The wind gusted to 50 mph at times and the temperature sank to zero as racers lined up for the Nature Valley NASTAR Eastern Championships. With automatic qualifier spots available to the National Championships the contestants put on their race faces and politely asked if someone wouldn’t mind carrying their coat to the bottom of the course. AJ Kitt always seemed to have a willing volunteer as parents huddle around the start to support their kids during the junior race in the morning. The kids returned the favor in the afternoon carrying their parents' jackets during the adult race in the afternoon.
The Eastern Championships brought together old alpine racing friends and many new friendships and rivalries were formed in route to the awards celebration Saturday night. AJ Kitt set a very fast par time but many racers still managed to score their best handicap of the season. Racers were divided into two ability divisions based on the handicap they earned against AJ’s par time, either platinum/gold or silver/bronze.
The junior racers battled through the wind and cold and the top three racers in each division were awarded gold, silver and bronze medallions, prizes and automatic qualification to the Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships at Aspen/Snowmass.
The adult race saw some old rivalries ignited with veteran racers and first timers all enjoying the action.
The wind backed off and the temperature rose for the Race of Champions on Sunday. Each participant that won their division on Saturday was invited to compete for the overall win on Sunday in a handicapped race which provides all racers with an opportunity to win. The ladies took to the course first and five year old Tyler Doran looked to have a solid foot planted on the top of the podium until 67 year old Monica Meinzer bumped Tyler off the top step. Next it was Cynthia Herbach turn to mix up the podium as she moved into second place and bumped Tyler to third. Faster racers with lower handicaps tried to dislodge the trio from the podium but they were unsuccessful, so Monica Meinzer regained the title that she won in 2013 and was crowned the 2015 Nature Valley NASTAR Eastern Champion.
The raw time podium saw former Burke Mountain Academy racer Meg Spenlinhauer record the fastest time to take the win ahead of Meghan Keane of Ridgefield, CT and Kim Stone took third representing Wachusett Mountain.
The men’s Race of Champions was a wide open event as skiers, snowboarders and telemark racers all lined up to compete for the overall victory. In the end, the discounted time posted by Wayne Haddad proved too low to be beat. Wayne took the win ahead of defending champion Pat Moore who chose to race on his snowboard even though he won a gold medal on both skis and the snowboard. John Shea rounded out the podium taking the bronze.
The race for the fastest raw time was again won by a former Burke Mountain Academy racer, Eric Spenlinhauer. The brother of Meg, the ladies champion, proved he still has the skills win. Second place went to the much improved Rob Dexter who is skiing better than ever at 64 years young. Rolf Meyer posted the third fastest time of the day but he is looking to improve on that result at the National Championships at Snowmass.
The Family Team Race was the next event on the agenda and it was clear from the outset that the Spenlinhauer/Bergendahl family would be the team to beat. After two runs of fast skiing the Keanes Family pushed team S and B hard but finished 1.62 team points behind. The Nautel family had a great race to put their team, The Bad Toros Family, on the podium to take third place in the Family Team Race.
The Friends Team Race was next and it was great to see new friendships formed during the awards party and new teams put together for the team race. Individual racing is awesome, but racing as a team provides a different element to the sport and it was great to see some friendly antagonism and sociable smack talking. When all of the jawing was done and the racing was complete it was the kids that formed the 5 Doughnuts team that walked away with the win. Anchored by NASTAR National Champion Joshua Rosenberg the kids scored more team points than Crotched Rockets which placed second ahead of the Jones Race Team from Wachusett Mountain.