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No stopping these skiers

Winners go 24-hours straight in Schweitzer marathon for Cystinosis

“I’d love to talk to you, but could we please sit down?” said Emily Querna as she greeted a reporter after becoming the top woman in a 24-hour ski marathon at Schweitzer Mountain shortly after 10 a.m. this morning.

Matt Gillis had a similar response after finishing in the top man:

“I’m really hungry, real thirsty and really ready to take off these ski boots.”

Querna and Gillis were the leaders among 152 people who signed up for the 24 Hours of Schweitzer, a fundraising event for fighting cystinosis. The participants totaled more than 11,000 laps up and down three different chairlifts.

Last year the event raised $70,000 and this year the fundraising has increased about 33 percent, said Brian Sturgis, who co-founded the event to bring attention to the rare disease that struck his son, Hank.

Gillis repeated as the overall champion surpassing with 196 laps, exceeding his record of 175.

Querna set a women’s record of 182 laps and she still had pizza slices leftover in the pockts of her windbreaker.

“I did it on gummy bears and Clif bars,” Willis said.

“My secret was drinking just enough, but not enough to have to pee too often,” Querna said.

The skiers weren’t the only ones giving their all to the event.

“We live for this,” said Schweitzer lift operator Olen Greig, who was wearing a sparkling wig, dancing and cheering on the skiers at the top of the bunny hill lift in the pre-dawn darkness at 6 a.m.

“I came on duty at 1 a.m. and I’ll work through the normal shift until 4 p.m.,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be anyplace but here right now.”