Solon Springs students raced the 2021 American Birkebeiner without the crowds Friday, Feb. 26.
With skis and determination, students from the school's Montessori charter school completed a snowy course in the Solon Springs School Forest, a three-minute drive from the school.
Parents and siblings gathered at the final bend near a bonfire, the best spot for pictures. The crowd set up a chorus of cheers as each student skied toward the finish line.
"Come on, you're almost there!"
"You made it. You did such a good job!"
The students skied either 1.5 miles, 1 mile or half a mile, depending on their age. Last year, the Montessori students were bused to Hayward to compete in the youth ski race, known as the Barnebirkie.
"This year due to COVID we had the option to do the race virtual," said Amanda Linden, who teaches E1 (grades 1-3). "The kids enjoyed the race so much last year that we wanted to make sure they still had the option to do it this year."
Katie Kurowicki, 10, raced with the class in Hayward last year. She was excited to try out the new school forest course.
"I’m actually happy because I like this track better because there’s more hills," she said. "I’ve never done this one before, so it’s going to be new to me."
With the course so close, even the youngest students could participate.
"These kids have been so great. The E2 class (grades 4-6) has been helping with the Children’s House, which is our little littles, our 4 and 5s," said Jennifer Bigoness, a paraprofessional with the Montessori classes. "They all have their buddies and they’ll help the little ones put on their skis and make sure they’re safe and know what they’re doing and kind of cheer them on."
Students have been skiing laps around the school's back field — five-and-a-half laps around equals 1 mile — to prepare for their virtual Birkebeiner.
"It’s something that we valued so much that we wanted to be able to recreate it," said Solon Springs Principal Holly Jones. "And they love skiing, they love being outside, they’ve been practicing, so they’re ready."
Students grinned as they skied past the finish line to cheers and shouts from the crowd. It was, they said, a great way to spend a Friday morning.
"It’s important to get fresh air right now because most of the time we’re sitting inside with our masks on, and it’s nice just to be able to be outside and enjoy winter while it’s still here," Kurowicki said.