VASA founder's son takes title of oldest to win freestyle 51K

VASA founder's son takes the title of oldest to win freestyle 51K.

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- The 42nd annual North American VASA Festival of Races kicked off early Saturday morning at Timber Ridge Resort in Traverse City.

“Today is the big race as far as numbers. All the freestyle races, the signature race is the 50k freestyle race,” said VASA president, Michael Haley.

Hundreds of men and women competed in the 51k race on Saturday, but this year’s winner has a special history with the North American VASA.

“I was in the first VASA when I was like 16 years old,” said Milan Baic, oldest skier to win the 51K. “My father Vojin Baic and Ted Okerstrom started the VASA years and years ago. Just as kids we would go out on the course and we kind of helped be the steppingstone to what became the race.”

From 16 years old in 1977 to today at 58 years old, Milan is the oldest person to win the 51K freestyle race and he did it after recovering from three knee surgeries last year.

“I know today that there was really a pretty good mix of ages. Guys in their 20s, 30s and 40s. It felt good. It's always fun just to be competing," said Milan Baic. "Winning is nice, but just to be healthy and to be able to ski near the front and know what’s kind of going on and maybe even dictate a little bit that’s pretty good and having family and friends out there.”

Milan says racing in the VASA has become a family tradition that started with his father and carries on to his family today.

“It's one of my favorite things is to watch my dad race,” said Erica O'hearn, Milan’s daughter. “Pretty special, feeling a lot of pride for my dad and it's pretty exciting to see him win.”

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