Possum Trot III Meet Report

By Dick Neuburger

Tradition...how to define it? Is it a set of circumstances that repeat themselves year after year? If so, tradition for the Possum Trot is becoming: 1) great courses set by Mike Shifman, 2) great competition between top orienteers (this year's event included 5 current and past US champions and a world masters champion), and 3) really lousy weather!

Possum Trot Orienteering Club of the Kansas City area and Orienteer Kansas of the Lawrence, Kansas area, host an orienteering event the first weekend of December. Saturday is hosted by Orienteer Kansas and features the Kansas Orienteering Championships. Sunday, hosted by Possum Trot Orienteering Club, is the Possum Trot, a 15-km goat style race. The timing is selected to minimize conflicts with other orienteering events and to offer one last chance to orienteer before the New Year.

Using the "drop any two controls" format adopted from the Rocky Mountain Goat, Mike Shifman designed this year's event to present orienteers with immediate choices at the start of the 15-km race. Mikell Platt, the male winner of PT III, reported after studying the map on the way to the first control, "...it seemed that there were a number of likely skips but no "must" skips." Indeed, the lead changed many times during the race. At the halfway point, Dan Meenehan had the lead by 4 minutes over Michael Eglinski; Mikell Platt and Mark Everett were each an additional minute behind them. But Meenehan had already skipped two controls and eventually was overtaken by Platt and Everett to finish in a tie for 3rd with Eglinski. There were many other exciting races between the trotters.

Now about the weather. In Kansas City, anything is possible the first part of December. The first snow is usually around Thanksgiving, but there can be many days in December that have beautiful clear blue skies with temperatures in the 50's or 60's. Possum Trot I had overcast skies with a strong wind and a temperature in the low 30's. Possum Trot II had a temperature in the low 30's and heavy rain. As the Possum Trot weekend approached, Kansas City was experiencing clear skies and 60 degree temperatures. We hoped the weather gods would be kind; but it was not to be. Saturday's Kansas Champs had slowly falling temperatures with rain showers. Sunday dawned to overcast skies, and snow was beginning to fall. Michael Eglinski exclaimed, "...this would be the best weather yet for a Possum Trot!" By race time at 9:00 a.m., 1 1/2 inches of snow were on the ground. Maybe we should have started the race a little later, because by noon the sun was shining and the snow was almost gone.

The following made the Possum Trot a big success: Mike Shifman - course setter, Nancy Neuburger - vetting and control setting, Jane Betros - T-shirt design, Mary Jones and Mark Roodhouse - refreshment station, Mike Edwards - hot drinks and refreshments, Paul Akin - event center, Dick Luckerman - road signs, Nick Hockman - control pickup.

Mikell Platt states, " The Possum Trot is widely considered the premier goat style event between the Appalachians and the Rockies." Possum Trot IV is tentatively planned for December 2-3, 2000. Make plans now to attend.