CABLE, Wis. (March 11, 2016) — The third day of the USSA Junior National Championships competition continued Friday with hard-fought sprint races on the grueling 1.3-kilometer course at Telemark Trails.
Logan Diekmann (Intermountain) U20, Sarah Bezdicek (Midwest) U20, Hannah Halvorson (Far West) U18, Karl Shulz (Mid-Atlantic) U18, Scott Shulz (Mid-Atlantic) U16 and Sydney Palmer-Leger (Intermountain) U16, claimed the Junior National freestyle sprint titles.
In the men’s U20 sprint, Diekmann dominated throughout the day all the way to the finals. Diekmann started the day strong, posting the fastest qualifying time, which advanced him to the heats. Diekmann won his heat and then skied to the win in the finals, finishing 3.75 seconds ahead of Dylan Syben (Far West) and Bill Harmeyer (Pacific Northwest) who finished third.
“This may be my final Junior Nationals and I couldn’t be happier about my race,” said Diekmann. “It has been a goal of mine to be on top of the sprint podium. I felt good physically and mentally. This race means a lot to me and my team but I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and family members. This is truly a wonderful way to finish out an incredible season.”
“Today was a great day, I am really happy to have had the best race I could have had with a bunch of cool racers/friends,” said Syben. “So far racing this week had been hard but I am happy to finish the individual races with good results going into the relay. Thanks to all the volunteers!”
“The race was awesome,” said Harmeyer. “Special thanks to the volunteers who helped keep the course intact. Couldn’t have pulled it off without them! Thanks to my parents who have helped me from the start! Good end to the season!”
In the U20 female sprint, Bezdicek started the day off strong and ended it even stronger. Bezdicek skied the fastest U20 female qualifying time, then won her heat, which advanced her to the finals. Bezdicek claimed the Junior National freestyle sprint title just 2.74 seconds over Lauren Jortberg (New England) and Abigail Drach (Midwest) who finished third.
“It was really warm out there, but the course help up thanks to all the volunteers,” said Bezdicek. “It was a fun and hard final!”
“I’m really excited to be on the podium and really feel good,” said Jortberg. “I haven’t been too excited about my previous races here, but stoked to end the individual races feeling awesome! I’m super excited for the relay tomorrow with New England. New England has awesome wax techs and coaches! I’ve had incredible skis!”
Halvorsen dominated the U18 women’s freestyle sprint. Halvorsen qualified second, won her semifinal heat which advanced her to the finals. Halvorsen skied to a convincing overall freestyle sprint title, 7.30 seconds ahead of Amanda Kautzer (Midwest) and Brooke Dunnagan (Intermountain) who finished third. Halvorsen has had an outstanding season, competing at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway and the U18 Scandinavian Championships in Oteppa, Estonia, in February.
“I am so excited to have a race come together like this today,” said Halvorsen. “After a lot of hard work and an abundance of support from my family, friends, teammates and coaches, I am so happy to have a strong race. This is what I live for!”
“I was slightly disappointed about the first two races of JNs, but am psyched about today’s race as I haven’t sprinted at all this season due to biathlon racing,” said Kautzer, who represented the U.S. at Biathlon Youth/Junior World Championships in Romania this season. “Our coaches gave us great skis today and all the coaches and especially my parents were great with cheering!”
“So far, this week has been really exciting! The conditions have been changing a lot and has required us to be very flexible,” said Dunnagan. “Skate sprinting is one of my favorite events to compete in. I felt really good today and can’t wait for tomorrow’s relay!”
Shulz dominated the U18 men’s freestyle sprint, starting with the qualifier through to the finals. Shulz had the fastest U18 qualifying time and the second fastest qualifying time of the day, just five seconds behind U20 skier Diekmann. Shulz won his quarterfinal and semifinal heats, which advanced him to the finals. Shulz skied to a convincing victory, 4.53 seconds ahead of Daniel Streinz (New England) and Tracen Knopp (Alaska) who finished third.
“This was the best race of the season,” said Shulz “While I was in the starting pen for my quarterfinal heat, my younger brother Scott came in and won the U16 men’s sprint title and that gave me the final motivation I needed to believe I could go all the way with him.”
“My race was good, but not my best,” said Streinz. “ My season has been going well, I got a top 10 on the U18 trip to Estonia. The New England team is strong so it’s a fun team to be on. I like spring skiing so JNs is always a fun time.”
“Today felt great,” said Knopp. “I feld smooth and strong the whole day. The first day was bad but the next couple race I have felt good. The season has been good too. Solid training and racing”
Scott Schulz was the inspiration to his older brother Karl as Scott claimed the Junior National freestyle sprint title for the U16 men. Schulz qualified strong, finishing fourth which advanced him to the finals. Schulz grabbed first ahead of Samuel York (Alaska) and Thomas Gebhards (Intermountain) who finished third.
“Sweet!” said Schulz. “I had a great season and this was the perfect way to end it!”
“I had an awesome season and trained hard,” said Gebhards. “I am glad to have been able to still compete in this race and that they could pull off the race. I’d like to thank all the race volunteers for their countless hours of service.”
It was a close race between the U16 women for the Junior National freestyle sprint title. Palmer-Leger claimed her second national title by 1.5 seconds over Abigail Jarzin (Midwest) and Margaret Gellert (Alaska), who finished third. Palmer-Leger, Jarzin and Gellert were in the top three of the qualifiers and continued to fight hard and stay strong until the finals.
“I had an awesome season, trained hard to make it to Junior Nationals,” said Palmer-Leger. “Happy to get another chance to race in such a big race. I want to thank my parents and coaches that have worked very hard to help me become a better skier.”
“This season has had many ups and downs but I’m super happy to have had a strong race today,” said Jarzin. “Thankful for my coaches who have helped me become the skier I am today.”
The final race of the 2016 Junior Nationals continues Saturday with a relay hill climb starting at 9 a.m. Central time. The races will be streamed live, courtesy of Central Cross Country Ski Association (CXC).