For the sixth time in the last 10 years, Beavers Tree Service has won the Whatcom County Open division of the Ski to Sea Race on Sunday.
Kayaker Brandon Nelson rang the ceremonial bell at the Marine Park finish line and was mobbed by family and friends just a little more than six hours after teammate Jacob Hartsoch started the race on sunny Mount Baker with the cross-country skiing course.
Beavers Tree Service had a 50-second lead entering the final leg of the race, but overall champion Boomer’s Drive-In used ringer Austin Kieffer to close the distance and finish two minutes ahead of Beavers. Kieffer is currently the No.1 ranked Surfski racer in America.
“I told my teammates I needed about a 5-minute lead to beat Austin,” Nelson said. “When I saw it was only a minute, I knew I had my work cut out for me but I gave it everything I had.”
Beavers was the defending champion after winning the overall prize in 2016. It was the first time a Whatcom County team had won the overall title in at least 20 years.
At 7:54 a.m., Hartsoch finished the cross-country skiing course and Beavers was in 14th place. From there, downhill skiier Brent Molsberry blitzed down the mountain in 21 minutes, 51 seconds which was the fastest time of the day for the second leg. Beavers was in second place after his portion.
Beavers maintained their second-place position throughout Derek Thornton’s running section, Ben Shaklee’s road bike segment and Brian Boatman and Michael Lee’s canoe leg until cyclocross racer Brian Ecker vaulted his team into first place. Ecker’s split of 37:09 was the fastest cyclocross time of the day.
Ski to Sea family event for Nelsons
Among the first to greet Nelson at the finish line were his two children, Jazzy and Hayden. Jazzy hugged her father and squirmed in his arms as he talked with fellow competitors.
Nelson, 45, said Ski to Sea is the best day of the year for his family.
And it is a family event: His wife, Heather, anchored the Whatcom County Women’s champion Brandon Nelson Partners in the kayak portion.
“You’re looking at the next generation of Ski to Sea competitors!” Nelson said, pointing to his children. “We go out and ski, kayak and hike. Anything we do, they do too.”