The 2017 Bjorn Bakken Ski Championships of America

On April 8th the most important ski race of the year took place in Duluth, MN, The 2017 Bjorn Bakken Ski Championships of America. Normally the American Birkebeiner would take the cake as the most important race, but due to unseasonably warm temperatures in February the race was cancelled and left the honors to The Bjorn Bakken Ski Championships of America (BBSCA). The BBSCA is a race that takes place every spring in Duluth, MN to find out who is the fastest cross country skier on the planet. It is a grueling event that tests even the best of nordic skiers and their ability on nordic skis. Being the most anticipated event of the year, the event put a lot of pressure on the race organizers to deliver. Despite great adversity from mother nature and the pessimism of many the BBSCA staff delivered in a huge way.

In the week leading up to the race there were a lot of haters, doubting the race organizers ability to pull off the event. Warm temperatures and deteriorating conditions didn’t dampen the spirit of the Bakken however, as devote BBSCA fans came out to shovel snow in preparation for the race. Thanks to the generous support of Kreyer Home Improvement of Hayward, WI, workers were able to transport snow from the neighboring CSS Campus to be used for the event.

Come Saturday morning, the Bjorn Bakken Race Organizers defied all odds and prepared a pristine 250 m loop of snow. The unrelenting race loop consisted of an almost B climb and a technical descent, testing both the physical stamina and ability of the athletes on skis.

Warm temps and transformed snow made for action packed racing at this years BBSCA. The day started out with a qualifier to see which 16 skiers would make it to the head to head heats. 2015 and 2016 champ Krystof Kopal set a blazing qualifier time as he looked to take the three-peat in this year’s event. CSS skiers Teddy Widmer, Ryan Sinclair, and Sam Anderson looked to be right on the heels of Kopal in hopes of bringing back the BBSCA Champions stein from NMU. Tamer Mische-Ritcher appeared to be flying around the track but unfortunately was in last place when he crossed the finish line. However, Tamer still managed to squeak his way into the heats despite a disappointing qualifying time. Krystof Kopal seemed unbeatable, knocking out Sam Anderson in the quarterfinal and sending Tamer Mische-Ritcher home in the semifinal. For a second it looked as if CSS Sophomore Teddy Widmer was going to sprint his way to the final, but Ryan Sinclair and his T-Rex had a different plan toeing Teddy at the line and punching his ticket to the men’s final. The Men’s final was a nail biter as Kopal and Sinclair battled neck-in-neck through the entirety of the loop. In the end it was Sinclair’s saavy tactics and fresh Optiwax wax job that took the victory, dethroning the BBSCA two time champ Krystof Kopal and bringing the BBSCA Championship stein back to CSS.

The women’s side was no exception as some of the best skiers at the event battled it out to claim their spot on the podium. The 2013 BBSCA Champion, Sharmila Ahmed, showed up with her game face on, ready to take down her competition as she sported her alma mater suit of CSS. Another BBSCA veteran, Allison Ternes, showed up in her Birkie Elite wave bib, letting her competition know she wasn’t fooling around. But as we moved on through the heats it was Greta Jenkins who showed she was a force to be reckoned with. In the semi finals, Jenkins beat out Katie Burger of UWGB and secured herself a spot in the finals. In the finals, it was a fierce battle between Jenkins and Keeley Jackson of CSS. In similar fashion to the men’s final both Jackson and Jenkins were neck-in-neck throughout the loop, but a late surge by Jackson gave her the slight advantage as she claimed her first ever BBSCA Championship.

Every year the BBSCA delivers a high quality event even in the midst of low snow years. This is a testament to the hard work of many who sacrifice homework and studying time to make the event possible. This year was no exception as many people turned out in the days leading up to the race to help shovel snow and prepare the course for the event. A huge thanks goes out to all of those volunteers that gave their time to make this year’s BBSCA possible.

I also have to thank all of our sponsors who donated to the event. Major sponsors for this year include Red Bull, The American Birkebeiner Foundation, The Ski Hut, Continental Ski and Bike, Men As Peacemakers, New Moon Ski and Bike Shop, Finn Sisu, Boulder Nordic, CSS Campus Rec and Outdoor Pursuit, Tesch Enterprise, Kreyer Home Improvement, Rex Wax, Madshus, and many more. Thanks to all these great sponsors for supplying awesome prizes for all of our atletes and spectators. Another shoutout goes to Calvin Mehrhof for creating the BBSCA SnapChat filter. This filter was available on site at the BBSCA from 11-4 on the day of competition. Throughout the course of the event, there were 390 different users that sent Snaps using the filter which reached over 29,200 different SnapChat users.

All in all, the 2017 Bjorn Bakken Ski Championships of America was a huge success. One of my favorite things about this event is how it brings together the skiing community for a weekend of fun. After a long season of traveling, being able to come back to Duluth for a weekend and hang out with old teammates and friends is what makes me look forward to the BBSCA every year. The BBSCA is like a venn diagram, where on one side you have current college students and on the other you have post college graduates. They both have different daily lives, but they have one thing in common, a love for The Bjorn Bakken Ski Championships of America. The BBSCA is a place where past and present meet to celebrate the sport we love. At the BBSCA, future aspirations are put on pause as people from all different stages of life enjoy the company of others and reminisce about the glory days surrounding the great sport of cross country skiing. So here’s to another successful Bjorn Bakken Ski Championships of America and all friendships and memories this great event cultivates every year.

We had all hands on deck in preparation for this years BBSCA.

The BBSCA was so lit the Fire Department showed up.

We had Park Ranger Kyle on top of people making sure they weren't litter.

Harris doing Harris.

Can't see? No problem, I'm still gonna send it.

Krystof Kopal diving for the finish line

Champion Ryan Sinclair holding on for dear life

Keeley Jackson sprinter her way to the top of the podium

Men's Podium

Women's podium

The Bjorn Bakken enlightening the crowd with a few words of wisdom

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© 2017 by Paul Schommer