Birkie "Warriors" have local connection

A Frederic graduate and members of his family were named the winners of the 2020 Birkie Warriors & Inga Contest and took part in the 46th-annual American Birkebeiner ski race this past weekend in Hayward. David Kettula, a 1974 graduate of Frederic High School, now of International Falls, Minn., his daughter, Tasha Pinckney, grandson Caelan Pinckney and son-in-law Vergil Pinckney, all of Rochester, Minn., portrayed Skjervald, Inga, Prince Haakon and Torstein, respectively, as the Birkebeiner legacy was brought to life. In addition to skiing the entire 55-kilometer Birkie Classic race, the trio of adults picked up baby Caelan, portraying Prince Haakon, at the American Birkebeiner International Bridge and carried him across the finish line on Hayward’s Main Street to signify the safe delivery of Prince Haakon to Trondheim, Norway. 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 and in full period costume. Each year, the contest judges are none other than the previous year’s contest winners. Each group who enters the Warriors & Inga Contest is required to submit an essay outlining their skiing abilities and why they should be selected as the next “Birkie Royalty.” Together, the Kettula/Pinckney trio has a long history of Birkie Week participation and a definite case of Birkie fever! The 2020 Slumberland American Birkebeiner will be the 30th Birkie for Kettula (Skjervald). When he lined up on the start line 30 years ago, it was the very first ski race he’d ever participated in and he hasn’t missed a Birkie race since. “We were all together when I received the email that said we made it. We all let out a Birkie yell. It is a once-in-a-lifetime honor,” stated Kettula. Kettula’s daughter, Tasha Pinckney (Inga), has an equally impressive Birkie track record, skiing her 10th Birkie in 2020. Pinckney has also skied two Kortelopet races, along with four Junior Birkie and 10 Barnebirkie races. “When I found out we won, I couldn’t stop smiling,” Pinckney recalled. “I started thinking about training on wooden skis, what costumes we would wear, and when the elite skiers might pass us! I’ve been skiing since I could walk and am so excited to portray Inga for my 10th Birkie and cross the finish line with my son,” she continued. Tasha’s husband, Vergil Pinckney (Torstein), did not grow up as a cross-country skier, but it didn’t take long for him to catch Birkie fever after meeting Tasha; 2020 will be Vergil’s second Birkie. - Photos courtesy American Birkbeiner

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