EMPO Times Spring 1999

EMPO in Lake Placid

Ski-O comes marchin' in through the ESG arch: ROC's Colquitt sisters on the ends, surrounding (from left) EMPO's Willem Oswald, Marty Hawkes-Teeter, Matt George, and Mike Waterhouse.

After a rather up-and-down season, the EMPO membership turned out in force for the Empire State Games. We had entrants in four of the six categories, and several entries in most of those, giving us a good chance to bring a few medals back to EMPO-land. This year there was also a good turnout for the opening ceremonies, with the EMPO and Rochester scholastic entrants marching and showing up prominently in the TV coverage. It was an exciting start to a fine event.

Race day featured just about perfect weather: sunny and bright, with little breeze, and moderate temperatures. The races went off on schedule, with no noticeable problems. Unfortunately, racers again had to observe Mt. Van Hoevenberg's one-way trails, which is completely contrary to the way that Ski-O is supposed to operate, but Eric Hamilton's courses did a good job of minimizing the distraction and impact of that problem. And it was nice to start and finish from a different location than outside the Biathlon building, as we have done most years. The Cross Country Ski Stadium area is very open and viewable from all directions, making it the most exciting place for seeing starters take-off and finishers push to the line. Many participants hung around that area for much of the afternoon, enjoying the race spectacle (and getting a bit sunburned, but loving every bit of it).

In the races, Matt George simply blistered the Green course, winning the Scholastic Male category, and proving the course was way too short for that category. Mike Waterhouse also did very well, finishing close behind in third place. Melissa George also had a fine race, and won the Silver medal for Scholastic Females. In the Masters categories, Ellie George (who isn't related to the scholastics, but that sure was a winning name this year!) medaled again, this time taking the Silver, followed by Nancy Allen in third for the Bronze. Finally, Phil Hawkes-Teeter won another Silver medal in the Masters Male.

EMPO's total of six medals compared quite nicely to Rochester's equal number and CNYO's five. Now if our Scholastics can age-up and start taking over in the Open categories, we can look forward to becoming the Ski-O force of the future!

Ski-O Season Starts Slowly, Then Takes Off

In these days of Global Warming, the quality of Ski-O in the Northeastern US is simply dominated by the weather, recent and current. For a prime event, there must have been snow, there must still be snow, and it must be in some condition better than ice. For any given event, the odds of this series of coincidences seem to be ever decreasing. Still, every year we set up our New York Ski-O schedules, with the ESG's as the championship test, and usually we get lucky and have some fine events. We almost always have FUN events.

This season, we tried to start things off earlier than ever, with two events scheduled for December, before Christmas. Sadly, both EMPO's planned event at Lapland Lake and the one scheduled for Old Forge had to be postponed/cancelled. Even the next event in January was pretty marginal, but Bob E-H goes by the theory that if he could set a course, someone might do it, and indeed a few did. After that, things (like Snow!) took off, and we managed to hold six more events as scheduled, before the finale had to be scrapped. Still, seven Ski-O's in a season is the most we've held for several years, and it was fun to see people traveling around the state to compete. Judging by the e-mail corrections/complaints I received, a number of people were actually surveying my postings of the ESG Points Standings.

Our return to Garnet Hill, two years after the US Ski-O Championships, which EMPO held in 1997, was a success. Ski Center Manager Dick Carlson and his staff provided all the assistance we needed, and the weather provided everything else we could hope for. The day was mostly sunny, with some passing snow flurries and a temperature approaching 20 degrees. The trails were well covered, tracked and packed, with about 4-6 inches of recent snow on top of a solid, icier, base. All of the mapped trails at Garnet are wide enough for skating, and despite the several significant climbs, it seemed likely that the conditions would produce fast times.

The turnout for the Blue Course was good, and a very competitive race resulted, with Gary Brackett winning over Mike Olson by just a couple of minutes. This was despite Gary reaching one of the major climbs just as a long line of more modest skiers was snowplowing down it. As he passed, one of them remarked to him "Wow, you're double poling up this hill!" He certainly wasn't doing it by choice!

On the Red and Green courses there were far fewer entrants, possibly because a Sectional XC race had been scheduled that same day for many of EMPO's Scholastic members. In these compressed snow seasons we keep having, the event conflicts are just unavoidable. Maybe things will work out better next year. However, despite the limited numbers, the Green course produced a very tight race, taken by Ellie George, coming in only 8 seconds ahead of Sue Hawkes-Teeter. Marty H-T also managed to beat his Mom (by 2:24), but he was doing the Red course, which was 3k longer. (In Mom's defense, she was just getting over the flu.)

While it is a bit more of a trip than some of EMPO's other venues, Garnet Hill keeps providing us with terrific skiing and wonderful accommodations. We'll definitely be back again, and by then I'll have the trail changes entered on the OCAD version of the map!

As the "regular season" wrapped up, and moved towards the "Post-season" event, NYSSRA Ski-O Chief Carol Moran contacted me. She had been asked for a suggestion of a younger Ski-O participant at the ESG's to be interviewed as part of a TV production on this year's Games. When I talked to them, they were looking for someone in the 11-14-age range, ideally from the NYC Metro area. I was only aware of two in that range, and (surprise) they were interested in interviewing the one I knew best, my son Marty. We made arrangements to meet up in Lake Placid, and in our household a new excitement was added to the days leading up to the event. When he isn't watching Rugrats, MSG and SportsChannel are about all Marty watches on TV, and here he might be on MSG himself!

The weekend before the ESG's, Sue & I (along with EMPO's Bob & Rita Reed) competed in the Snowgaine on Tug Hill. We've done it three years in a row, now, and this year was really the most fun. It was a shame more people didn't come, because the skiing was just great. I don't think I've ever been able to skate-ski in open woods as easily, and the downhills through the trees were thrilling (terrifying?). And yet, you didn't have to ski to do well, as the results will attest. We ended up doing OK competitively (3rd in the "Coed" category), but it probably wore us down, as the next week I caught a cold, and Sue developed a very sore shoulder. As we packed our gear for Lake Placid, we nursed our bodies and honed our excuses. But we were still eager for the Games, as Marty's 15 minutes of fame loomed, along with a great opportunity to spread the Ski-O gospel to the world, or at least to the cable TV subscribers of New York State.

I took Friday off from work, and spent the morning waxing all our skis, on the basis of the weather forecasts for Saturday. Over the years I've found that it's a heck of a lot easier to do the wax jobs at home, and I've never yet lost a race solely because I selected the wrong wax. Friday afternoon, we headed up north, and got to Lake Placid just in time to pick up Marty's ESG warm-up suit. Sue & I only got ESG hats, because those who qualify in the Masters categories don't get full suits unless they are medallists. We then took him to the staging area for the parade of athletes for the lighting of the torch and start of ESG festivities. At the staging area he met up with several other folks from EMPO and the other NY O clubs. Steve Sweet Sr., who had gotten a suit and so could be in the parade, told us he'd keep an eye on Marty for us, so we headed off for good spectator/photographer positions.

As "Opening Ceremonies" go, this was actually fun. There was a good video, great chances for the kids to mug for TV cameras, not too many speakers, and some terrific fireworks at the end. Through pure good luck the Ski-O group of athletes was positioned right in the center of where a lot of the crowd shots were happening, and we could see Marty and company on the overhead projection of what the cameras were capturing. Among 1200 kids in exactly the same outfit it was a real challenge to find our own when things broke up, but fortunately as they all sped outward we spied some of the other (bigger) folks from our crew and they pointed us towards where Marty was. He had been found by the TV group, and gone through introductions and verified our meeting the next day at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. We all headed back to the Arena for some food and "Family Fun." I'm not a Republican, but I must say they throw nice parties!

Saturday morning we headed back up from our Adirondack cottage (about an hour south) to Lake Placid to meet the TV folks a couple hours before the Ski-O was actually scheduled to start. Unusually, Sue & I both wanted to get going in plenty of time, which turned out to be fortunate since we were confused about where we were supposed to meet up. Not only ours, but everyone else's plans this year were somewhat altered by the coming of an international Biathlon competition at Mt. Van Hoevenberg right up through noon on Saturday of ESG weekend. This had a significant effect on the course planning (we were to start at 1:00), and it sure confused us. Nevertheless, we finally got to the right area, and found our TV contacts.

The weather on Saturday was simply gorgeous. The temperature approached 40 degrees, the wind was mild, and the sky was pure blue. Everyone was basking in the day, though organizers were a bit nervous about the ski-trail conditions. The TV folks turned up fairly soon, and we went off to a spot they thought looked sufficiently "outdoorsy" for initial interviewing. Marty handled it well enough, but was a bit stiff and not very expansive in his answers. TV didn't seem to mind, and kept coming up with ideas on how to maneuver him into talking more about what he knew and had experienced. Slowly we could see him moving into more of a comfort zone as he explained how orienteering events worked, how he figured out his route from the map, and other more specific questions. The TV people clearly knew what they were doing, and over a period of time Marty opened up enough for them to capture some sense of both him and the sport of Orienteering in the context of younger participants.

The race itself was by no means anti-climactic. Sue's shoulder seemed to be coming around, and my cough had subsided, and we felt like we could give it a serious shot. Eric Hamilton (EMPO's Mr. Multi-Nordic) had set the courses, done the maps, hung the flags, and then gone off to compete in the Biathlon Relay. But Tom and Carol Moran ably got our Ski-O off and running smoothly, with help from the Grandjeans and others, all of whom I'm afraid I can't remember. Under the eye of the TV camera I helped get Marty ready to go off; then I hustled back and got my own gear on to head out as the last starter of the day.

The race I know best is my own. I headed out well, and had little trouble to #1. Going to #2 I was bit more cautious as this was an area that has caused me troubles before (and blew Sue away this year). #3 was pretty simple, though there was a ski vs. bushwhack choice (almost everyone bushwhacked). #5 was my first mistake: despite several years experience at Mt. Van Hoevenberg I am still prone to missing changes in trail grooming which are not represented on the map. I should have let my knowledge that I needed to follow the fence over-ride the fact that the track staying by the fence wasn't a groomed trail. But I didn't, and overshot. It took me a minute or two to figure out where I was once I knew I had made some error. I followed that correction by getting to #6 just fine, but I failed to think it through, and left the wrong way, going home the shorter, but much more difficult (hilly), way. Pete Dady (an unofficial participant this year) left #6 about the same time I did, and beat me back by taking the correct route by several minutes.

In the post mortems, I learned Sue had blown #2 big time, and thereafter kind-of drifted in. Marty had done very well; he hadn't challenged the best High School boys (who were awesomely fast), but beat some of the boys, most of the girls, and all of the Masters Women on their common course. I ended up 2nd, behind Aims Coney, who had the best race of his ESG season. As I coughed and tried to go over my course with Marty under the TV camera after I finished, I felt pretty good that no matter the result, I had really given my all, if not my best, once again.

After collecting my ESG suit (for a 1-2-3 Masters finish), we headed out for a post race pizza blitz in Lake Placid. Half-a-dozen ESG Ski-O families joined up for a final get together. We traded sorrows, joys, and tales of the event, the season, and our plans for the Spring and Summer. And that, to me, is Orienteering: sorrow, joy, and plans; individually, and with all my "O" friends. I can't wait for Spring! (And for snow next Winter!)

-- Phil Hawkes-Teeter

Nearby Scholastic "O" Champs

Our neighbors to the west, Central New York Orienteering (CNYO), are hosting the US Intercollegiate Championships this year. EMPO hosted that event in 1992, when we inaugurated the Grafton Lakes Park map. In '94 there was no Scholastic Championship involved, but that has been added in recent years. This year, CNYO is trying to make it possible for more schools to field teams, and if you can round up as few as 3 kids for a weekend, your school can compete. Plus it's a great way to introduce kids to the fun and excitement of an orienteering "A" Meet. If you haven't started figuring out who might make up a team for you school, you'll want to start soon because the early discount on entry fees ends April 10th. Check out CNYO's information page for more information.