Masters racers capture first place at Courtenay Snow and Surf Relay

Locals turn in a terrific show

Two teams of locals turned in a terrific showing at the big annual Snow to Surf Relay recently, as the Parksville Panters and the Great Expectations finished first in their respective categories.

In the mix at the Snow to Surf Relay Sunday, April 26 and part of a field of 177, both local teams brought their A games as the Panters finished first in the 10-team Grand Masters (over 40 category), and Great Expectations locked up first in the field of six to win the Great Grand Masters (over 55) division. 

“We were only a minute and one place behind the Mixed Grand Masters third place men’s team (Island Cycle, also from Parksville) and almost 13 minutes and 14 places ahead of the Mixed Masters (over 30) winning team the Refried Friends,” said Laurie Ritchie.

Then event is comprised of eight different disciplines — downhill ski, cross country ski, road runner, cross country runner, mountain biker, a kayaker, a road biker and two people in a canoe finish it off.

It’s a 400 meter run up the mountain side in snow boots then come down Linton’s Loop. The XC skier goes 8 km. Both runners are 7 km. The MTB is 10k. The kayak is 5k — the only leg that is timed. 

The road bike is 30k and the canoe leg is 5K.

It ends in Comox Marine Park.

Rounding out the Panters in the multi-discipliend event were Alex Pepper (kayaker), Murray (road biker), Rob Waite (canoe and team captain) and Ben Cooper (downhill skier), Laurie Kalf (mountain biker), Marilyn Atkinson (cross country skier), Patti Rogers (runner) and Jane Waite (canoe).

 The Panters have been together for about 12 years “but the one position that keeps changing is the cross country skier.”

This was Ritchie’s sixth straight run at the Snow to Surf Relay and she’s competed in nine of the 12 years its been held.

This marked the first time the Panters have ever won a mixed division.

“We won it as an all-girls team when we separated the team, but that was way back … we were called the Hippity Hormones and we finished first in the Women’s category,” said Laurie, 50, a physiotherapist.

The team will have their names added to the perpetual trophy, “but the best part of it is the chocolate medals,” she chucked, adding,  “the first three finishers all get medals so as long as we finish in the top three we’re happy … they are soooo good … they’re gone before we get home.”

Parksville’s Great Grand Masters (over 55) Men’s team, Great Expectations, which included Bill Vinton, Dick Allin, Gerry Thompson, Terry Riggins, Roy Gregorsky, Paul Grinder, Malcolm Farrow, finished 37th overall and captured first out of six teams to capture their category.

 Leadoff Ben Cooper turned in the strongest showing for the Panters, finishing fifth out 177 people.

“He’s really good. He’s just an amazing athlete, and our cross country skier Marilyn Atkinson held her position really well against some top skiers. 

“I think the fastest (XC) did it in just under 20 minutes and she did it in about 22 minutes.

“It’s great. There’s a beer garden after … It’s just a lot of fun.”