The Slumberland American Birkebeiner is known for its innovation and resiliency. Following last year's cancelation, the "Birkie" returned with a bang in 2018. America learned of the "Birkie Bridge," designed and supervised by Hudson native Terry Penman, during the Super Bowl festivities.
The Birkie brings an estimated 13,000 skiers to the Hayward region the last weekend of February, since 1973. The Birkebeiner is the largest cross-country ski race in North America. The 29-kilometer Kortelopet is the second largest, followed by the Barnebirkie (the children's race) as the third largest.
The Birkebeiner commemorates the rescue of infant Prince Haakon, in 1206 Norway, by his mother, Inga and Birkebeiner soldiers, Torstein and Skervald, who skied 55 kiolmeters to safety. Each year there are three reenactors, who dress in period clothing, and ski the entire course on wooden skis. An actual baby is carried the final 300 meters down Hayward's Main Street.
The name of Olympic gold medalist and Afton native, Jessie Diggins was present on Main Street, the course and the start line. Diggins called in from Korea to the start of the Birkebeiner on Saturday morning, with the skiers yelling in unison, "Good luck Jessie!" She was scheduled to ski the 30-kilometer freestyle later that day. Her father, Clay Diggins, was at the start of the Kortelopet on Friday morning to offer words of encouragement for the skiers on their 29-kilometer trek from the Seeley Hills to Hayward.
This was the first year the Kortelopet finished on Main Street. It was also the first time the Kortelopet was run as a free standing race on Friday. The Prince Haakon 12 kilometer started near Mosquito Brook and also finished on Main Street.
The 8-inch snowfall on Friday morning made the Kortelopet a bit of a challenge for the first half of the course. Birkie trail groomers applied their wizardry on the second half that was a great assistance to the skiers.
The Birkie weekend is truly a celebration of family and comradery. A noteworthy event was the gathering of the Jeff and Susie Roberts family from all corners of the country to celebrate Jeff's completion of his 29th American Birkebeiner classic in 4:43.
The Susie and Jeff Roberts family come together every year for this important family challenge. Living close to the Willow River Park as the family grew up has given them the opportunity to ski and train on our community facility that has been an important part of nurturing young skiers. Willow River has been the platform for three of the Roberts to ski in national competition during their high school years. And the sport goes on as a lifetime commitment to skiing with 11 of the family participating in the 2018 event.
The highlight of the family's Birkie this year was the solo ski of Willie, the youngest son who is autistic and an active member of Bridge, skiing the 29-kilometer event by himself with the rest of the family cheering him on along the way. Two grandchildren completed the Barnebirkie - Sanna and Ellis Henry. Two grandchildren competed in the Junior Birkie - Bjorn and Calvin Roberts. Five family members completed the full Birkie skate - Duncan Roberts living now in Portland, Ore., placing 98th overall at 2:25; his wife Katie Roberts, the 77th women overall at 3:05; Katie Roberts from Minneapolis at 4:09; Lucy (Roberts) Henry now living in Carrboro, N.C., at 4:39; her husband Tom at 4:33.
55k Birkebeiner Classic
Katherine Alberg, 5:58:31.8; Greg Dulon, 8:08:09.3; Todd Elliott, 4:27:33.7; Joseph Lowery, 6:47:05.0; Raymond Robbins, 5:16:44.5; Jeff Roberts, 4:43:59.5; Warren Schneider, 4:46:33.6; Dag Selander, 4:50:07.4; Neil Soltis, 4:48:46.0.
50k Birkebeiner Skate
Brian Bell, 3:31:28.6; Bob Branson, 3:57:49.6; William Gorham, 5:52:59.6; Jeff Hommes, 4:56:12.1; Jeffrey Johnson, 4:07:34.3; Jason Klabon, 3:55:46.9; Mark Kubler, 4:54:55.3; Helen Leemkuil, 4:16:28.0; Brock Lundberg, 3:41:12.9; Robert Moser, 3:26:19.8; David Ousdigian, 5:27:08.6; Jerad Poling, 5:00:29.2; Einar Sandom, 5:02:19.9; John Stamm, 3:35:35.5; John Tjornehoj, 2:59:54.1; Thomas Weber, 4:24:17.8; Greg Young, 3:40:18.7; Isaac Young, 3:27:37.7.
29k Kortelopet Classic
Sarah Hartung, 3:11:02.2; Luke Owens, 3:24:27.1; William Roberts, 4:23:56.0; Thad Thompson, 4:06:06.0; Vanessa Thompson, 4:06:13.0; Tom Zeuli, 2:38:39.8.
29k Kortelopet Skate
Annette Cook, 3:31:13.9; Scott Everson, 2:42:56.0; Mark Gherty, 3:29:57.5; Trisha Hagene Nilsen, 3:10:44.2; Alice Moser, 2:54:59.6; Cody Nelson, 3:22:36.2; Scott Nilsen, 3:10:44.4; Allen Omernik, 2:50:28.0; Ronald Weiler, 2:42:09.7; Ella Young, 2:19:00.7; Aaron Zeuli, 2:24:26.3.