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Bragging Rights

Ski to Sea Race

Bragging Rights

Two Ski to Sea teams compete for the cup

Story by Brandy Kiger

Ski to Sea - Mt. Baker to BellinghamIt’s painful, it’s intense, but most of all, it’s addicting. Every year, 4,000+ racers brave the diabolically designed course that runs from the top of Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay and everywhere in between to participate in the seven-leg, 90-plus mile Ski to Sea race. And they do it all for the bragging rights.“There’s really only about five percent of the teams that are competing for the top overall spots,” said Ski to Sea director Mel Monkelis. “The real competition is in the division races, particularly in the Whatcom County division.”

The Whatcom County division is made up of teams that are comprised entirely of Whatcom County residents. It severely limits the racing pool and ups the competition between teams. There is a division for Whatcom men, women and mixed teams.

“Whatcom is the most coveted,” said Brian Boatman, who canoes for the Beavers Tree Service team in the men’s division. “The Open [division] you can get with money, but Whatcom you’ve got to live here. We’re all fast enough to be on the open teams, and we’ve all been approached, but it would be harder to be competitive.”

Boatman’s team has placed either first or second for the past 15 years (even though they were disqualified in 2005). “We’re one of the best two Whatcom teams,” he said. “It’s pretty close every year.”

Beavers Tree Service met their match in the Klicks team and formed a long-term rivalry. Disqualified from the race when their runner collapsed, they watched helplessly as the Klicks team, organized by Jim Clevenger, found its stride. “They beat us fair and square that year,” Boatman said. “It broke our streak.”

Charlie Sunderlage took on the race for the first time that year, volunteering to run the road race portion for Klicks. It was his first time competing in Ski to Sea. “I wanted to experience Ski to Sea in all its glory,” he said. “And that’s a tough leg.”

They were elated to take the win that year. “Before then, Boatman’s team was significantly better than we were,” Sunderlage said. “Now it’s close. It was also the first year there was a trophy for our division, so that upped the competition.”

The trophy, a three-foot tall wooden cup with the names from each year’s winning team engraved on it, has been passed back and forth between teams since the first upset.

Since the 2007 race, the two teams have spent the weeks leading up to the event talking a little trash and getting in some friendly ribbing. “It starts about a month before the race,” Sunderlage said. “We put up our splits, and productivity slows at work [while we discuss strategy]. We pretty much take care of our customers and talk about Ski to Sea, and not a lot else happens.”

They look forward to seeing which one of them will take the cup and drink out of it at the annual party. “It’s fun to drink out of the trophy in front of the competitors you’ve just beaten,” Sunderlage said.

Last year, Klicks took the trophy home for the second year in a row. “We like to keep it in the Klicks Running & Walking store and point it out to our customers,” Sunderlage said. “It’s a really awesome trophy.”

Boatman warns his rivals not to get too comfortable. “They may have won the last two years,” he said. “But this year we’re really going for it. We’re going after them.”

Ski to Sea will be held Sunday, May 26, 2013. Visit skitosea.com for information. X