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‘Mission Accomplished’ for Harvey, Nishikawa in Classic Mass Starts

The women's 30 k classic mass start podium, with winner Emily Nishikawa (c), runner-up Cendrine Browne (r), and Katherine Stewart-Jones (l) in third, all of the Canadian Senior Development Team. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

The women’s 30 k classic mass start podium, with winner Emily Nishikawa (c), runner-up Cendrine Browne (r), and Katherine Stewart-Jones (l) in third, all of the Canadian Senior Development Team, after the final race of 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

(Press release)

(Note: FasterSkier is seeking photos from any and all of the races at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals. Please email your best to info@fasterskier.com with photo credit and caption info.)

WHITEHORSE, Yukon — Emily Nishikawa and Alex Harvey are the big winners as Canadian Ski Nationals came to a close in Whitehorse on Saturday.

The Olympic veterans proved they are the top women’s and men’s cross-country skiers in the country after smashing the field in the grueling 30- and 50-kilometre classic mass starts to cap off a long 2015/2016 season.

Nishikawa, a 26-year-old senior national development team skier, captured her third gold medal of the week in the women’s marathon. The 2014 Olympian led wire-to-wire in the four laps around the 3.75 k track. The hometown girl thrilled the Whitehorse crowd with a golden time of 1:43.12.17.

“That was a fun way to cap off the season.  It has been so great getting the opportunity to race Nationals in Whitehorse,” said Nishikawa. “I had another great race today, and had a lot of fun out there!  It has been inspiring watching the up and coming racers compete here. A huge congratulations to all as well as a big thank you to the volunteers for making this event such a success.”

Cendrine Browne, of the Pierre-Harvey Training Centre (CNEPH) and national U23 team, was the next-best finisher more than three minutes off the pace in second (+3:45.55). Katherine Stewart-Jones (Thunder Bay NDC/NST) continued her steady finish to the season with another podium finish in third (+6:26).

The 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals men's 50 k classic mass start podium, with winner Alex Harvey (c), runner-up Graeme Killick (r) and Ivan Babikov (l) in third, after the final race of the week in Whitehorse, Yukon. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

The 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals men’s 50 k classic mass start podium, with winner Alex Harvey (c), runner-up Graeme Killick (r) and Ivan Babikov (l) in third, after the final race of the week in Whitehorse, Yukon. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

Harvey, meanwhile, will leave Whitehorse and the 2015/2016 season with a perfect record at 2016 nationals. Having won his first three starts, Harvey battled through the ultimate test at the national championships – a 50 k classic mass start for the men – where he edged out two of his World Cup teammates at the finish line.

Working well-ahead of the field as a pack of three, Harvey, Graeme Killick (NST) and Ivan Babikov (World Cup Team) jostled up and down the rolling Whitehorse terrain for the final Canadian Championship crown.

When all was said and done, it was the most successful Canuck on the men’s team this year, Harvey, of CNEPH, coming out on top with a time of 2:20:20.1.

“Mission accomplished,” said Harvey. “I’m happy to be done now. I’m pretty tired – exhausted actually both physically and mentally. Four wins though – you can’t ask for much more.”

Killick went head to head with Harvey until the finish, but came a 0.71 seconds short of taking down the leader of the men’s team.

“I was happy to challenge Alex a bit in the final metres but his finish is world class, and something I will try to work towards for next year,” said Killick. “It was nice to finish the season in Whitehorse on one of the most beautiful venues we get to ski at in Canada. They always manage to put together a fun, and well-organized week.”

Babikov finished seven seconds off the pace in third (+7.73). Both Killick and Babikov had solid performances this spring, cranking season and career-best performances during the eight-race Ski Tour Canada.

Marie Corriveau, of the national junior team and CNEPH, won the junior women’s 20 k in 1:07:42.069. Quebec’s Antoine Blais won the junior men’s 30 k race in 1:32:39.716.

Complete resultsWomen’s 30 k | Men’s 50 k

Beatty, Harvey Golden Again with Skate Sprint Wins in Whitehorse

Alex Harvey (r) after edging Lenny Valjas and Julien Locke for the men's freestyle sprint title on Wednesday at Canadian Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. Valjas placed second and Locke was third. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

Alex Harvey (r) after edging Lenny Valjas and Julien Locke for the men’s freestyle sprint title on Wednesday at Canadian Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. Valjas placed second and Locke was third. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

(Press release)

WHITEHORSE, Yukon — Dahria Beatty and Alex Harvey are on a golden run in Canada’s north. Beatty captured her second straight victory, while Harvey completed the golden hat trick on Wednesday in the 1.2-kilometre freestyle sprints at Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse.

Mentally and physically exhausted following a long competitive season that culminated with the punishing eight-race Ski Tour Canada (STC), the 22-year-old Beatty has somehow discovered another gear to win back-to-back gold medals at the national cross-country skiing championships. She took down the nation’s best women on Wednesday on the two-lap sprint course she grew up on in her hometown.

“I felt so tired in the qualifier this morning and struggled to put everything forward, but I just kept getting better as the day went on,” said Beatty, who posted her first victory in Tuesday’s 10 k freestyle race, and also had a silver medal on the weekend. “I’m thrilled to have another victory at home. There were so many school kids out today cheering us on, and the support has been great here in Whitehorse.”

Beatty, part of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and national U23 development teams, lined up against six of Canada’s top female sprinters in the head-to-head women’s final for two laps around the 600-metre course which features one large climb, tight corners and a downhill into the stadium that leads to the uphill finish.

A notoriously slow starter in skate sprints, Beatty was third in the opening lap behind Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (National Senior Development Team) and Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers). The pack of six stuck together on the first climb, but it was the second climb where Beatty and Bouffard-Nesbitt made an attack on the group. Beatty jumped ahead in the final downhill and never looked back, skate sprinting to the finish line.

Bouffard-Nesbitt claimed the silver, while MacIsaac-Jones, who had a top-30 finish of her own at the STC, was third.

With the next generation of Canada’s elite cross-country skiers on full display on home snow over the last three weeks, Beatty and others are starting to make a claim they are ready to make the giant leap to the next level of racing. One of a group of young women cranking out personal-best performances at the STC, Beatty shocked the world to qualify for the World Cup classic sprint heats in Canmore, Alberta, where she went on to finish a career-best 15th.

“I think the whole Tour was amazing and definitely a good confidence booster for me,” said an exhausted Beatty. “It showed me that if I put my mind to finding that extra gear inside me, and putting it all out there, that I can produce good results.

Emily [Nishikawa] is a very strong skier, but I think we have a group of girls now ready to join her at the World Cup level. At least we are certainly ready to try. I think it is time we have a real women’s team over in Europe which is definitely going to make us stronger together if we continue to push each other.”

Nishikawa, a 2014 Olympian who also hails from Whitehorse, captured the first two victories of the week at the premiere domestic racing festival. A distance racer by trade, Nishikawa was the lone woman representing Canada full time on the World Cup this year. At home in Wednesday’s sprint, she placed 13th.

Marie Corriveau (CNEPH/National Junior Team) leading her junior women's qualifier on Wednesday at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. She went on to win the junior women's final. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

Marie Corriveau (CNEPH/National Junior Team) leading her junior women’s qualifier on Wednesday at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. She went on to win the junior women’s final. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

It was a clash of the Canadian titans in the men’s sprint final with many of the top names in the sport rumbling on the skinny skis in the head-to-head heats around the 1.2-kilometre track.

Toronto’s Lenny Valjas was determined to end Harvey’s golden run in Whitehorse. The World Cup teammate met in the final, but in the end, it was Harvey, of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., rattling off his third consecutive victory in as many races, winning by 0.19 seconds over Valjas.

“I knew Alex wanted to have good races every day, and was a bit nervous for the sprint, so that gave me motivation to put up the best day I could. I did everything I could to give Alex a run for his money today,” said Valjas. “I just put the pedal down the whole way around and was hoping to get some separation from him. I attacked that first hill, but he did get by me on the last hill. It gave him the lead and I couldn’t get by him again.”

It was Valjas’ second silver medal of the week behind the leader of the men’s national squad. He also finished second behind Harvey in the 15 k classic interval start.

“This has been a very serious week for us and everyone is skiing at a very high level. We are all teammates, but when the gun goes off we are all there fighting hard for the top of the podium,” added Valjas. “Whitehorse, in my opinion, is one of the best places in the country to have Nationals. When the weather is good it is hard to find a better place in Canada, and the volunteers have just put on an amazing event for us.”

Julien Locke, of Nelson, B.C., skied to the bronze medal in men’s sprint action.

Marie Corriveau, of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., won the junior women’s sprint. Joey Foster, of Midland, Ont., was the top junior men’s sprinter on the day.

The junior and juvenile boys and girls will hit the start line for their sprint races Thursday. The final elite races are set for Saturday with the 30/50 k classic mass starts.

Complete results | Women | Men

Beatty Dethrones Nishikawa in 10 k Skate; Harvey Rolls to Another Nationals Win

The women's top six in Tuesday's 10 k freestyle at Canadian Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon: (from left to right) Emily Nishikawa in second, Dahria Beatty in firth, Katherine Stewart-Jones in third, Cendrine Browne in fourth, Sophie Carrier-Laforte in fifth, and Kendra Murray in sixth. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

The women’s top six in Tuesday’s 10 k freestyle at Canadian Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon: (from left to right) Emily Nishikawa in second, Dahria Beatty in firth, Katherine Stewart-Jones in third, Cendrine Browne in fourth, Sophie Carrier-Laforte in fifth, and Kendra Murray in sixth. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

(Press release)

WHITEHORSE, Yukon — Dahria Beatty and Alex Harvey will etch their names in the history books as champions of the 10- and 15-kilometre freestyle individual starts at the 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals.

Beatty, who finished second to fellow Whitehorse resident Emily Nishikawa in Sunday’s 5 k classic, was determined to take down the veteran in Tuesday’s 10 k skate race. The 22-year-old Beatty hammered the pace in her three trips around the 3.3 k track to clock a winning time of 26:08.1 under ideal race conditions.

“I started second today so I went out hard and fed off the amazing cheering by so many people out here,” said Beatty, a member of the Alberta World Cup Academy and national U23 development team. “Emily was starting her first lap when I was completing my final lap so I was getting splits on her. Today was really about who could suffer the most. I just left everything out there on that last lap and suffered as much as I could and it paid off.”

Nishikawa, a senior national team member who was the lone Canadian woman to race the entire year on the World Cup, laid it all out there but couldn’t muster the fuel to overcome Beatty. Nishikawa, who won the first two women’s races on the weekend, took second, 6.2 seconds back.

“I put out another good fight, but Dahria was really strong so I’m really proud of her. It is really exciting and great to see Whitehorse athletes going one-two again so I couldn’t be happier today,” said Nishikawa, who took advantage of a day off on Monday to make a visit to her elementary school – Selkirk Elementary.

“It was super cool to get back to talk to the kids about skiing. I think it is inspiring for both of us and I thought it was really cool they are all in ski programs at school.”

Katherine Stewart-Jones, of the Thunder Bay National Development Centre (NDC), and originally from Gatineau, Quebec, skied to her second-straight bronze medal of the week, 44.1 seconds out of first.

Stewart-Jones held off her fellow U23 development team member Cendrine Browne (Pierre Harvey National Training Centre/NST) for the second-straight race as well, as Browne took fourth, 3.3 seconds behind her on Tuesday.

The men's top six in Tuesday's 15 k freestyle at Canadian Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon: (from left to right) Ivan Babikov in second, Alex Harvey in first, Graeme Killick in third, Lenny Valjas in fourth, Michael Somppi in fifth, and Knute Johnsgaard in sixth. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

The men’s top six in Tuesday’s 15 k freestyle at Canadian Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon: (from left to right) Ivan Babikov in second, Alex Harvey in first, Graeme Killick in third, Lenny Valjas in fourth, Michael Somppi in fifth, and Knute Johnsgaard in sixth. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

Alex Harvey, of the Canadian World Cup Team and Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Quebec, has been putting on a show for Canada’s next generation of elite skiers. Taking advantage of being in Canada this spring to compete at Nationals, Harvey skied to his second consecutive national title – this time in the men’s 15 k freestyle.

Harvey, who dominated Sunday’s classic interval start, was in tough company Tuesday while battling it out with two of his World Cup teammates – Ivan Babikov and Graeme Killick.

When the dust finally settled after the top men’s skiers on the country completed four laps around the 3.75 k loop, it was the 27-year-old Harvey finished on top with a winning time of 32:36.5.

“Of course we are all a little tired being at the end of the season, but I think it is really important for us National Team skiers to come to the Nationals when the schedule allows it,” said Harvey, who had two World Cup podium performances this year.

“I think giving the up and coming skiers the opportunity to race against us, shows them the speed and technique they need to be successful internationally. I remember being a junior and juvenile and wanting to compare myself in real life to the top Canadian guys.”

Babikov, of Canmore, Alberta, continued his successful spring with a silver medal, finishing 17.8 seconds behind Harvey. For Babikov, who had two top-10 World Cup stage results at the Ski Tour Canada (STC) earlier this month, it was the second podium of the week. The cagey veteran celebrated a gold medal in the team sprint with Jesse Cockney in the opening event of the national championships.

Killick, a senior development team member who also turned in career-best finishes at the STC, climbed onto the podium for the first time this week at Nationals. Killick, of Fort McMurray, Alberta, earned bronze, 57.6 second behind Harvey.

Freestyle sprints are set for Wednesday, followed by the 30/50 k classic mass starts on Saturday.

Complete results | Women’s 10 k freestyle | Men’s 15 k freestyle

Nishikawa Bests Beatty in Nationals 5 k; Harvey Blasts Men’s 10 k Classic

The women's 5 k classic podium and top six at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. Emily Nishikawa (second from l) won the race, ahead of Dahria Beatty (l) in second, Katherine Stewart-Jones (third from l) in third, Cendrine Browne (third from r) in fourth, Annika Hicks (second from r) in fifth, and Sophie Carrier-Laforte (r) in sixth. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

The women’s 5 k classic podium and top six at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. Emily Nishikawa (second from l) won the race, ahead of Dahria Beatty (l) in second, Katherine Stewart-Jones (third from l) in third, Cendrine Browne (third from r) in fourth, Annika Hicks (second from r) in fifth, and Sophie Carrier-Laforte (r) in sixth. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

Note: FasterSkier is seeking photos from Canadian Nationals. Please contact info@fasterskier.com to contribute to our coverage.

(Press release)

WHITEHORSE — Emily Nishikawa and Alex Harvey climbed onto the top of the women’s and men’s podiums in the classic interval start races on the second day of the Canadian Ski Nationals on Sunday.

Building on an opening day team sprint title with Kendra Murray, the 26-year-old leader of Canada’s women’s program did not disappoint the hometown crowd that lined the trails at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club by capturing her second straight national title. A 2014 Olympian, Nishikawa clocked the top time of 14:47.7 in the women’s 5-kilometre race.

“It is so fun to be racing on my home course. It was another great race, and I’m super happy to win my second gold medal in my home town. The volunteers are doing an amazing job, and it is a real pleasure to race here,” said Nishikawa.

Fellow Whitehorse resident, Dahria Beatty is continuing one of the best months of her career. Beatty, who is also on the national development team with Nishikawa, recently had a career-best World Cup finish on the Ski Tour Canada where she put down a stellar 15th-place result in the classic-sprint race in Canmore. Beatty continued to prove she is one of the top women’s skiers in the country again on Sunday with a second place finish, 6.3 seconds behind Nishikawa.

“It was a lot of fun today and I just love this course,” said Beatty. “I love racing 5 k’s so I went out hard. It was awesome to do well, and to be on the podium with Emily.”

Katherine Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., had a firm grasp on the bronze, 18.8 seconds out of first and nearly a minute ahead of fourth place.

The men's 10 k classic podium and top six at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. Alex Harvey (second from l) won the race, Lenny Valjas (l) placed second, Knute Johnsgaard (third from l) placed third, Graeme Killick (third from r) was fourth, David Greer (second from r) was fifth, and Michael Somppi (r) and Ivan Babikov tied for sixth. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

The men’s 10 k classic podium and top six at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. Alex Harvey (second from l) won the race, Lenny Valjas (l) placed second, Knute Johnsgaard (third from l) placed third, Graeme Killick (third from r) was fourth, David Greer (second from r) was fifth, and Michael Somppi (r) and Ivan Babikov tied for sixth. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

Meanwhile, Harvey smashed the field to win the men’s 10 k classic. Coming off a fifth-place overall finish on the Ski Tour Canada, the 27 year old demonstrated he is still in top shape, winning by nearly 90 seconds. Harvey, of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., skied into the winner’s circle with a time of 24:16.1.

“It was a great day today in Whitehorse. It is always nice to see the next generation in action,” said Harvey. “I raced on skate skis so I only double-poled. I didn’t get a chance to test the course before so it was a bit of a guess but it worked and I’m happy with the result!”

Toronto’s Lenny Valjas skied to the silver medal, 1:26.5 behind Harvey. Knute Johnsgaard grabbed the third medal for Whitehorse athletes on Sunday, taking bronze in the men’s race, 1:43.2 back, in the two-lap race.

Athletes will have a training day on Monday. Racing resumes on Tuesday. For complete details on Haywood Ski Nationals, please visit http://www.skinationals2016.com/race-schedule.

Results: Women’s 5 k classic | Men’s 10 k classic

Foothills Men, Whitehorse Women Tally Team Sprint Titles at Canadian Nationals

Note: FasterSkier is seeking photos from Canadian Nationals. Please contact info@fasterskier.com to contribute to our coverage.

(Press release)

Two veteran squads captured the first titles of the weeklong Canadian Ski Nationals on Saturday in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Canmore residents skiing out of Foothills Nordic Ski Club, Jesse Cockney and three-time Olympian Ivan Babikov won the men’s classic-ski team sprint. Hometown girls representing Whitehorse, Emily Nishikawa and Kendra Murray, stormed to the top of the women’s podium.

The team sprint races consist of each athlete skiing a 1.4-kilometre loop three times. Athletes tag their teammate between each leg.

Cockney and Babikov, who both posted top-10 finishes in the recent Ski Tour Canada, continued their hot streak to end the season. The Olympians got off to a slow start in the final round, but stormed back to take the gold medal in 18:08.44 minutes.

“It is awesome to win a gold for Foothills Nordic,” said Cockney. “It didn’t look good at the start. We started with grip wax and then switched to double poling. It was all Babs today. He set me up to make it happen.”

“I just wanted to keep fighting to the end,” said Babikov, who posted back-to-back top-10’s and a 14th place finish to end the Ski Tour Canada. “I kept Jesse in the fighting position, and he came through in the end.”

Just 0.7 seconds back, Yannick Lapierre and Patrick Stewart-Jones from Nakkertok claimed silver, while Lappe Nordic athletes from Thunder Bay, Ont., Andy Shields and Evan Palmer-Charrette skied to the bronze (+0.85).

Meanwhile, two hometown girls from Whitehorse – Nishikawa and Murray – teamed up to claim top spot in the women’s team sprint with a dominating win in 21:44.31.

“It was a super fun race and so awesome to race in front of a home crowd with Emily,” said Murray. “I came into today with the focus of using this as a good race prep for tomorrow. There were tons of people cheering, and it was so nice to have the locals celebrating with us at the finish.”

Nakkertok skiers Alex Slobodian and Claire Grall-Johnson finished second (+1:08.4), while Team Hardwood athletes, Madison Fraser and Isabella Howden, rounded out the women’s podium in third place (+1:19.16).

Results | Race schedule

Canadian Nationals: Somppi, Browne Take 50/30 k Titles

 

Michael Somppi (AWCA-NST) celebrates his 50 k freestyle win at the 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals on Saturday at Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

Michael Somppi (AWCA-NST) celebrates his 50 k freestyle win at the 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals on Saturday at Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

Saturday marked the final day of racing at the 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ontario. With temperatures dropping into the minus teens, under blue skies and strong winds, local favorite Michael Somppi of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National Development Team, originally from Lappe Nordic, racked up his third gold medal in the men’s 50-kilometer freestyle mass start.

Somppi beat veteran and 2014 champion Ivan Babikov of the Canadian World Cup Team by 28.2 seconds in 2:05:18.8. Kevin Sandau (AWCA/NST-Dev.) came in third (+47.2).

“I felt great skiing today,” Somppi wrote in an email. “It was a hard race but I was surprised I was able to win without going to my absolute limit. It was just an amazing feeling coming into the finish with the home crowd cheering me on. Maybe that’s what helped me feel so good today and really, this whole week.”

By the 20 k mark, the peloton narrowed down to a small group. Babikov then launched an attack with around 15 k to go. “I knew Ivan would make a strong decisive attack somewhere towards the latter stages of the race and my plan was to do my best to follow,” Somppi explained.

“He made his attack around 37 k into the race, I pushed hard with Graeme Killick to follow. We were both able to stay with him initially, but Graeme started to fade so I went by him and skied right up behind Ivan,” he continued. “The rest of the way, it was down to the two of us, exchanging the lead. When we neared the final kms, it was apparent Ivan’s legs were cramping up and as we crested over the second last big climb, I noticed I had a small gap on him. So I just blasted with everything I had left and opened up a good margin to the finish line.”

After traveling and competing on the World Cup circuit for the past weeks, Babikov explained he was not able to fully recover for Saturday’s long-distance race.

Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/NST-U23) edging out Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST-Dev.) in the women's 30 k freestyle mass start. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/NST-U23) edging out Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST-Dev.) in the women’s 30 k freestyle mass start. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

“Race plan was to save as much energy as possible and push the pace hard on the last two laps, which I did but my legs were feeling very tired from the beginning,” Babikov wrote in an email. “On the last 2 k, my legs just gave up on me, started cramping very badly so I even had to double pole some sections. I feel like travel and all 180 k of racing that I’ve done in the past four weeks finally caught up to me.”

On the women’s side, Cendrine Browne of the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre (CNEPH) and national U23 team took gold in the 30 k mass start with a time of 1:23:02.4, edging out Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST-Dev.) by inches (+0.37). Dahria Beatty (AWCA/NST-U23) finished third, 6.1 seconds after Browne.

The three women and Andrea Dupont of Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR) quickly distanced themselves from the pack. On the final lap, Browne and Nishikawa sprinted for first in a photo finish.

Browne was the bronze medalist in Tuesday’s 10 k classic race.

  • 30/50 k freestyle mass start: Results

— François Léger Dionne

Canadian Nationals in Thunder Bay: Day 2-4 Recap (Updated)

 

In what could be the last sprint of her career, Perianne Jones (AWCA/NST-Dev. B), 30, celebrates her classic-sprint victory on Wednesday at 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals at the Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

In what could be the last sprint of her career, Perianne Jones (AWCA/NST-Dev. B), 30, celebrates her classic-sprint victory on Wednesday at 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals at the Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

(Note: This post has been updated to include comments from Michael Somppi.)

On Sunday, the second day of racing at 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ontario, local favorite Michael Somppi of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National Development Team, originally from Lappe Nordic, racked up his second-straight gold in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle interval start on his home trails. He beat his Lappe Nordic team-sprint teammate Andy Shields by 34.3 seconds to do so with a winning time of 23:09.4.

“The 10km skate was my best performance of the year,” Somppi wrote in an email. “I wanted the win and I started the race like it was a sprint qualifier. The conditions were fast and I did my best to keep my speed high on the faster sections of the course.”

While Shields, of NDC Thunder Bay, posted the fifth-ranked time at 5 k, he closed hard over the second half of the race to finish second ahead of Kevin Sandau (AWCA/NST-Dev.) in third (+38.4).

“I didn’t let up much on my first 5km lap, then I dug super deep to hang on in the second 5km lap,” Somppi explained. ” I actually took a small fall cresting over the last big climb less than a km from the finish when I skied too close to the edge of the trail and my tip got caught in the snow bank.  It only cost me maybe 6 seconds, but it felt like an eternity trying to back up and get my ski  tip out of the snow when my legs were so lactated.

“It was tense moments waiting after I finished to see if anyone would beat my time since I was an early starter,” he added. “I was both elated and relieved when I heard I had won. It was an amazing weekend claiming the team sprint title with Andy, then winning my first National title.”

Dahria Beatty (AWCA/NST-U23) won the women’s 5 k freestyle by 3.7 seconds over Perianne Jones (AWCA/NST-Dev. B) with a top time of 13:23.4. Andrea Dupont, of Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR), placed third (+9.1)

  • Day 2: Results (scroll down for open women/men)

On Day 3, Tuesday in Thunder Bay, World Cup regulars Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST-Dev.) and Ivan Babikov (AWCA/NST-WCT) thrived on a blustery and -6 degree Celsius day to win the 10/15 k classic interval starts at Lappe Nordic.

Nishikawa started hard, building a 25-second lead over Jones on the first 5 k lap, but Jones cut the deficit to 2.3 seconds at the finish. Nishikawa won in 31:36.2, Jones took her second silver from 2015 nationals (following a second-place finish in the team sprint), and Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/NST-U23) was third (+1:04.7)

In the men’s 15 k, Babikov skied seven seconds faster than AWCA teammate Graeme Killick (NST-Dev. B) over the first 7.5 k and ended up 25.8 seconds ahead of him at the finish with a winning time of 38:31.2. Killick placed second, and Laval University’s Frédéric Touchette finished third (+37.1).

Wednesday brought colder temperatures, into the minus teens, under blue skies for the Day 4 classic sprints.

Jess Cockney (AWCA/NST-Dev. B) celebrates his classic-sprint win at 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals on Wednesday at Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

Jess Cockney (AWCA/NST-Dev. B) celebrates his classic-sprint win at 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals on Wednesday at Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

Jones and Jess Cockney (AWCA/NST-Dev. B) dominated their respective finals, with Jones winning the 1.5 k women’s sprint by 2.12 seconds over teammate Alysson Marshall (AWCA/NST-Dev.) and 4.25 seconds ahead of Dupont in third.

According to Cross Country Canada, it was likely the last sprint of Jones’ career. She narrowly edged Anita Kirvesniemi, of the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., to win her semifinal by 0.02 seconds. Both advanced to the final, where Kirvesniemi placed fourth (+4.78). Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt was fifth (+10.59), and Beatty crashed early to place sixth (+16.22).

In the men’s 1.6 k final, Cockney bested men’s runner-up Julien Locke (Black Jack) by 3.51 seconds and Norway’s Håkon Hjelstuen, of Michigan Tech University, by 3.66 seconds for his first individual win of the week.

Raphaël Couturier (CNEPH) placed fourth (+3.83), Bob Thompson (NDC Thunder Bay) finished fifth (+3.92), and Simon Lapointe (QC Ski Team) was sixth (+13.12).

Racing continues Thursday with the 1.2 k classic sprints for the juvenile and junior categories, followed by the 30/50 k freestyle mass starts on Saturday.

Lappe Nordic, RMR Claim Team Sprint Titles at Canadian Nationals

The Lappe Nordic team of Andy Shields and Michael Somppi won the team sprint at the 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The pair won Saturday’s race with a time of 14:04.59. They were followed by the Foothills Nordic team of Jess Cockney and Kevin Sandau, who trailed by 2.53 seconds. In third were Colin Abbott and Knute Johnsgaard of Whitehorse. They crossed the line 5.85 seconds behind the winning time.

“Somppi and I had a really good day,” Shields wrote in an email. “Our strategy was to have me push hard on the second and third legs to get a comfortable gap so Somppi could cruise into the finish … It’s absolutely thrilling to win for the home crowd here in Thunder Bay. A great start to the competitions for the fans. I’m glad my form came together for today’s race and it should bode well for the rest of the races.”

“It’s awesome to be home, racing on the trails I grew up skiing on,” Somppi wrote. “We’ve been thinking about this race all season and we definitely had our sights on gold so it feels great to realize that goal. I personally didn’t feel amazing out there today.  I was skiing ok, but I felt a little flat, understandably after travelling back from Europe only I’ve days ago.  Fortunately Andy Shields was crushing it out there today.  He was able to give me a sizeable lead and I just had to keep it together to bring home the win.”

In the women’s team sprint, Maya MacIsaac-Jones and Andrea Dupont won for Rocky Mountain Racers. Their time of 16:29:55 bested the second place team from Nakkertok, made up of Katherine Stewart-Jones and Perianne Jones, by 2.55 seconds. In third was Annah Hanthorn and Dahria Beatty of Whitehorse who trailed by 4.38 seconds.

“Team sprint day was a great start to nationals. After being overseas racing it feels great to be back racing with my home club,” Dupont wrote in an email. “Maya, my teammate, had a super strong last lap and put us in a solid lead. It was a fun day and great to see so many club with strong teams.”

“The race was a little hairy at times,” Perianne Jones wrote. “The course wasn’t the widest for skate sprinting with so many girls close together, so there was quite a bit of contact, which was fun and something Canadians don’t get to experience much!”

Results: men | women

Photos

Ammar and Babikov take National Titles in 30/50 k Classic Race at Canadian Nationals

Blowey and Klister, the Canadian Nationals and Cross Country Canada’s mascots, respectively, hang out on the final day of Canadian Nationals. (Photo: Kevin Sandau/Twitter)

Amanda Ammar of Team Ninja and Ivan Babikov of the Alberta World Cup Academy and National Team (AWCA-NST) skied to resounding wins Saturday in the final race of Canadian Nationals on the Blow Me Down trails in Newfoundland.

In the 30 k mass start classic race, Ammar dueled it out with Emily Nishikawa (AWCA-NST) for much of the race before throwing the hammer down in the final lap to win by 55 seconds. The two racers created a huge gap on the rest of the field. Chisa Obayashi of Japan was the third place finisher, 4:51 back.

On the men’s side, Ivan Babikov (NST) took home top honors in the 50 k race.  After skiing in the pack for much of the race, Babikov surged ahead of the rest of the field in the sixth of seven laps.  He held onto that lead and finished with a 42 second lead on the other racers. Kevin Sandau (AWCA-NST) snagged second place, while Graham Nishikawa (AWCA-NST), recently returned from guiding at the Paralympics, placed third, 53 seconds back.

Aggregate results (the overall standings for Canadian Nationals) have yet to be announced.

Women’s Results

Men’s Results

Emily Nishikawa, Cockney Win Canadian Nationals 5/10 k Classic

The women's 5 k classic interval start podium on Sunday at Canadian Nationals with winner Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST), Dasha Gaiazova (NST) in second and Amanda Ammar (Team Ninja) in third. (Photo: Cross Country Canada/pic.twitter.com/yIgcWP4vqa

The women’s 5 k classic interval start podium on Sunday at Canadian Nationals with winner Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST), Dasha Gaiazova (NST) in second and Amanda Ammar (Team Ninja) in third. (Photo: Cross Country Canada/Twitter)

Emily Nishikawa and Jesse Cockney snagged the top spots in today’s 5/10 k interval start classic races at Canadian Nationals at Blow Me Down Trails in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

Nishikawa, of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and National Senior Development Team (NST), just narrowly pulled off the win over fellow 2014 Olympian and World Cup Team member Dasha Gaiazova, winning by 1.6 seconds.  Amanda Ammar of Team Ninja, who also competed in Sochi, was third, 27 seconds back. Today’s race saw five out of the seven members of the women’s Olympic team race. All five finished in the top six.

On the men’s side, Olympian Cockney (AWCA-NST) squeezed out the win by 1.1 seconds over Kevin Sandau (AWCA-NST). Knute Johnsgaard of Yukon Elite finished third, 10 seconds back.

Racing will continue Tuesday with a 10/15 k freestyle interval start race.

Women’s Results

Men’s Results

Event Website

The men's 10 k classic interval start podium at Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfondland: with winner Jesse Cockney (AWCA/NST), Kevin Sandau (AWCA/NST) in second, and Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite Squad) in third. (Photo: Cross Country Canada/Twitter)

The men’s 10 k classic interval start podium at Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfondland: with winner Jesse Cockney (AWCA/NST), Kevin Sandau (AWCA/NST) in second, and Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite Squad) in third. (Photo: Cross Country Canada/Twitter)

Classic Team Sprints Kick Off Canadian Nationals

Day 1 of Canadian Nationals at the Blow Me Down ski club in Newfoundland. https://twitter.com/BMDtrails/status/444942990587342848/photo/1

Day 1 of Canadian Nationals at the Blow Me Down ski club in Newfoundland. (Photo: Blow Me Down Trails/Twitter

The 2014 Canadian Nationals are officially underway with the kick-off classic-team sprints, which took place Saturday morning.

Racing on the Blow Me Down Trails in Corner Brook Newfoundland, Kevin Sandau and Olympian Jesse Cockney, both of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and National Senior Development Team (NST) edged out Russell Kennedy (AWCA) and Phil Widmer (AWCA-NST) by 0.8 seconds for the win.  The Whitehorse duo of Colin Abbott and Knute Johnsgaard were also close, just 1.3 seconds back.

On the women’s side, Dahria Beatty (AWCA) and Olympian Emily Nishikawa (AWCA-NST) blew open the race with a stunning 20 second gap on the rest of the field. Marlis Kromm (AWCA) and Olympian Heidi Widmer (AWCA-NST) finished in second, while Whitehorse skiers Annah Hanthorn and Kendra Murray had a strong race to snag the third spot on the podium.

Racing will continue Sunday with a 5/10 k classic interval start race.

For more info, visit www.skinationals2014.com.

Canadian Nationals: Gruber Tops Kocher in Women’s 30 k

WHISTLER, B.C. — After finishing second in Thursday’s classic sprint to Canadian Dasha Gaiazova, Swiss National Team skier Bettina Gruber took the big prize at Canadian Nationals on Saturday, winning the women’s 30 k freestyle mass start in 1:18:41.1.

National-team biathlete Zina Kocher was the top Canadian in second, 40.3 seconds back. Heidi Widmer of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) was second Canadian and third overall (+59). Brittany Webster (Highlands Trailblazers) placed fourth and Chisa Obayashi of Japan was fifth. Gaiazova did not race.

Results

Canadian Nationals: Koos Edges McMurtry in 50 k Freestyle Mass Start

WHISTLER, B.C. — American Torin Koos outlasted his competitors on the last day of Canadian Nationals at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, winning the men’s seven-lap 50 k freestyle mass start by 0.4 seconds over Brent McMurtry of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA).

Koos (Bridger Ski Foundation/Rossignol) completed the course in 2:04.55.2, and McMurtry was the first Canadian and second overall in reportedly his last race as a full-time skier. Kevin Sandau (AWCA) was the second Canadian in third (+1.7), and Brian McKeever of Canada’s Para-Nordic Ski Team placed fourth (+2.1).

Results

Canadian Nationals: Gaiazova Rolls to Second-Straight Title, Valjas Tops Men’s Sprint

WHISTLER, B.C. — Fresh off a four-month stint on the World Cup, Dasha Gaiazova racked up her second-consecutive victory in as many races at Canadian Nationals on Thursday in the women’s 1.4-kilometre classic sprint at Whistler Olympic Park.

The fastest qualifier by 4.83 seconds over Canadian World Cup teammate Perianne Jones, Gaiazova rose to first in the A-final ahead of Switzerland’s Bettina Gruber in second and Jones in third. Alysson Marshall of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) was the third Canadian in fourth overall, and the Academy rounded out the rest of the A-final with Marlis Kromm in fifth and Heidi Widmer in sixth.

In the men’s 1.6 k classic sprint, Canadian World Cup Team member Lenny Valjas came out in his first race back from Europe to win the qualifier by 4.92 seconds over American Torin Koos (Bridger Ski Foundation/Rossignol).

Valjas went on to dominate the A-final, beating AWCA athletes Graham Nishikawa and Phil Widmer, who were second and third, respectively. Also from the Academy, Jess Cockney was fourth, Norway’s Rune Ødegård (University of Colorado-Boulder) finished fifth, and Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite Team) was sixth.

 

Final results: women | men

Qualifiers: women | men

 

Canadian Nationals: McMurtry, Gaiazova Tally Classic Interval Start Wins

WHISTER, B.C. — Brent McMurtry of the Alberta World Cup Academy notched his second victory in three races at Canadian Nationals, winning Tuesday’s 15-kilometre classic interval start in 41:26.9 minutes, 22.8 seconds ahead of Norwegian Rune Ødegård (University of Colorado).

David Greer of the Yukon Elite Team was the second Canadian and third overall (+44.3) and Graham Nishikawa (AWCA) was fourth (+53.3).

In the women’s 10 k classic interval start, Canadian World Cup Team member Dasha Gaiazova romped the field by nearly 1 1/2 minutes in 34:04, beating Japan’s Chisa Obayashi by 1:23.4.

Gaiazova’s teammate Perianne Jones was third overall (+1:35.2) and Alysson Marshall (AWCA) was the third Canadian in fourth (+1:42.5).

Results: men | women

Gregg Tallies 5 k Victory at Canadian Nationals; Widmer Notches Second-Straight Title

American Caitlin Gregg of Central Cross Country (CXC) put down the fastest time of 12:02.8 in Sunday’s 5-kilometer freestyle interval start at Canadian Nationals to take the overall victory in Whistler, B.C., beating University of Colorado-Boulder senior Eliska Hajkova by 10.9 seconds.

After Hajkova, a Czech Republic native, Heidi Widmer of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) was the top Canadian in third, 22.4 seconds behind Gregg. For Widmer, it was her second-straight national title in as many days of racing at the 2013 championships after she and Marlis Kromm (AWCA) took the team sprint title for their club, Foothills Nordic.

Nakkertok’s Alana Thomas was the second Canadian in fourth overall (+32.7), edging Alysson Marshall (AWCA) by 1.7 seconds. Marshall was the third Canadian in fifth.

Results

McKeever Continues Unbeaten Streak, Winning 10 k Free for First National Title

Brian McKeever after winning his first national title in Saturday’s 10 k freestyle interval start at 2013 Canadian Nationals in Whister, B.C.

Coming off a perfect season on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup, including a sweep of World Cup Finals in Sochi, Russia, Brian McKeever rolled to another victory at home in Canada on Sunday.

The 33-year-old won the 10 k freestyle interval start on the first day of individual racing at Canadian Nationals in Whister, B.C. Visually impaired and competing on the IPC circuit with guide Erik Carleton, McKeever topped the men’s field on his own in 21:18.1. Graham Nishikawa of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) was 11.7 seconds back in second, and his teammate Graeme Killick placed third (+23.0).

Results

Canadian Nationals: Cockney/Murtry Defend Title; Kromm/Widmer Run Away with Team Sprint Win

Phil Widmer of Canmore Nordic (l) leads Jess Cockney (Foothills) and Alex Mahoney (Rocky Mountain Racers) through Canada Corner at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday during the freestyle team sprint semifinal at 2013 Canadian Nationals. (Photo: Gerry Furseth)

WHISTLER, B.C. — Canadian Nationals at Whistler Olympic Park kicked off Saturday with the 2×3-kilometer freestyle team sprint in sunshine and fast tracks.

Marlis Kromm and Heidi Widmer took the women’s title for Foothills Nordic with a clear victory. Hardwood’s Mary Thompson and Erin Tribe took second over Michaela Howie and Zoe Roy of Rocky Mountain Racers.

The men’s event was tighter, with four teams arriving in the final straight together.  Phil Widmer led into the final 100 metres but crashed after tangling with Jess Cockney. In the end, Foothills Brent McMurty and Cockney defended their their team title, and Whitehorse took silver and bronze with David Greer and Knute Johnsgaard in second, and Colin Abbott and Graham Nishikawa in third. Canmore Nordic’s Russell Kennedy and Widmer took the wooden medal in fourth.

Results: women | men

Canadian Nationals Schedule

The road to 2013 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whistler, B.C. (Photo: Gerry Furseth)

Today was the first official training day for Canadian Nationals at Whistler Olympic Park. The venue welcomed cross-country skiers with blue skies, fast snow and warm sunshine that didn’t soften the tracks.

Racing starts on Saturday and continues through the following Saturday.

Saturday: Freestyle team Sprint

Sunday: 5/10 k freestyle individual start

Tuesday: 10/15 k classic individual start

Wednesday: 1.4 k classic sprints (younger athletes)

Thursday: 1.6 k classic sprints (open & older juniors)

Saturday, March 30: 20/30 k freestyle mass start

Over 600 athletes are registered. In addition to the expected Canadians, there are a sprinkling of Americans, Norwegians, and biathletes (who stuck around after Canadian Biathlon Nationals ended on Wednesday).

Virtually all of the top Canadians are registered. Lenny Valjas, Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Ivan Babikov, Michael Somppi, Dasha Gaizova and Emily Nishikawa are in Falun through Sunday for the World Cup Finals with most expected to race in Whistler on Tuesday. Perianne Jones will also be there, Kershaw and Harvey will be skipping Nationals (Kershaw might be attending as a spectator), and Babikov will make a decision after Sunday’s pursuit.

A final decision hasn’t been made, but it is likely that zone4.ca will have live timing on race days.

Canadian Nationals Video

Here is a great video of Canadian Nationals by Zacharie Turgeon of the Skinouk Ski Club. Worth a watch.

Championnats canadiens 2012 from Zacharie Turgeon on Vimeo.