MARQUETTE - A new addition to the Noquemanon Ski Marathon this year made it possible for a wider range of the community to enjoy the nationally recognized race.
An Adaptive Ski 3K and 500 meter race was added to the many Noquemanon events. There were five participants this year, and three of them were on sit skies.
The proposal to add the adaptive ski race came from the Superior Alliance for Independent Living, which approached the Noquemanon race committee with the idea, Noquemanon Race Director Jon Mommaerts said.
Jimmy Bennett, 5, of Marquette takes an early lead in the first ever 500 meter Adaptive Ski race during the 15th annual Noquemanon Ski Marathon Saturday.
The first wave of racers in the 50-kilometer classic race leaves the starting line Saturday morning at the Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming. A record field of about 1,600 participants hit the trails with skis, snowshoes and snow bikes during the Noquemanon Ski Marathon, which continues today with snow bike, skijoring and snowshoe races. (journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"We said right away that we absolutely would and let's just make it happen," Mommaerts said. "Our only challenge was having enough equipment for the people to doit. There's more people that would be willing to participate if we had the equipment."
Mommaerts said the committee plans on using some of the proceeds from this years race to SAIL to buy more equipment allowing more physically challenged racers to participate in the future.
"The racers are so happy and I think they would be happy with any race, but to be a part of such a big event makes them feel special and gives them something to compete in that they don't get a lot of opportunities to do so," Mommaerts said.
One of those happy racers was 5-year-old Jimmy Bennett of Marquette, who has been diagnosed with spina bifida. He participated in the 500 meter Adaptive Ski race on a sit ski, finishing first with a time of four minutes, 3.7 seconds. His mother, Molly Bennett, said when he was asked if he wanted to do the race he was all for it right away.
"I think it's awesome for him to get to take part (in this race)," she said. "He was so excited about and then really nervous right before about winning or losing, but obviously he had nothing to worry about because he did great."
Molly Bennett said as her son was crossing the finish line of such a large race she started to tear up.
"It's huge for anyone with a disability, but then he's 5, almost 6, and it's even a bigger deal for a little boy with spina bifida to participate in such a huge event," she said. "I'm so thankful that they made it so people with disabilities can be apart of this."
When asked if he had fun, Jimmy just smiled and shook his head yes.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is email@example.com.