Cross-country ski sprints debut at Winter Carnival

Had you stepped outside onto the winter wonderland that is Main Hall Green last Saturday, Feb. 8, you may have seen a strange sight. Amidst all the ice carving and broomball-playing, the lawn had been groomed into a smooth circular track. On that track, teams of four students attempted to drag pairs of giant wooden skis, with a combined weight of 30 pounds, across the finish line.

This year, Winter Carnival gained a new event: Cross Country Ski Sprints and Giant Ski Races, sponsored by the Lawrence University Nordic Ski Team. Those giant skis, built by team co-captain sophomore Liam Hoy, took only four hours to construct and were the highlight of the afternoon. He was inspired by the race that takes place the Friday before the main event of the American Birkebeiner, in which teams of six race giant skis up the main street of Hayward, Wis.

The next day, the Prince Haaken, Kortelopet and Birkebeiner races take place. Here at Lawrence, the giant skis’ grand debut involved quite a bit of stumbling, flailing and bruising, but nevertheless, everyone was enthusiastic.

Participant and ski team member freshman Michelle Johnson said, “My favorite part was the Giant Ski race because it was different. My team was successful, even though I ran behind the race.” Junior Zak Buell enjoyed the feeling of teamwork and camaraderie, which can, at times, be missing from an individually competitive sport like cross-country skiing.

Many people walking by on College Ave. stopped to observe the strange affair, as some students conquered the giant skis and others got faces full of snow. Hoy was pleased to see all of his hard work pay off. “My favorite part was watching people fall on the giant skis.” But of course, to him, it was more rewarding to have a decent turnout.

Before this event, the ski team displayed a bit more grace and proficiency on skis of normal sizes as the ski sprints tournament took place. Skiers raced side-by-side across the short track and the winner would advance to the next round. The final round saw co-captains Hoy and fifth-year Guerin Platte racing for the title. Platte, who orchestrated the event, was pleased to see that some non-skiers came out to the event.

The ski team brought out all their extra pairs of skis and poles for everyone to use, and some, like freshman Shaye Swanson, tried out cross-country skiing for the first time. The event was a perfect way to give those who had no exposure to cross country skiing a chance to try it out. Because of the conditions and expenses of cross country skiing, many people don’t ever get to experience it. Hoy and Platte want to change that and allow students at Lawrence to try this sport that they both love and enjoy so much. However, giant skiing may not catch on so quickly. In regards to their location after the event, Hoy said, “They’re still out on the green, I should go get them.”