Gilford, NH – April 6, 2021 – Gunstock Nordic Association – Due to early poor snow conditions and the ongoing COVID pandemic, the 2020/2021 ski season began under an umbrella of uncertainty. For GNA masters, December brought more rollerskiing, running, and cycling than skiing. However, GNA skiers stayed motivated and made the most out of the 2020/2021 ski season, which was highlighted by several victories in NENSA’s Zak Cup race series.

When racing finally started in January, some events were forced to cancel or moved to a COVID-friendly virtual format. Other races, such as the mass-start marathons were switched to either individual- or wave-start races. NENSA worked closely with clubs and event venues to put together a competitive and compelling Zak Cup race schedule. The annual Zak Cup is a season-long, senior and master’s race series for skiers over 24 years of age. Points are awarded to the top skiers in each event in five-year-age groupings to determine the fastest skiers in each respective category.

The first race for our master skiers was GNA’s Zak Cup Freestyle (2/7/21) race. With limited terrain available due to low snow, the race became a multi-lap circuit race on soft and challenging tracks. In his first race with GNA, Jeff Craddock took the M3 win, while Rob Riley, father of GNA junior standout Will Riley, took second in the M4s. Ed Momm, racing the M6 category, took his first of several age-bracket wins of the season.

The next big Zak Cup race on the calendar was the John Roderick Half Marathon (2/13/21) held in Rumford Maine. The Rumford course is a challenging 5km, FIS-certified course, featuring 398 feet of climbing per lap. Masters raced 5 laps, for a distance totaling 25km. Due to COVID-19, the usual mass-start format was switched to wave starts of five skiers per wave. This only added to the challenge of the race, as each wave quickly blew apart. Many skiers were left to ski the course solo, causing racers to have very few reference points as to where they stood in the race. Leading GNA skiers was Ed Momm, who skied to another M6 win! Also in the M6 category was Bill Donahue who finished second. Jeff Palleiko took top spot in the M5 category.

The following week featured one of the virtual races on the calendar, the Craftsbury 50km Marathon. Participating skiers could pick the day and course in which to attempt a 50km effort. Ed Momm chose his home course at Jackson XC and produced both the fastest M6 time and the fastest overall result for the event! His 50km time was 2:49:11 and his virtual race can be viewed here.

Ed Momm during snowy distance ski on the Hall Trail in Jackson, NH Ed Momm during a snowy distance ski on the Hall Trail in Jackson, NH

Next up was the legendary Rangeley Loppet (3/6/21) in Rangeley Maine. Like the Roderick half marathon, this 43km event was switched to wave starts of five skiers per wave—again making it difficult to determine one’s place within the race. Adding to the challenge were cold race temperatures that hovered in single digits for the duration of the event. Leading all GNA skiers was 23-year-old John Henry Paluzek, who was racing his first marathon and finished in 6th overall. The first GNA Master was Rob Riley, who won the M4 race category. Ed Momm produced another stellar race and won the M6 category while Jeff Palleiko took second spot in the M5s.

The last race of the season was the 21km Long Hall Loppet (3/14/2021) in Jackson NH. The race features some of the most challenging terrain on the New England circuit. The course skis up the Keeney trail to the Maple Mountain loop, which was skied twice. The Keeney trail is an arduous 15-minute ascent, while Maple Mountain climbs 418 feet per 3km lap. Adding to the challenge, were ongoing snow squalls up on Maple Mountain loop and Hall Trail descent, which only slowed everybody’s pace down. The on-form Rob Riley was the top GNA skier and won the M4 category. Ed Momm had another solid race and won the M6 race, while Jeff Craddock took the top spot in M3 category, and Jeff Palleiko took the third spot in the M5 category. Of special note was 12-year-old Timothy Craddock, who raced the 12.6km short course and placed second overall!

Of the 18 New England races that were scored for the Zak Cup, GNA skiers finished within the top of their respective age categories. Ed Momm was the most active racer and top finisher of the GNA masters and finished first in the M6 age category! Jeff Craddock placed fourth in the M3s, Rob Riley took second in the M4s, Jeff Palleiko placed third in the M5s, and Bill Donahue placed ninth in the M6s. Congratulations to all GNA master skiers!

2020/2021 Zak Cup rankings can be viewed here »


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