The newly formed Yukon Elite Squad, a high-performance cross-country ski team, is fast, even without skis.
All six members of the team were the first to reach the finish line at Athletic Yukon’s Haeckel Hill Run on Saturday, a 7.1-kilometre race that takes runners up 600 metres in elevation.
Taking the top spot was Whitehorse’s Colin Abbott. It was his first time in the Haeckel Hill event and his first running race in about two years, due to injuries.
“I really haven’t run all that much in the last while; I’ve been mostly focused on ski training,” said Abbott. “But the Yukon Elite Squad, a new team that has been training in Whitehorse, all took part in the Haeckel Hill Run.
“We’re all training as a group, so we scheduled this race as part of our training.
“It was great to have those guys there, and Ray Sabo was pushing me pretty hard at the start of the race. He was ahead of me and made sure I had a pretty quick pace right off the get-go.”
Abbott completed the run in 33 minutes, 24 seconds. That’s 35 seconds short of the record time set by the Yukon MP Ryan Leef in 2003.
However, the two times can’t really be compared since snow and a new fence surrounding the location of the original finish nearby made the course an estimated 50 metres shorter.
“The course is so variable because of the conditions,” said Abbott. “This year, because there was snow, the top third of the course was really muddy and wet. So that makes for slower times.”
Abbott’s elite teammates weren’t far behind. Knute Johnsgaard came in at 33:49 for second, John Parry at 34:18 for third. The next three were David Greer (34:19), Ray Sabo (34:56) and Fabian Brooks (35:25).
The YES squad plans to use the bottom part of Haeckel Hill regularly as a fitness tester, running it a few times over the summer to gauge their improvement.
“So I know the bottom part of the course really well, and that definitely helped me to get such a good time,” said Abbott.
The race saw 32 participants, 10 more than last year.
The top female was Ella Parker with a time of 44:18, exactly three minutes off the course record set by Whitehorse’s Denise McHale last year. In second was Marit Ryabou (46:11), another cross-country skier, who competes for the University of Alaska. In third was Amelia Fraser (52:01).
In the masters women division, Angie Sabo (52:01) outpaced triathlete Donna Jones by 44 seconds.
For masters men, Tom Ullyett took the lead with a kilometre to go to win with a time of 41:19. Taking second was Scott Kilbert (41:23) ahead of Steve Cash (45:25).
Becky Striegler topped the walkers division, coming in at one hour, three minutes, one minute ahead of Rick Griffiths and three minutes up from Mike Ivens in third.
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