1999 US Individual Championships

Director's Review

by Evan Custer, meet director

BAOC hosted the 1999 US Classic Distance Orienteering Championships at the Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park at Spooner Lake on Sept. 25-26, and it was a smashing success! More than 450 orienteers from all over the country and some foreign countries came to the beautiful Lake Tahoe basin for 3 days of orienteering in lovely Ponderosa pine forests. Almost all of the participants thought the event was excellent, with challenging and interesting courses, nice runnable terrain, excellent map, beautiful weather, gorgeous location, and excellent organization. The orienteers who did not go probably missed one of the best events of this millennium.

In addition, a recreational event was held concurrently with the US Champs, and White, Yellow, and Orange courses were offered. About 50 people each day, many from the Lake Tahoe region, participated.

The Courses

Since this was a championship meet, a model or practice event was held on Friday afternoon, the day before the weekend event, on the southeast corner of the map. This allowed the competitors a chance to see the type of terrain, the mapper's and course setter's style, the type of controls used and their placement, and a mockup of the start. About 300 people attended this practice event and most found it to be very helpful.

The first day of competition was held on US Forest Service land west of Highway 28 from Spooner Lake. The forest service had removed many dead and small trees in the spring and summer and had burned them in piles on-site. Although this resulted in very fast terrain, it also required Bob Cooley, who set Saturday's courses, to send many hours remapping clearings that had been changed by the tree removal. It also left a large amount of dust from the burning. The southern two-thirds of the area was fairly bland hillside, with the northern portion containing a lot of rock features. Thus, all courses had several long legs which allowed route choice, plus some shorter legs in the more technical rocky area.

Sunday's competition was held in Spooner Lake park itself. Competitors on the Orange and advanced courses were shuttled by bus to the top of Spooner Summit, and then walked in an additional 700 meters to the remote start. Although this helped reduce the amount of climb, Sunday's courses were still quite physical, particularly the Red and Blue, with a relatively high percentage of climb. The courses were generally about 10% longer than the desired winning times.

George Kirkov, who field-checked and drew the map, also designed the advanced courses for Sunday. He felt that the terrain had many large features, and long legs would be too easily simplified and be made into a cross-country running race. As a consequence, he designed his courses to take advantage of the many smaller knolls and rock features, forcing the competitors to be constantly reading the map. The Blue course ended up with 29 controls in 8.6 km., possibly a record.

The Winners

Congratulations to all of the 1999 US Orienteering Champs! Full results are available for all courses.

Mikell Platt, 10-time winner of the US Champs, retained his title and standing as the best orienteer in the country. There was a strong field in M21, with over 50 competitors, including most of the best orienteers in the US. Mikell had a lead of over 1:40 at the end of Day 1, and although he came in a little less than 1 minute slower than Marc Lauenstein on Day 2, it was enough for him to keep his lead and win the US Championship in the men's elite class with a total 2-day time of 2:24:57. (Since Mikell lives at a high altitude in Wyoming, he was acclimatized to the relative lack of oxygen at the 7,000-foot elevation, as opposed to the gasping for breath that most of the competitors who live at sea level were experiencing.)

Mikell had a near-perfect run on the very demanding Blue course on Sunday, except that he overshot Control 23 (a shallow pit in a relatively bland hillside that has been hotly debated as to whether or not it was a bingo control), and lost a minute or two. Marc was the second-fastest person on Blue for the two days, but he was ineligible for the US Championships, so Eric Bone won the silver medal, and Joe Brautigam the bronze.

Angelica Riley won her first US Championship in the elite women's F21 category with two solid runs, although Regula Hogger from Sweden had the fastest overall time for the two days. Fifty-plus Sharon Crawford won the silver medal. Peggy Dickison, long-time winner of F21, had the fastest time on Sunday (1:28:37), but had a lot of problems on Saturday, and ended up with the bronze medal. The biggest disappointment probably goes to Sandra Zurcher, who whizzed through Saturday's course in 1:03:58, but unfortunately did not finish on Sunday.

The closest race of the weekend was M40 on Red. Kent Ohlund won the gold medal by 1 second over fellow BAOC teammate Steve Gregg. Tom Strat, a former BAOC member transplanted to Virginia, won the bronze.

Medals, custom-made for the event, were given to the top three US Championship-eligible competitors, and to the fastest person overall in each class, regardless of eligibility. To have been eligible for the US Championship, one either had to be a US citizen or hold a green card and have lived in the US for the last 6 months, and also be a member of USOF in good standing. The medals were quite large, and were double-sided, with the USOF logo on one side, and the BAOC oak tree logo on the other side. The winners seemed to really appreciate them. In addition, plaques were given to the winners of M21 and F21.

The Junior Club Championship was held concurrently with the US Champs. To be eligible, a team had to have at least 3 members 16 years of age or younger, all from the same club and members of USOF, and had to run in their age category or higher. The scoring was on a cross-country race style, where the winner in each class got 1 point, the second place person 2 points, etc. The scores of the top 3 people of each team were calculated. BAOC won this year's Junior Club Championship with a perfect score of 6. The members of the BAOC team were Rachel Care, Kirstin Haag, and Tania Haag in F-10, Katie Anthony in F-12, Malcolm Wyatt-Mair in M-12, Lauren Wolfe in F-14, Daniel Ohlund in M-14, and Anneliese Steuben and Hillary Wolfe in F-16.

The Logistics

The rangers at Spooner Lake, particularly senior ranger Bill Champion, were most helpful and encouraging. Spooner has a very nice covered pavilion with picnic tables, water and 110-volt AC power in the group picnic area, which was used as the event center. One of the biggest logistical problems was parking, which was exacerbated when the off-site lot that had been planned for parking was torn up by the Nevada Department of Highways for reconstruction two weeks before the event was to take place. Fortunately, the rangers agreed to allow us to park on maintenance and service roads.

Mike Schuh from the Seattle area was the announcer, which added a lot of interest and information for people watching the competitors finish. I want to thank Mike, not only for the great job he did in announcing, but also for providing his own public address system.

The headquarters hotel was the Forest Inn in South Lake Tahoe. This hotel was very convenient, had good amenities including free continental breakfasts, suites with full kitchens, and several swimming pools, and they gave us excellent group rates.

The Saturday night banquet was held at Planet Hollywood in Caesar's Casino, probably one of the most unlikely places to hold an orienteering dinner. Although the dining room was crowded, and many people had to wait to get served because of the large turnout (290 diners), the food was good and plentiful, and Karen Sessler, who was in charge of the dinner arrangements, was an excellent master of ceremonies. Course reviews were held following the meal. Door prizes were provided by Scarborough Orienteering, Bruce Wolfe's California Orienteering, Maptech, and Planet Hollywood.

The Quibbles

Although things in general went very smoothly, there were a few problems and some areas that I would change in the future.

The biggest complaint that I heard was that some of the control markers were hung too low. The flags were purposefully hung relatively low because the visibility in the area was generally very good, and we wanted the event to be a test of navigational skill, not running ability to the obvious flag. However, there were probably several controls in which the markers probably should have been higher, and both of those involved relatively shallow pits: control number 7 on Red Y on Day 1, and the previously mentioned pit on the Red and Blue courses on Day 2.

Also, several people thought that the courses for Day 2 were too physical. It is true that the 4% maximal climb guideline was not followed on the Day 2 courses, but the terrain made staying within that guideline very difficult to follow, and the quality of the courses as a whole would have suffered. However, since the courses affected everybody the same, there was not a problem with unfairness.

From an organizational point of view, in the future I will erect a results tent near the finish line, and provide battery power to run the computers and printers. Having the results area at the event center made posting and announcing the results somewhat awkward and slow. I was enamored with the lovely pavilion that was available at Spooner, and didn't realize the difficulties that the remote results would have. Also, in the future, I will have a dedicated construction crew to erect the start and finish areas, so that the start and finish crews will not have to break down and set up new areas after they have already spent a long day manning their stations.

The Thanks

Many people helped out at this event, and it certainly would not have run as well as it did had there not been so many helpers. However, I do want to mention that all of the technical aspects of the event were handled by Bob Cooley, including directing the production of the map, setting courses for Saturday's events, vetting courses for Sunday's event, and printing over 1000 maps. Thanks, Bob, for a great job.

I also want to acknowledge our sponsors. Joe Scarborough helped underwrite the cost of the chest bibs, paid for the F21 trophy, and provided door prizes at the Saturday night dinner. Bruce Wolfe's California Orienteering, Maptech, and Planet Hollywood also provided door prizes.