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The Nature Valley NASTAR Midwest Championships provided recreational racers with an opportunity to have their own Olympic Moment. The regional championships saw racers from MN, MI, IL, MO and WI compete for gold, silver and bronze medals and the opportunity to qualify for the National Championships.
The standard NASTAR GS race for juniors was the first event of the weekend and the competition was fierce. The Overall Nature Valley NASTAR National Champion from the 2013 National Championships last spring, Adam Peine, was in the race as was the runner up from the ladies race, sister Ellie Peine. The weather was perfect as Minnesota finally broke out of the subzero temperature range and the junior racers charged down the lookout trail.
When the adults lined up for their race in the afternoon a light snow began to fall but the race crew at Welch Village provided excellent racing conditions. AJ Kitt set solid par times for all of the races which provided all of competitors with a great opportunity to see how they compare to NASTAR’s Traveling Pacesetter.
For the first time, a NASTAR Slalom race was held at a Regional Championship event which gave racer insight as to how they might fare at the National Championship slalom. It was great to see so many racers interested in testing their skills in a new discipline as NASTAR slalom appears to be an option that many racers enjoy.
The awards reception was a rocking affair as Welch Village provided live music, great food an excellent atmosphere that provided racers and their guests with an opportunity to meet their peers and talk about the race and racers put teams together for the team race.
The gold medal winners from each age, gender and ability group were invited to compete in the Race of Champions and the weather for the race could not have been better. Blue sky and perfectly groomed snow saw the ladies take to the course first and the podium changed constantly throughout the race. When the last racer crossed the finish it was eleven year old Lauren Hefner standing on the top step of the podium. Sandy Powell held on for second place and Nancy Simpson earned the bronze medal. The raw time podium saw a battle of local skiers with Lexi Berg coming out on top and winning free entry to the NASTAR National Championships. Ellie Peine recorded the second fastest time and the U14 champion Katie Brust collected the bronze medal.
The Race of Champions is a really fun format because every racer carries their handicap into the race so all age groups can compete for the overall win. The men’s race was another exciting competition as the racers with the highest handicap race first and the fastest racers run last. Seven year old Ryan Burger won the U8 Silver/Bronze division and carried a handicap of 68 into the race and he charged down the Lookout trail. He ski faster in the Race of Champions than he did to win his Regional Championship title to record a discounted time of 17.23 and no other racers could beat his time. The U12 Platinum/Gold Division Champion, Max Speichinger, recorded the second fastest discounted time of 17.64 to take second and the 50-54 Silver/Bronze Division Champion, Jed Owen received the bronze. Stephen O’Connor recorded the fastest raw time to earn free entry to the National Championships followed closely by Cory Schield in second and Sam McKinney in third.
The Team Race for teams of friends was the next race on the schedule as groups of friends competed for the Nature Valley NASTAR Team Race title. The kids from Welch Village showed that they could take on the older junior racers and the Team called, “Da Studz” took the win ahead of “Stud Muffins” team. Third place went to a group of seasoned veteran racers that called themselves, “Ooh Yeah!”
The Family Team race was the final event of the weekend where three family members were needed to score maximum team points for their family team. The Peine family showed they had the strongest family team as team “Pine Nutz” took the win ahead of the Brust family that called themselves the, Von Trapp Family. Third place went to the Kimmes Family just ahead of the Nelson family team.
A huge thank you goes out to Welch Village for hosting an exciting weekend of racing and activities. We look forward to seeing all of the qualifiers at the Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships.