GILFORD — This weekend the Gunstock Ski Club will host the 2015 Francis Piche Invitational Race at the Gunstock Mountain Resort. Sponsored by Piche's Ski and Sport of Gilford and run by GSC parent volunteers, the race is essentially an Eastern Championships for racers in age groups U12 and U14, ages ten to thirteen. Teams of racers will compete individually and by state for medals and for a state team title.
The event begins with informal training offered on Thursday on the Cannonball race trail, followed by formal training groups on Friday with notable coaches from all over New England. Saturday is race day, with two runs of Giant Slalom on the race trail. Event T-shirts and keepsake race bibs commemorating the event are provided by Piche's for each competitor.
Over 300 racers from nine states will compete in two age groups, U12 (ages 10 and 11), and U14 (ages 12 and 13). Awards are given for top 10 places in both groups for boys and for girls. In addition the state team with the most points receives a winning team award and medals. States participating include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Southern Alpine Racing Association (SARA) consisting of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. An optional slalom race for the invitational racers will he held on Sunday for those who can stay to race again.
Racers qualify in their home state for this United States Ski Association (USSA) sanctioned event by placing in the top of their age groups in their home state racing associations' events. NH qualifying events were completed March 7th and 8th and two Gunstock Ski Club racers have qualified to participate. In the U12 age group, Toby Wilkinson from Sanbornton will represent GSC for NH in the race. In the U14 age group, Owen Sezgin from GSC has qualified to compete for NH as well.
The Gunstock Ski Club is responsible for all of the technical aspects of the training days and for making sure the race day and scoring is done following USSA rules and conditions. In order to cover its operating costs, GSC is running thirteen race days this season, with all work being done by its parent volunteers. It takes over 45 parent volunteers to run each race, with jobs running from registration and timing to gate judges and course maintenance workers. Some parents become certified Alpine Officials and Race Administrators in order to be sure races are run properly. GSC is proud of its ability to run so many races over a season, and also very proud of every one of its racers.
This race commemorates the life of local figure Francis Piche, who not only founded Piche's Ski Shop but more importantly did much to promote the sport of skiing in the Lakes Region. Not only was he an accomplished skier and racer but he also coached local youth and worked at the Belknap Recreation Area (now Gunstock Mountain Resort) in the late 1930's. After returning home from WWII in 1945 he ran his shop on nights and weekends and was active in local skiing groups such as the Gilford Outing Club and the Winnipesaukee Ski Club (now the Gunstock Ski Club). The shop opened full time in 1951. Originally the Thomson Trophy Race, the Francis Piche Invitational was renamed in 1995.
If you would like more information about this race or USSA ski racing, visit the NH Alpine Racing Association (NHARA) website at www.nhalpine.com, or the Gunstock Ski Club site at www.gunstockskiclub.org.
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