Wausau trio are this years American Birkebeiner mascots

This year's Inga, Skervald and Torstein practice for their appearance at the American Birkebeiner
This year's Inga, Skervald and Torstein practice for their appearance at the American Birkebeiner(wsaw)
Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 9:48 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Three people from Wausau will be this year’s mascots at the American Birkebeiner in Hayward. Beth and Jon Oestreich and Mike Cavanaugh will dress as Inga and the warriors Skervald and Torstein to lead the ski marathon and lend spirit and encouragement to skiers and volunteers alike.

The race, which is one of several around the world, commemorates the 1204 flight across country the Norwegian Birkebeiners undertook to save Prince Haakon from the enemy Baglers during the Norwegian Civil War.

Beth will even be carrying a baby doll to represent the prince during the 55-kilometer run.

“But then at the very end, I’m going to pick up a real live 6-month-old baby to ski the last hundred yards,” she said.

They all have a long history of going to and competing in the event. Cavanaugh first took part in the race in 1991 on a dare. The Wisconsin Rapids native was part of Lincoln High’s cross-country ski team and hasn’t looked back since.

“I was 126th one year, and I’m not to that speed anymore, but it was thrilling, people were just cheering you on. You were kind of buoyed to the finish line with all the enthusiasm,” Cavanaugh said.

The races have evolved over the years to become more than just an historic reenactment. The “Birkie Life” is a uniquely Scandinavian value that celebrates nature as part of existence.

“It’s a celebration of life. It’s a celebration of outdoors, and enjoying winter and enjoying skiing, so that heritage is really appreciated,” said Jon Oestrike.

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