11 Tritons Race in 29-Kilometer American Kortelopet

Adison Karbon, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Eleven NDA students, members of the Bay Nordic Ski Team, travelled to Hayward, Wisconsin, to race the 29-kilometer American Birkebeiner Kortelopet. 

Mary Popkey, Anna Gruesen, Greta Sternig, Heidi Lulloff, Olivia Stefl, Will Ernst, Alex Gutowski and Beckett Chambers were among the thousands of competitors.

The Kortelopet is the predecessor race to the Birkebeiner (50 kilometer skate race and 55 kilometer classic race in one) the following day. Both include the thrilling finish of descending a bridge into the main street of Hayward that is filled with groomed snow and a large crowd anticipating their arrival on the sidewalks.

These Bay Nordic skiers, 44 in total, are very prepared as they practice all year round; they roller ski and run in the summer, along with strength training.

“All winter they train on skis at the Reforestation Camp and various out-of-town trails based on the snow and conditions. They compete in multiple races all winter in both the classic and skate style,” said Angela Wright, mother of Anna Gruesen

They travel to many races throughout their season building up to the state race, which they competed in two weeks ago and is also at the Birkebeiner trailhead, and the Kortelopet which marks the end of their race season. 

NDA junior, Heidi Lulloff, joined the Bay Nordic youth group when she was just a little kid. During middle school she skied with her family and took it back up in high school.

She set her personal record of 1 hour and 49 minutes in her third Kortelopet. 

“The course was very fast and the snow was hard packed which made it very fun. I loved coming down Main Street to the finish line,” she said. 

Alex Gutowski, a junior who has been skiing since freshman year, completed his first Kortelopet. 

For me the race was difficult but also fun because I did not go as hard as I could,” he said. “It was cool to see so many people cheering for everybody that was doing the race.”

NDA senior, Will Ernst, who has been skiing since he was five, completed his 4th Kortelopet.

“It is the biggest cross country ski race in North America, and it is very fun for the racers and spectators due to the number of activities before. It has a really good vibe/atmosphere,” said Ernst.

As a spectator myself, I was in awe of the scale of the event; I have never seen so many people support each other and work that hard physically.