CABLE, Wis. (March 10, 2016) — After hundreds of volunteers gathered at Telemark Trails to shovel snow and restore the course, after a spell of unseasonably warm temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday, the 2016 USSA Junior National Championships freestyle distance races went on successfully on Thursday.
Max Lachance (Intermountain) U20, Sophia McDonald (Intermountain) U20, Hunter Wonders (Alaska) U18, Anna Darnell (Alaska) U18, Luke Jager (Alaska) U16 and Sydney Palmer (Intermountain) U16, claimed the Junior National individual freestyle victories.
In the U20 men’s 15 k freestyle race, it was a battle for the victory, as first through third were within 3.1 seconds of each other. Lachance edged Max Donaldson (Alaska) by 1.6 seconds to claim the Junior National freestyle distance title. Lewis Nottonson (New England) followed close behind in third, just 3.1 seconds out of first. This is Donaldson’s second podium at the 2016 Junior National Championships, after finishing second in the classic individual start on Monday.
“I’m in disbelief!” said Lachance. “Definitely happier with my season now! The course was really fast!”
“It was a tough battle the whole race”, said Donaldson. “It was fun trading off the lead with Max. Endless thanks to the volunteers for making a hard fast course possible today.”
The women’s U20 10 k race was another battle to the podium, as first through fifth were within 10.2 seconds of each other. McDonald (Intermountain) edged Abigail Drach (Midwest) by 1.7 seconds, to claim the Junior National freestyle distance title. Mattie Watts (Midwest) followed close behind in third, just 8.7 seconds behind first. This is Drach’s and Watts’ second podium after Drach claimed the Junior National distance classic title on Monday, while Watt finished second overall. The U20 women had to complete three loops around the course, which made up the grueling 10 k.
“I am so impressed with how all the volunteers have worked really hard to pull this event off with the lack of snow!” said McDonald. “It was a fun and hard race!”
“It was a hard race with steep uphills and technical downhills, but I really enjoyed racing the 10k skate,” said Drach.
“The course was in incredible shape!” said Watts. “Thank you to all the volunteers for all their hard work to help put on an amazing race!”
In the men’s U18 10 k, Wonders claimed his second Junior National title, after winning the individual classic race on Monday. Wonders skied to a convincing first place finish, 44.1 seconds over Karl Schulz (Mid-Atlantic) and Wyatt Gebhardt (Rocky Mountain) who finished third. The U18 men had to complete three laps of the 3.75k loop.
The race felt great, I took it out hot and just tried to hold on,” said Wonders.
“The race felt awesome, one of the hardest and best races of the season,” said Schulz. “I went out hard and finished harder!”
The U18 women skied an impressive 10 k, as first through third had the three fastest times out of the U18 and U20 women. Darnell (Alaska) grabbed the Junior National individual freestyle title just 0.6 seconds ahead of Hailey Swirburl (Rocky Mountain) and Leah Brams (New England) who finished third. This is both Swirbul and Brams’ second podium at the 2016 Junior National Championships. Brams claimed the Junior National individual classic title on Monday, while Swirbul finished third overall.
“I felt great about my race, I focused on having fun and going hard and my coaches killed it with fast skis!” said Darnell.
“There is no podium performance without so much hard work behind the scenes,” said Swirbul. “Unbelieveable coaches, wax testers and teammates throughout the year are what have give me this opportunity! Thanks to all!”
“I felt pretty good about my race!” said Brams. “My skis were rippin’, but the hills were TOUGH!”
In the U16 men’s 10 k race, new faces were on the podium. Jager (Alaska) claimed the Junior National individual freestyle title 17.3 seconds ahead of James Clinton “JC” Schoonmaker (Far West) and Ti Donaldson (Alaska) who finished third.
“Our skis were feeling really good and that helped make the entire race feel solid,” said Jager. “I was getting splits from our coaches that all of my teammates were killing it, which encouraged me to dig a little deeper. I was pretty surprised with the result, but couldn’t be more stoked. The race was hard but also fun.”
“On Monday I didn’t really have the best race, so today I just wanted to come out and give it my all and I think I did that so I’m really happy,” said Schoonmaker. “This whole trip has been great despite the weather conditions, but its just awesome we got to race today and I’m super grateful for all the volunteers and everyone out here.”
“This whole season, I’ve been thinking about this race alone,” said Donaldson. “When today finally came, I couldn’t help feeling butterflies in my stomach. However, I forced myself to retain my focus and concentrate on skiing my absolute best. It worked! Also, HUGE shoutout to all of the volunteers who sacrificed their time to work on such an awesome course.
In the final race of the day, the U16 women battled to the finish in a tough 5k race. Palmer-Leger (Intermountain) claimed the Junior National individual freestyle title just 3.1 seconds ahead of Novie McCabe (Pacific Northwest) and Margaret Gellert (Alaska) who finished third.
“The whole season I have been working very hard to make it to Junior Nationals,” said Palmer-Leger. “The first race went okay, but this second race I concentrated and focused on getting top three. My coaches have been a huge help in getting me where I am today. Also, a huge shoutout to all of the volunteers who spend so much of their time working on the course.”
“I have had a really amazing season this winter. I had an amazing racing today and I was super excited to finish top three,” said McCabe. “This trip has been really fun and I have loved racing here. The courses are super fun and have lot of great hills. I am so lucky to be racing here and I am super excited to start racing next season.”
“It was really awesome coming off of a bad race on Monday, and be able to race competitively with the best female U16s in the Nation today,” said Gellert. “It’s always fun to end the season with a race where you feel good! I am so lucky to be a part of such a great team (Alaska Winter Stars) and travel with my teammates from Alaska.”