Marsh Lake loppet is all about spirit

At noon Sunday, a dozen eager jack-rabbits lined up for the first race of the Marsh Lake Classic cross-country ski loppet.

At noon Sunday, a dozen eager jack-rabbits lined up for the first race of the Marsh Lake Classic cross-country ski loppet.

This was the dreaded one-kilometre race and three-year-old Caius Taggart-Cox was a two-year veteran to the event.

The chief of course counted them in: “On your mark, get set, go!”

The race takes place on the lake, so there are no real hills to speak of, but you should see the turns!

I was there at the first turn watching how an old hand like Taggart-Cox negotiated it.

His mom offered him a dried apricot. Fully fueled, he blazed around the bend and onto the backstretch.

Taggart-Cox, came last in his heat, but at just under 15 minutes he was more than twice as fast as last year!

And when he noticed the finish line up ahead, I saw him give a burst of apricot-speed. This is what the Marsh Lake Loppet is about — spirit.

This is the 13th annual for the ski race and this year it happened to be going up against the start of the Quest, an indoor soccer tournament in town and the general busyness leading up to the Canada Winter Games.

But the Marsh Lake Loppet doesn’t mind, ‘cause it’s happy to be doing its community thing, with camaraderie, competition, gorgeous trails and a hole heap of fun.

As usual, lots of skiers dressed for the event. Toques, mitts and a shimmery Hawaiian skirt?

Ski boots, Lycra and an orca costume? Sunglasses and a sombrero?

The locals have come to expect it. In fact they promote it.

At the watering stations they cheer on all the skiers, but there’s an even bigger roar for those getting into the fun of it.

My favourite this year was Andy Preto.

Preto in a cowboy outfit, complete with horse. He had ski poles, but he didn’t use them too much as he was working his lasso.

This year was an exciting year for the loppet, the first time the community hosted the event with its new community centre. Folks loved it.

People were packed in the hallway around the race office to see their times on the one-, 2.5-, 10- and 20-kilometre races.

The front room was crowded with rosy-cheeked racers warming up and having a bite to eat.

We even received compliments on our washrooms, which were designed to be accessible from inside and out.

The gym was jumping with kids waiting for the awards ceremony, and parents were happy to let them burn off the excess. The big moment arrived and everyone poured into the gym.

The fastest woman and fastest man awards went to a brother and sister.

Janelle Greer completed the 20-kilometre course through the hills overlooking Marsh Lake in one hour 13 minute 22 seconds. Her brother David clocked in at 58 minutes 13 seconds!

Andy Preto (and horse) won the Peter Milner Captain Fun award and he will be invited to wear his captain fun cape for the 2008 race.

At the end of the awards there was a special moment when Pat Healy, the chief of race, presented Jan Milner with a plaque in honour of Peter Milner.

Peter embodied the character of the loppet, and we miss his infectious fun. The plaque will be mounted on the bench up at the lookout, a lovely spot for a lovely man.

For the second year in a row Caius Taggart-Cox won the youngest participant plaque.

Two-hundred happy racers and volunteers cheered him on as he made his barefoot way up from the back of the gym, a little shy, but full of spirit.