Augustana had a great showing at the 55 km Edmonton ski race
The Augustana Vikings brought home many medals on Feb. 11 when five Vikings raced in the Canadian Birkebeiner in Edmonton. They were among many other Camrose Vikings of all ages, and Augustana Alumni that took to the trails.
From the race the Augustana team all brought home top finishes. Mackenzie Grove, a second year physical education student raced in the 55km without a pack, finishing 6th woman overall and first in her age group. Annika Olesen, a brave third year student, battled through a cold to a stunning 4th place in her age group.
Not far behind the overall leaders, Gerhard Lotz, a physics professor racing his 20th Birkie, took the gold medal for his age group. Racing in the 55 km with a weighted pack, Emily McIlroy brought home the women’s overall gold and Matthieu Martin, a fourth year language student, won the men’s overall bronze and gold in his age group.
The Birkebeiner follows the tradition of the Birkebeinerne, who were an army on skis and came to power in 1184. Haakon Haakonsson was the rightful heir to the throne and the Birkebeinerne were responsible for keeping him safe since Haakon’s crowning was crucial to end the civil war.
The Birkebeinerne were responsible for skiing many miles with two-year-old Haakon Haakonsson on their backs to get him the safety of Trondheim. This legend is what is simulated in the Birkebeiner race.
Martin decided to ski with a pack after attending the Nordic Club’s film night of “The Last King”, which tells the legend of the Birkebeiner, He was inspired by Torstein and Skjervold.
“It is the event which best matches the traditional route and weight,” said Martin. “It seemed to be the most interesting and glorious.”
Every athlete’s pack must weigh twelve pounds. Most athletes fill their bags with sand or other similar substances, however Martin decided to take a more cultural approach and invited his miniature troll along.
“Joel the troll was my baby, but he wasn’t heavy enough so I had to put books in there too,” said Martin. “I put Norwegian books in my pack because of the Scandinavian tradition of the Birkie.”
Lotz said that he will be conducting a physics lesson before the next Birkebeiner to teach the athletes the most efficient way to ski with a pack.
“We are going to do some physics of the pack,” said Lotz. “You need to get some lead buckshot.”
Lotz said he was impressed as always by the encouraging volunteers and well equipped aid stations.