eight kilometers were his strongest, Iverson said, and the most difficult.
"It was a challenging bike course this year," Iverson said. "Much more technical."
Three separate races were held during last year's inaugural event. This time around, Anderson wanted to make the event a continuous race.
"It was more like a triathlon for the individuals," said Anderson, director of Challenge Alaska, a nonprofit that provides recreational programs for people with disabilities.
That type of race appealed to Iverson.
"I'm a nordic skier by trade, so the endurance test suits me," he said.
The unique mix is what sparked the interest of three South High students.
"It's a cool combination of sports," said senior Seiji Takagi, who teamed up with sophomores Hunter Keffalos and Will Balcao in the team competition.
The event began with a La Mans-style start at Alyeska's upper-tram terminal, where roughly 75 athletes ran about 100 meters uphill before popping on their skis and racing down the mountain. Conditions made for a quick descent, Keffalos said.
"It was super fast. Super fast," he said. "It was awesome."
Following the race, competitors filled up on burgers and hot dogs, hit the slopes, relaxed with music and bid on silent auction items.
Challenge Alaska will share half of the proceeds with Alyeska Ski Club's junior program. Both groups hold end-of-the-season fundraisers, so Anderson and Alyeska junior program director Aaron Stiassny decided to host a combined event last year. Judging by all the smiles, hugs and high-fives at the finish line, the second AK Skimeister Challenge was a success.
"The vibe is really strong," Stiasnny said.
A bit of humor was there, too, thanks to Catherine Steele and Kelsey Coolidge, who competed with pink tutus. Their brightly colored outfits and intimidating team name were just for laughs, Steele said.
"With a name like Crush, Kill, Win -- and we weren't that good -- we needed something to offset it," she said.
Having a good time is ultimate goal, Anderson said.
"The big thing is the fun," he said.
Reach Mike Nesper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
AK Skimeister Challenge
1) Randall, Kikkan, 59:53.01; Stiassny, Melanee, 1:09:04.76; 3) Donley, Shannon, 1:09:40.92; 4) Von Imhof, Natasha, 1:29:49.04; 5) Donnelly, Maggie, 1:33:34.72; 6) Danielson, Erin, 1:34:16.73; 7) Sparrow, Toni, 1:34:27.81; 8) Dooley, Meghan, 1:41:43.82. Juniors -- 1) Thomas, Kelli, 1:42:58.82; 2) Grunblatt, Jenni, 1:43:05.11.
1) Iverson, Mark, 50:17.72; 2) Hanneman, Reese, 53:03.97; 3) Novak, John, 57:15.72; 4) Renfro, Charlie, 57:29.57; 5) Mattingley, Darren, 59:04.26; 6) Fischer, Gangem, 1:01:46.06; 7) Lovett, Andre, 1:03:54.23; 8) Jung, Chris, 1:05:52.76; 9) Stiassny, Ari, 1:05:59.41; 10) Hickey, Matthew, 1:06:58.69; 11) Meyerhofer, Abe, 1:07:46.37; 12) Austerman, Joey, 1:07:59.23; 13) Donovan, Ryan R., 1:09:40.92; 14) Hellen, John, 1:14:54.04; 15) Tabinor, Matthew, 1:18:31.50; 16) Kirk, Tim, 1:20:11.21; 17) Ross, Bruce, 1:20:59.44; 18) Henry, Chism, 1:22:17.31; 19) Anderson, Nate, 1:26:33.70; 20)Vanderhoek, Pieter, 1:29:49.04; 21) Enriquez, Kevin, 1:38:26.58; 22) Kemppel, Roger, 1:42:55.14; 23) Stiassny, Elliot, 1:49:48.53; 24) Holt, Kevin, 2:03:50.53. Juniors -- 1) Lamb, Charlie; 2) Eriksson, Austen; 3) Gessner, Soren.
1) Rachelle Kanady, Michael McCambridge, Liam McMahon, 56:25.08; 2) Kyle Monti, Kenny Steck, James Temte, 57:38.12; 3) Anna Berecz, Lukas Ebner, Viktor Brannmark, 1:02:03.03; 4) Mack Bergstedt, John Pekar, Brian Pekar, 1:04:44.60; 5) Bronwen Nicholls, Brandon Hill, Will Corbridge, 1:05:33.06; 6) Julie Leclerc, Aaron Stiassny, Andrew Kastning, 1:05:59.41; 7) Melanee Stiassny, Elliott Stiassney, Ari Stiassny 1:09:04.76; 8) Julie Garrigus, Andy Garrigus, Adam Garrigus 1:07:06.26; 9) Nathan Carey, Darin Pestrikoff, Daneil Gregg 1:08:27.68; 10) Megan Soule, Greg Soule, Thomas Wang 1:13:53.17. All-women's teams-- 1) Jennah Jones, Elizabeth Lopez, Erin Danielson 1:23:04; 2) Kori Hahn, Andrea Anderson, Ashley Hovis 1:24:37.
By MIKE NESPER