Congratulations to Jeremiah Menk, Ben Menk, and Alison Menk
Please join the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation in congratulating the winners of the 2015 American Birkebeiner Warriors & Inga Contest. The three cross country skiers will re-enact the 800-year-old legend that inspired the creation of the American Birkebeiner, now celebrating its 42nd year on February 21, 2015. This year’s group consists of Jeremiah Menk of St. Paul, MN; Ben Menk, of Minneapolis, MN; and Alison Menk of Minneapolis, MN.
See photos of the winners on the Birkie Warriors & Inga page at Birkie.com.
The roles of the two Warriors, Torstein and Skervald, will be played by long-time Birkie skiers and brothers, Jeremiah Menk & Ben Menk. These two historic warriors rescued Prince Haakon during the Norwegian Civil War in 1206. Alison Menk, Ben’s wife, another capable and passionate skier, will take on the role of Queen Inga from Varteig, mother of Prince Haakon, and a legendary figure in her own right.
Up for the Challenge
The contest winners were carefully selected by judges who know exactly what it takes to ski the 55-kilometer Birkie Classic Trail, on wooden skis, in full Warrior and Inga costumes, while encouraging their fellow skiers along the way. Each year, those judges are none other than the two groups of skiers who took on these roles the previous two years.
Strong and Passionate Citizen Skiers!
Each group that enters the contest submits information about how many Birkies they have skied, how many they have skied Classic, and what their times were. They also submit a short essay about their team members. People write about all sorts of things–family traditions, strong friendships made closer by skiing, Norwegian connections, and just their love of cross country skiing and the Birkie. It is a big commitment to ski the full Birkie Classic race on wooden skis while wearing period costumes. Entries must demonstrate the group’s skiing ability plus their enthusiasm for taking on these roles.
Jeremiah Menk has skied 18 Birkies, skiing the past four out of five Classic, and Ben Menk has skied 15 Birkies usually skiing skate, but also getting on Classic skis for three of the past five Birkie’s. Alison Menk has skied one Kortelopet – while six months pregnant, and three Birkies. Each applicant each showed solid finish times in these events.
The two Warriors ski the entire Birkie Classic race course. Inga may choose to ski the Birkie or shift to the Kortelopet to encourage skiers on that race course. She would then rejoin the Warriors for the final finish up Hayward’s Main Street. This year the Warriors & Inga will make their entrance onto Main Street, Hayward, early to mid-afternoon to the cheers of thousands of spectators lining the street.
Comments from the Winners
“I am honored and elated for the opportunity to carry on a tradition and re-enact a story that inspires people here and around the world. I can’t wait to cheer, ski, and celebrate!”
“I am excited and honored to be chosen to represent the Birkie warriors, and looking forward to cheering and skiing with family, friends, and strangers all sharing the beautiful trails of northern Wisconsin.”
“The Birkie is such an important family tradition for the Menk’s, so to be chosen as the Warriors and Inga is truly an honor for all of us. I am excited to ski the Birkie on wood skis and encourage all of the Birkie skiers.”
A Story of Family, Friends, and Birkie Tradition
Here is the entry essay provided by this year’s winning group, presented by Jeremiah Menk:
“Our Birkebeiner story started in 1987 as kids trudging through waist high snow to the famous Birkebeiner trail at Hwy OO to cheer on skiers. We wore several coats and hats and looked like starfish when we met our Dad and other friends, who exchanged a coat and hat with us before continuing on to Telemark. We felt like warriors waving sticks through the air like spears while clapping as loud as we could with mitten covered hands. Growing up and learning to ski on wood skis while making our own tracks, we marveled at the skate skiers as they flew along the course. We couldn’t wait until we turned 13 so that we could, at a minimum, ski the Korte. When the day arrived for my first Korte, I strapped on my classic skis and smiled through six inches of new snow on the way to completing my first race.
Since then, the weekend of the Birkie has evolved into a family holiday. As one friend stated, “the Birkie is like Thanksgiving or Christmas for the Menk’s.” When life was busy we always found time to get together for a long weekend and ski the Birkie. Even during the odd year when finding time to ski was difficult, we joined one of our parents and skied the Birkie together, creating some of our fondest memories of the Birkie while on the trail.
As our families grew, our wives took up the tradition of skiing the Birkie and Korte and even some of our kids “completed” the journey via their Moms (You know Birkie Fever has set in when someone completes the Kortelopet while six months pregnant). As the number of events during the week grew, so did our enthusiasm. We skied as a family on the giant ski. We pulled the wood skis off the wall and the knickers out of the closet to celebrate and ski the Nikkerbeiner while carrying our daughters in backpacks.
As my sister-in-law, brother, and I look forward to Birkie number 4, 16, and 19, respectively, our biggest excitement is taking our 3-year old daughters to experience the Barnebirkie and cheer on all of the children as they begin their Birkebeiner story. As our parents look to complete their 30th and 20th Birkie this year, they offered to be like the Bagler’s and chase after us on the trail. As we near 100 birkie finishes as a family, we dream of traveling to Norway to add a Birkebeinerrennet to our history.
Over all those years, we have kicked and skated the Birkie, though kicking seems to be the norm for the past several years. We have skied from the “back” with friends and family and started with the first. We have worn knickers and wool shirts, tall green hats and tutus, funny boxers and of course, spandex. Now, as we continue with our tradition, we would be honored to strap on our wood skis and wear the outfits of Torstein, Skervald, and Inga. We would cherish the opportunity to cheer and encourage skiers,
energize volunteers and spectators, and ignite Birkie fever in those aspiring to ski the Birkebeiner one day. And last, to tell our two youngest daughters (9 months in February) about the time they were carried down Main Street in Hayward, Wisconsin to celebrate a story over 800 years old when they line up for the Barnebirkie in 2017 to begin their Birkie story.”
Origins of the Birkebeiner Warriors & Inga Legend
The two Viking warriors were called “Birkebeiners” for the protective birchbark leggings they wore. They skied more than 50 kilometers through Norway’s rugged mountains and forested terrain, smuggling the infant son of King Syverresson and Inga of Vartieg from Lillehammer to safety in the town of Trondheim.
The rescued prince became one of the most popular kings in Norwegian history, and the Birkebeiner soldiers became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance, and character in the face of adversity.
On Birkie race day, the two Birkie Warriors and Inga will leave the start gate with the Elite Wave skiers. The rest of the 10,000 skiers will follow every five minutes in alternating skate and classic wave starts. The Warriors and Inga expect to see the majority of those skiers at one time or another along the trail throughout the morning and early afternoon.
They’ll not only re-enact the historic rescue, they’ll inspire 10,500 other skiers, 2,000 volunteers, and more than 20,000 spectators from around the world. The reaction of seeing the very origin of our event come to life like this is hard to put into words. The Warriors and Inga are one of the highlights of the Birkie event for everyone.
“Please join us in congratulating and welcoming this year’s Warriors and Inga!” said Ben Popp, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. “We’re looking forward to another great Birkie and together celebrating our rich heritage as cross country skiers, friends, and families on February 19-22”
Thank You to Our Sponsors, including SWIX, Title Sponsor of the Birkie Ski Events, Feb. 19-22, 2015, as well as Marshfield Clinic – Hayward Center, New Moon Ski & Bike, FITS Socks, Gu Energy, Timber Ford, and dozens of manufacturers of quality cross country ski equipment, gear, and apparel, as well as many professional services.
SKI . RUN . BIKE . LIVE!