The Buckwheat kicks off! Above, skiers in the 10k leg of the Ski Classic launch from the start line. PHOTOS BY DAN FOX

By DAN FOX
EDITOR

Fierce competition between the 278 cross-country skiers in the 32nd Annual Buckwheat Ski Classic led to exciting races in many of the categories, with some participants winning the top spots by minutes, and others by seconds.

Knute Johnsgaard, a member of Canada’s Olympic team and a recent competitor in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, took first place in the Buckwheat’s 50k men’s race with a total time of 2:19:51, beating runner-up David Greer by almost eight minutes.

“The Buckwheat is probably my favorite race out there,” Johnsgaard said after crossing the finish line. “And every year it just continues to impress.”

Johnsgaard pointed to the volunteers offering Tim Bits and Gatorade, the atmosphere of the event and “going to the amazing ice castle afterwards and grabbing a burger” as some of the high points of the Buckwheat.

The Buckwheat often overlaps with other cross-country ski events, but Johnsgaard said he’s been able to race the Log Cabin Ski Trails a few times before.

“I think this might be my third or fourth time doing the 50k, and then I think as a youngster I probably did the 10[k], 25[k] as well,” Johnsgaard said.

Johnsgaard was followed by Greer in the 50k race, who crossed the finish line at the 2:27:42 mark. Colin Abbott took third place seconds later, with a time of 2:27:55. All three hail from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.

“I just encourage everyone to, if they ever get the opportunity, to come up and race the Buckwheat, because it really is one of the best events and most exciting ski races that there is,” Johnsgaard said. “There’s something for everyone, there’s competitors at every level, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

In the 50k women’s category, a first-time Buckwheater swept in and stole the number-one slot.

Hannah Smith, who’s newly moved to Anchorage, finished with a time of 3:03:32.

Smith said she’s skied at Williams College in Massachusetts, and grew up skiing in New England.

“I thought the race [the Buckwheat] was beautiful, I’ve never raced a more scenic course, so that was really fun,” Smith said.

Following Smith across the finish was Sara Nielsen of Whitehorse and Jane Hollenberg of Whitehorse, with times of 3:18:49 and 3:18:57, respectively.

The men’s 25k saw another trio of Whitehorse men take the top spots. Gerard Frostad completed that race with 1:37:21 on the clock. Scott Gilbert took second in the 25k with a time of 1:39:37 and Willie Bell placed third with a final time of 1:40:46.

Finishing first, second and third in the women’s 25k was Maura Sullivan with a time of 1:44:36, Pippa Lawson with a time of 1:47:46 and Vesta Mather with a time of 1:49:39. All three women came from Whitehorse.

In the men’s 10k, Whitehorse racers Gabriel Rivest, Robin Elliot took first and second with one hundredth of a second separating their respective finishing times of 42:15.1 and 42:15.2. David Sennett, also of Whitehorse, took third with a time of 45:42.

Three Juneau women rounded out the top spots for the women’s 10k: Erin Wallace with a time of 42:28, Linnea Lentfer with a time of 43:55 and Melia Lu Trousil with a time of 44:13.

In the 11-12-year-old 5k races, the boy’s race saw Louis Mouchet, Jonah McConnell and Heron Land-Gillis, all of Whitehorse, take first through third with times of 24:39, 25:28 and 28:34, respectively. The girl’s 11-12 race had Whitehorse competitors Sophie Molgat take first with a time of 26:27 and Sylbie Sandiford come in second with a time of 37:31. Skagwegian Wynter Radey-Morgan took third with a time of 48:52.

The boy’s 10 and under 5k saw Whitehorse racers Nicholas Connell (28:00), Nicholas Giangrande (28:29) and Finegand Bradford (28:34) come in first, second and third within seconds of each other.

A similarly-close race occurred between Whitehorse girls Callah MacGillivray (31:11), Amelie Guilbeault (31:16) and Arimantha Bradford (31:25) in the girl’s 10 and under 5k.