RUMFORD – About 30 minutes before noon on Saturday, several members of the Le Paresseux Snowshoe Club team strapped on snowshoes, then socialized while standing beside snow-covered metal bleachers at Hosmer Field.

Like many other colorfully garbed runners around them, they were waiting in see-your-breath temperatures to compete in snowshoe races hosted by the Fraternal Snowshoe Union of Maine and New Hamphire.

Saturday’s races were the second in a seven-event series held at venues from New England to Quebec.

The season opener was held last month in Dracut, Mass. In two weeks, Biddeford hosts the third event. That will be followed by competitions at Valleyfield, Quebec; the Auburn Winterfest on the first weekend in February; the North American Classic on March 1 at Hyde Park, Vt.; and lastly, Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry.

The Le Paresseux team was comprised of 14 racers from Carthage, Dixfield, Mexico, Peru and Rumford. Among them was 13-year-old Salena Sawtelle of Dixfield.

Dressed in a navy blue outfit, hot pink socks and white sneakers, Sawtelle, an eighth-grader at SAD 21’s Dirigo Middle School, is in her third year of snowshoe racing. Her events are the 50-, 100-, 200- and 400-meter races, and girls’ and mixed relays.

In Dracut, the lithe youngster won six medals and was named best female athlete of the day and best overall athlete.

Her secret? She loves to run. It showed during Saturday’s relay events. At times, her running gait resembled that of a track-and-field athlete, not someone wearing the equivalent of a tennis racket on both feet.

Earlier, during registrations at the Le Paresseux clubhouse on Waldo Street, racers began showing up at 9:30 a.m. By 11 a.m., 35 people of all ages had registered. Sixteen more came in right before races were to begin at noon a few blocks away, causing a late start for the first few events.

Manning the registration table with her mom, Marie Arsenault of Oxford described Saturday’s competitions. She said she’s the president of all the snowshoe clubs in the U.S. and helms the Lewiston snowshoe team, Les Indiens Club de Raquetteur.

“It’s all about having a good time,” Arsenault said. “We push this to be a sprint race. It’s not like doing a mile in four to five minutes. It’s all-out sprinting. Just like the 100-meter dash, only on snowshoes.”

Back at the packed-powder covered track, Arsenault yelled out names of racers who were competing next and tried to get everyone organized, with help from megaphone-wielding Stephen Gallant of Peru.

The first two competitors were toddlers Cynthia Adams of Illinois and George Inman of Lewiston. Despite being instructed on when to take off, both youngsters paused and looked up at the starter after she yelled, “Go!”

After some body language nudging, they were off and running, albeit briefly.

George crossed in front of Cynthia, who appeared to have stepped on the back of George’s snowshoe, dumping him to the ground. She then patiently waited for him to get up before the pair took off running again, both grinning widely on hearing loud voices down the track from older racers and parents cheering them on.

After them, it was one race right after the other, as older children, teens and adults competed, snowshoes thwap, thwap, thwapping around the packed-powder track, kicked-up snow flying high in the air behind them.


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