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The Pre-Race Scene at Senior Nationals

 

The men's freestyle sprint final at last year's U.S. nationals in Houghton, Michigan.

The men’s freestyle sprint final at last year’s U.S. nationals in Houghton, Michigan.

SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah.–Conditions on the ground at Soldier Hollow (SoHo)? Cold.

Sipping an espresso in Deer Valley and checking weather temps in SoHo about 20 miles south, the temps on the phone read -12 degrees fahrenheit at 9:30 a.m. in Midway, Utah —  Midway is located only a few miles from the SoHo race venue. On his blog, Zach Caldwell said it was -18 degrees when he began testing. Cold.  

Throughout the day, snow guns blasted creating a mix of man-made snow to go along with the recent natural snow.

The course for tomorrow’s distance races, a women’s 10-kilometer freestyle and men’s 15 k skate, is stout; steep punchy climbs, a long grueling uphill, and little rest or recovery to balance the lactate loads. Although not the same 5 k loop to be raced during World Juniors contested from Jan. 28 – Feb 5, 2017 at SoHo, Saturday’s distance course meets international racing standards.

For veteran U.S. nationals athletes, like Jennie Bender of the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF), the chance to race a new course, but familiar venue is warmly welcomed.

“I’m excited that I’ve been feeling good with my distance skiing so, I’m looking forward to tomorrow as well as the classic sprint,” Bender said to FasterSkier on Friday. “This is a big week for all of us and I’m excited to be back in Soldier Hollow.”

Nineteen year-old Stratton Mountain School skier Katharine Ogden is in SoHo not for World Junior qualification, she’s pre-qualified, but for some race strategy reinforcement.

“For this series I don’t have too many concrete goals because I auto-qualified for World Juniors, Ogden told FasterSkier in Soldier Hollow on Friday. “Now it is more getting the hang of racing here and trying to have some sweet races, but there is not much riding on it for me.”

Although the pressure may be dialed back a degree for the former Junior Worlds participant, Ogden said she still has some task at hand. “I think what I will work on will be trying to dial in the pacing and know how to get close to the redline, but not blow up,” Ogden added. “I’ll be  practicing that, which is much harder here than at home at sea level.”

Soldier Hollow’s top point sits a few hundred feet shy of 6,000 feet.

U.S. Ski Team (USST) development coach, Bryan Fish is attending Senior Nationals as both a USST representative here to calculate points for potential World Junior, U-23 Worlds, and World Championship qualifiers, as well serving as a race juror. Part of his USST role is to shepherd skiers like Ogden who have pre-qualified. FasterSkier asked Fish, who works with Ogden on the U.S. Ski Team D-team, what advice he’ll be giving her.

“This is not just this week, the year and year after year is to always learn,” Fish said. “To learn and make sure what you are learning out there is pacing, we are racing at altitude. She typically has been a good altitude racer. But it is a different course and it takes some different pacing on some long climbs and that is one of her strengths. So one of the things that I will tell her to is make sure that she is appropriately pacing it, staying consistent, staying smooth and continuing to think in the mood set that this is one race, it is an important race, it is Nationals. But this is one step along the path way.”

Another coach here mentoring, inspiring and guiding athletes towards their season goals is Alaska Pacific University (APU) head coach, Erik Flora. While Ogden’s prequalification may take some pressure off her performances, for Flora’s athletes and many other competitors, much more is at stake. As Flora explained, the week may mean World Cup racing is on the horizon, or that it’s time to head home to hone in on training.

“In the U.S. this is a pretty good pivot point in the season,” Flora told FasterSkier in Soldier Hollow on Friday. “If someone races really well, they get to go on to [World] Championships. If they don’t, then it’s time to go home and start working…[towards] the next step.”

For many of Flora’s top athletes — including Chelsea Holmes, Scott Patterson, the Hanneman brothers, Reese and Logan, as well as junior skiers Thomas O’Harra, and Hunter Wonders — making teams, such as U-23s or World Juniors, rides on their results this week.

“I think just about every single [APU athlete here] is coming here trying to make a team,” Flora added. “A lot of the season is on the line.”

The women’s 10 k kicks-off at 9:00 a.m. MST sharp Saturday morning, while the men’s 15 k is scheduled to start at noon MST. Live timing will be provided for the event and may be found here.

–Jason Albert and Gabby Naranja

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What’s at Stake for the Canadians at SoHo

At an event called U.S. Cross Country Championships (U.S. nationals for short), you might be expecting to see lot of Americans racing. What you might not expect is the large Canadian contingent at Soldier Hollow this weekend and next week in Midway, Utah.

Aside from the obvious attraction of racing in a more competitive field, the 2017 U.S. nationals are a selection event for Cross Country Canada (CCC). At stake for Canadians are starts at World Championships, Junior and U23 World Championships, and World Cup starts in Otepää and PyeongChang later this season.

The complete selection details are in the selection criteria, but we can summarize by event.

Junior/U23 World Championships (Soldier Hollow), Jan. 30-Feb. 5

The selection for Junior Worlds and U23’s is almost entirely based on race results at U.S. nationals, which allows the athletes to qualify on the same courses that will be used for the championships.

CCC first automatically selects athletes with World Cup points from 2015/2016 or Period 1 of 2016/2017. Maya MacIsaac-Jones, of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National U25 Team, is selected for sprint based on her 29th in Gatineau last season. Her AWCA and national U25 teammate Dahria Beatty is selected for both sprint and distance based on top 30 results in Canmore, Davos, and La Clusaz.

The top Canadian in each of Saturday’s freestyle interval start, Sunday’s classic sprint, and Tuesday’s classic mass start will become eligible for selection.

If this doesn’t result in the maximum 14 athletes (four per gender and age bracket, less the two preselections), the team may be filled using athletes ranked in the top five in the Canadian Points List (CPL). The CPL is essentially the same as the FIS points, which means the deeper field at Soldier Hollow provides a great chance to move up.

Otepää World Cup and World Championships (Lahti, Finland), Feb. 21-March 5

The Lahti team will be going to Otepää first, which means the selection process is combined.

Canadian World Cup Team members Alex Harvey (red-group member) and Devon Kershaw (who scored a World Cup top-10 earlier this week in Oberstdorf) are automatically selected.

The next automatic selection is for a top-six result at U23 or Junior World Championships, which for most is predicated on U.S. nationals results.

Beatty and Len Valjas (Canadian World Cup Team) are next in the selection priority, based on World Cup points from Period 1. Any other athlete with a World Cup top 30 by Feb. 5 will be selected. Pyeongchang World Cup results may be downgraded as the field there is expected to be much sparser than usual, with Canada joining the list of countries that will keep their World Championships favourites in Europe.

Additional athletes may be named to fill in the quota, based on results from U.S. nationals and CCC objectives. Saturday’s freestyle interval start, Tuesday’s classic mass start, and Thursday’s freestyle-sprint qualifier count towards this selection.

Pyeongchang World Cup (South Korea), Feb. 3-5

Canada is required to send a men’s team to all but one World Cup this season, courtesy of ranking fifth in nations points. CCC is using this event to get experience at the venue and develop ‘NextGen’ athletes. The highest-priority selection criteria effectively selects athletes from the World Cup Team. Since the distance skiers will stay in Europe, this is only Valjas.

This leaves up to four athletes of each gender (two sprint, two distance) to be selected to reach the team size of 12.

Athletes who also qualify for U23 Worlds will have a dilemma as the two events overlap, with most expected to choose U23’s. As this selection process is likely to come up short of 12, the final selection is based on coaches recommendations, using guidelines that strongly favour younger athletes. For athletes in the 23+ age group, U.S. nationals success will be critical.

With all these selections hanging on a single week of racing in a foreign country, it is reasonable to ask what value there is in the NorAm series this season.  The NorAm leaders, Katherine Stewart-Jones and Evan Palmer-Charrette (both U23 eligible and both on the Thunder Bay National Team Development Centre), get automatic World Cup quota spots and reduced event costs, which means they can enter any World Cup in the next period that CCC agrees to wax skis for. The NorAm races are also important for maintaining CPL ranking, but this still leaves many of the Canadians choosing U.S. nationals as one of peaking targets of the season.

— Gerry Furseth

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After 1 Year, CCC CEO Pierre Lafontaine Leaves for Cycling Canada

(Press release)

CANMORE, Alta. — Pierre Lafontaine is returning to Ottawa full time, accepting the role as chief executive officer/secretary general for Cycling Canada, after splitting time over the last year between his hometown and Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada’s national office in Canmore, Alta., the two national sport bodies announced jointly on Friday.

During his stint as chief executive officer for the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, Lafontaine worked tirelessly to bring the community across the country together – from the provincial sport organizations, national training centres and coaches – under a shared 10-year vision designed to increase participation in the sport in all corners of the country, and ultimately, put more Canadian cross-country skiers on the Olympic and Paralympic podium.

“I really enjoyed working with the Nordic community across Canada and will miss the people. Cross-country skiing is one of the most iconic winter sports in this country. It is an extremely passionate community with an incredible group of athletes representing our country,” said Lafontaine

“I am extremely grateful for Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada’s openness, and flexibility, to allow me to lead my team from afar, but I personally struggled with being away from both my family and the office in Canmore. I can’t thank the Board enough for their support of this decision – one that is best for me.”

Lafontaine, who will remain in his position with Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada until January, will assist the organization with implementing a transition plan that provides priority focus and support leading into the 2016-17 season.

“Family is at the heart of cross-country skiing in this country so, while we have a big hole to fill, we understand and respect Pierre’s difficult decision,” said Jamie Coatsworth, chair, Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada. “Pierre has done significant legwork getting all of our partners aligned under a shared vision, but we have loads of work remaining to get to where we want to be. We will begin an immediate search for a leader who can build on the framework Pierre has developed, and lead us into the next phase of our strategic growth plan.”

Lafontaine Succeeds Cycling Canada’s Retiring CEO, Greg Mathieu

From the lanes in the pool to making tracks on the Nordic ski trails, Lafontaine will now ride into Ottawa where he will succeed Greg Mathieu as Cycling Canada’s chief executive officer and secretary general in January.

Recognized as one of Canada’s most distinguished sport leaders, Lafontaine brings a wealth of international experience with him to the cycling community, having served as CEO and national coach of Swimming Natation Canada from 2005-13, followed by two years as CEO of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. A medal-winning performer, Lafontaine has achieved success working in all levels of the sport system across Canada, the United States and Australia – from national team athletes to youngsters getting introduced to the sport at the club level. Prior to taking the reigns of swimming in Canada, Lafontaine spent three years as head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport.

“Pierre is an energetic, passionate and experienced leader who is a known performer in the area of sport development,” said John Tolkamp, president, Cycling Canada, who added Lafontaine was hired following an extensive national search. “He will be counted on to lead our exceptional staff towards realizing the vision of being a leading cycling nation by 2020.”

Lafontaine is widely acclaimed as an innovative leader; not only in athlete and coach development, but also in building critical relationships with key stakeholders, including Own the Podium, Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee, to develop world-leading high-performance programs. Under his guidance, Lafontaine has achieved podium results as a CEO and coach at major international events from the Olympics and Paralympics to World Championships, Pan Am, Parapan Am and Commonwealth Games.

“I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to join Cycling Canada to continue doing what I love – working in Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic community,” said Lafontaine. “Whether it is cycling, cross-country skiing or swimming, my goals remain the same – provide the tools our athletes and coaches require to be world-leaders from the grassroots to elite levels, and to make the sport one of the premier activities in all corners of the country. There is a strong foundation in place at Cycling Canada, and my goal is to ensure cycling remains a powerhouse well into the future.”

About Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada

CCC is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, and Mackenzie Investments – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, CCC develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on CCC, please visit us at www.cccski.com.

About Cycling Canada

Cycling Canada is the governing body for competitive cycling in Canada. Founded in 1882, Cycling Canada aims to create and sustain an effective system that develops talented Canadian cyclists to achieve Olympic, Paralympic, and World Championship medal performances. With the vision of being a leading competitive cycling nation by 2020 celebrating enhanced international success, increased national participation and world class event hosting, Cycling Canada manages the High Performance team, hosts national and international events and administers programs to promote and grow cycling across the country. Cycling Canada programs are made possible through the support of its valued corporate partners – Global Relay, Lexus Canada, Mattamy Homes, Louis Garneau and Bear Mountain Resort – along with the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

 

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2018 U.S. Nationals, 2019 Junior Nationals Set for Anchorage

David Norris (APU) leads the Anchorage Tour race through the southern edge of the stadium at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, in March 2016. (Photo: Rob Whitney)

David Norris (APU) leading the Anchorage Tour race at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, in March 2016. (Photo: Rob Whitney)

Soldier Hollow in 2017, Kincaid Park in 2018. That’s the schedule for upcoming U.S. Cross Country Championships, following the recent announcement that U.S. nationals will be held in Anchorage, Alaska, in January 2018. The country’s top skiers will be headed to Utah in January 2017, for national championship races that will also help determine who goes to world championships in Lahti the following month. A year later, racers will be headed north to Anchorage, with final selections for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang potentially on the line alongside national championships.

The Alaska Dispatch News also reported that the 2019 Junior Nationals will be held in Anchorage as well.

U.S. Nationals were last held in Anchorage in 2009 and 2010. The 2009 races are remembered for unseasonable cold (even for Anchorage in January) that led to only two out of four races being held. In 2010, all four races were held in normal conditions, and Holly Brooks – until recently a local Masters ski coach – punched her ticket to her first Olympics.

Junior Nationals were last held at Kincaid in 2008. They were last held in Alaska in 2013, at Birch Hill ski area in Fairbanks.

— Gavin Kentch

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Amie Smith NENSA’s New Executive Director

The New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) announced last week that after serving as NENSA’s high-performance director for the past year and a half, Amie Smith is taking on a new role as NENSA’s executive director. On top of running NENSA’s competitive racing programs, Smith’s additional responsibilities will include staff management and organization oversight.

Smith was described by NENSA Board Director Carol Van Dyke as a “powerhouse worker”  in a press release. Prior to the position, Smith has spent time coaching and volunteering with the Cambridge Sports Union (CSU) and leading a Junior Nationals trip.

Smith will fill the shoes of Peter Graves, formerly NENSA’s interim director. According to the release, Graves was stepping down “as his freelance broadcasting role is becoming increasingly busy and he was unable to continue the job on a part-time basis. We thank Peter for his dedicated efforts for NENSA over the past few months. We are especially appreciative that he was willing to pitch in and help NENSA at a challenging time of transition.”

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Hegman, Rose Win 38th Baldy Hill Climb

The 38th annual Baldy Hill Climb — presented by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) in Sun Valley, Idaho — wrapped up this past Saturday, Sept. 24, with two SVSEF Gold Team members reaching the top of the podium.

A total of 196 competitors completed the course’s 1.9-mile climb up Sun Valley ski hill’s Warm Springs run (which rises 3,140 vertical feet and tops out at 9,020 feet above sea level), with Mary Rose and Jack Hegman topping the women’s and men’s races, respectively. Rose was this year’s fastest woman, finishing the climb in 44:13 minutes. The second woman of the day, just 1.48 seconds behind Rose, was her SVSEF teammate Deedra Irwin. Kristen Monahan was the third woman across the line, 2.34 seconds off Rose’s winning time.

In the men’s division, Hegman dusted the field, finishing in 35:31, 24 seconds ahead of SVSEF teammate Rogan Brown. Third went to SVSEF veteran Matt Gelso, who crossed 34 seconds behind Hegman.

The men’s current course record is held by Miles Havlick, set in 2014 with a time of 35:04. The women’s standing record was set in 2010 by Morgan Arritola with a time of 39:53.

Results

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Stephen Wins Third Straight XTERRA Trail Run Nationals, Second Red Bull 400

Liz Stephen after winning her third-straight Red Bull 400, a 400-meter race up the K120 ski jump at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. "Fun day at the #Utaholympicpark at the #RedBull400 today!" Stephen captioned the photo on Facebook. "Glad the sun popped out for the finals!" (Photo: Tom Kelly )

Liz Stephen after winning her second-straight Red Bull 400, a 400-meter race up the K120 ski jump at Utah Olympic Park on Saturday in Park City, Utah. “Fun day at the #Utaholympicpark at the #RedBull400 today!” Stephen captioned the photo on Facebook. “Glad the sun popped out for the finals!” (Photo: Tom Kelly )

Sometimes a big engine is a big engine regardless of the sport. Two weekends ago on Sept. 18, U.S. Ski Team (USST) veteran and two-time defending XTERRA Trail Run national champion, Liz Stephen, who lives and trains in Park City, Utah, made it a three-peat. 

The 13-mile course was laid out on Snowbasin Resort outside of Ogden, Utah. A trail-running race suited to those accustomed to thick sea-level air it was not. With a beginning elevation of 6,133 feet and topping out at 7,300 feet coupled with a total gain of approximately 2,200 feet over 21 kilometers, the course suited Stephen’s climbing efficiency.

The fastest time on the day was male runner Patrick Smyth from Santa Fe, N.M., in a time of 1:14:48. Stephen was the 10th overall finisher — and the first women — in a time of 1:31:08. Despite being 2 1/2 minutes off her time last year, Stephen finished a whopping 8:17 minutes ahead of the second-place women, Amber Schultz (1:39:25), of Ogden. Stephen’s USST teammate and fellow Park City resident, Noah Hoffman, placed seventh overall and third in his 25-29 age group in 1:24:06.

Having recently returned from a three week on-snow training camp in New Zealand, Stephen illustrated once again that when it’s up, up, up, she’s ready to go.

Stephen told the Park Record that although she’s not training specifically for running events, a race effort is still a race effort — it keep athletes sharp.

“The [XTERRA] race was more to go out, have fun and to just remind your body [how to race],” she said. “I think it’s really important to remind your body, and actually your brain more, how to race and how it feels.” 

This past Saturday, Sept. 24. Stephen proved to be unbeatable once again at the Red Bull 400, a 400-meter race straight up the K120 ski jump at Utah Olympic Park (UOP) in Park City, Utah. The race starts at 6,870 feet above sea level, making it the highest-altitude Red Bull 400 in the world.

UOP hosted the race for the first time last year, which Stephen won by seven seconds over Veronika Mayerhofer, of the University of Utah. This year, Stephen won by 44 seconds over Megan Foley with a winning time of 4:52.9. Stacey Armijo of the Philippines placed third (+56.1) and world-champion ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson placed fourth (+1:05.4).

In the men’s solo final, U.S. Nordic Combined and University of Utah skier Nick Hendrickson (Sarah’s brother) placed third (+32.2) with a time of 4:28.4.

Most of the U.S. Cross Country Team, including Stephen and Hoffman, will convene in Park City for another national-team training camp Oct. 17-31.

Results:

XTERRA Trail Run National Championship

Red Bull 400

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GMVS Announces Colin Rodgers as Nordic Director

Colin Rodgers (Photo: GMVS)

Colin Rodgers (Photo: GMVS)

(Press release)

FAYSTON, Vt. – Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) is thrilled to announce Colin Rodgers as the new Nordic Director. Colin returns to his native Vermont from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), where he was the Gold Team Head Coach for five years. The Gold Team is a professional cross-country ski racing team that offers year round programming for elite athletes to compete and achieve internationally.

Colin brings a wealth of knowledge and success to GMVS as the Nordic Director. Prior to coaching the Gold Team, he was a Gold Team athlete from 2006 through 2011, winning a USSA Super Tour Sprint Cup and representing SVSEF and the U.S. in multiple World Cups. Colin graduated from Middlebury College in 2004 and was Captain of the Middlebury Ski Team.

“Everyone involved in the search was really impressed by Colin’s background, accomplishments and commitment to developing top-level skiers. He brings great energy to the program, and we are especially fortunate that he has worked with many GMVS athletes in the past. I am confident that Colin will step in and have an immediate impact on the program that Garrott Kuzzy and Katrina Howe have built up over the past year,” said Tim Harris, Interim Head of School.

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Nakkertok Nordic Finalists in $250,000 Contest

Nakkertok Nordic of Cantley, Quebec, is one of four finalists in the running for $250,000 dollars in prize money, which would be used toward improving the club’s infrastructure. Voting for the Kraft Heinz Project Play, a nationwide contest highlighting communities in Canada, began Monday, June 25 and will remain open until midnight on Tuesday, June 26.

Nakkertok is 1,400-member strong, nonprofit cross-country ski club with participants ages 3 to 83.

“Now almost entirely through volunteer efforts and member fees, we have developed: 75 kms of ski trails, including 4 kms of lighted trails; a ‘play park’; a snowshoe network; a chalet; a multi-purpose building and several trailside cabins,” its Project Play profile states. “Our race team just won the National Club Championships for the 7th year in a row. We are committed to ‘skiing 4 life’, developing friendships and enjoying a healthy, outdoor, winter life style.”

If chosen as the grand-prize winners, Nakkertok would use the money for necessary trail upgrades and to purchase and install snowmaking equipment on 4 kilometers of its trails and its play park.

For more information and to vote, click here.

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Watch the USSA Congress Live

 

2016 USSA Congress

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Survey Seeks Feedback on Transition from Domestic to International Race Circuit

American Anne Hart leads the start of the women's10 k freestyle at Stage 7 of the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

American Anne Hart leads the start of the women’s10 k freestyle at Stage 7 of the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

No one can speak to the transition from the domestic race circuit to international levels of nordic competition better than cross country athletes themselves. With that in mind, Annie Hart, one of three athlete representatives for a subcommittee of the USSA Congress, recently created a survey regarding the shift from ski racing in the U.S. to competing worldwide.

Hart indicated that though the survey is open to all, it is targeted specifically at nordic athletes. Using the survey, she hopes to gain a broader perspective of the U.S. nordic community’s opinion and promote more discussion on the topic.

“The survey primarily concerns Super Tour racing, and the transition from domestic racing to the international circuit,” Hart wrote in an email. “These are important issues, and as the US is becoming a consistent medal contender on the World Cup, it is increasingly important to keep a pulse on the vaster US nordic community.  The USSA congress is a wonderful opportunity for people to discuss important issues in development and racing, but not every single athlete can be present.  However it is imperative to include as many people in the discussion as possible, and a survey is the quickest and most effective way to achieve that goal.”

Hart points out that the survey is anonymous and will be open until Saturday, although she hopes to get as many responses as possible prior to the USSA Congress, which begins Thursday. The survey, according to Hart, should take no longer than five minutes to complete. Any responses Hart receives, will be consolidated into single document and shared with all those in attendance at the USSA Congress, as well as the greater nordic community.

“Rosie Brennan, Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess and I are all athlete representatives, elected via an online election this past fall,” Hart wrote. “We are taking our roles as the athlete representatives seriously, and are trying our best to ensure active participation from the entire athlete community.  Survey takers should know their responses are anonymous, and are only being used to benefit the broader US nordic community in a productive discussion at the USSA congress.  Further, the more people who participate, the better the discussion will be.  So get those surveys in!”

To give your feedback, click here.

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NENSA Hires Graves as Interim Director

Last weekend, NENSA's Board of Directors selected Peter Graves as its interim director. (Photo: NENSA)

Last weekend, NENSA’s Board of Directors selected Peter Graves as its interim director. (Photo: NENSA)

(Press release)

Longtime nordic figure Peter Graves has been named Interim Director of NENSA following this past weekend’s Board of Director’s meeting in Hanover, N.H. A native of Bennington, Vt., Graves, 63, has spent a lifetime in the sport first as an athlete out of Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, later racing for Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., where he was a member of legendary former U.S. Olympic ski team coach Dolph Kuss’ squad at Fort Lewis College.

“One of the reasons I am so passionate about the sport, was that cross-country skiing changed my life in many ways, and I believe in that great transformative power, and its ability to give so many skiers opportunities they never dreamed were possible,” Graves noted.

After graduating in 1975, Graves worked in broadcasting, later moving to the Midwest where he worked at the Telemark Lodge, during the early days of the American Birkebeiner, and at NorTur, Inc. in Minneapolis as public relations and director of racing services, for the importing firm which sold both Epoke and Landsem skis.

He was ABC Sports nordic-skiing color commentator at the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid. In 1981 he began working as assistant coach and director of development at the U.S. Ski Team working under his long-time friend Mike Gallagher.

Graves then helped open the famed Giants Ridge Ski Area in Biwabik, MN in 1985 and was instrumental in securing a FIS World Cup event that was held there. Following that in 1986 he was named the USSA Eastern Nordic Program Director for the field office in Brattleboro, Vt., and later moved on to be a member of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games Organizing Committee in Salt Lake City for two years.

Graves is well known for being a pioneer in broadcasting and PA announcing in skiing and mountain biking and has announced at eight Olympic games over his career. He spent six seasons as the head varsity cross-country ski coach at Harvard University.

He has been the past chairman of the USSA Eastern Cross-Country Committee, the USSA National Cross-Country Committee, and the chair of the Central USSA Cross-Country Committee. Currently he is on the Board of Director of the U.S. Skiing Hall of Fame.

Newly elected board chair, Carol Van Dyke of Stowe, Vt., who as event director for Junior Nationals Stowe and last year’s SuperTour at Trapps/Craftsbury, has worked with Peter and greatly respects his commitment and energizing passion for the sport.

“Peter has the vision to showcase what this small but powerful non-profit organization is doing and can do for the ski world and help solidify support for NENSA’s programming,” she sad.

“I’m thrilled to be helping NENSA during this transitional phase, and really couldn’t be more delighted,” Graves said. “I have never lost my love of this sport and have stayed closely connected through my announcing work. NENSA has a proud past and I hope to play a role in continuing the good work Zach Stegeman has accomplished and build on that energy. It’s a great challenge that I am thrilled by. The Board of Directors represents a group with tremendous skills and deep passion, and I really look forward to a great collaboration in taking the next steps forward,” said Graves.

Graves has two grown children, one-step daughter and is married to Dartmouth Women’s Cross-Country ski coach, Cami Thompson-Graves. The couple resides in East Thetford, Vt..

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Kern Pulls Off Two More Podiums at OPA Cup Finals

Julia Kern with her "wheel of cheese" after placing third in the women's 10 k classic on Saturday, March 12 at OPA Cup Finals in Toblach, Italy. "A wheel of cheese is the best podium prize by far. Thanks to our amazing staff for making me some rocket skis and supporting me to a 3rd place at OPA Cup Finals!" Kern posted on Facebook. (Photo: Facebook)

Julia Kern (l) with her “wheel of cheese” and U.S. Development Coach Bryan Fish  (r) after Kern after placed third in the women’s 10 k classic on Saturday, March 12 at OPA Cup Finals in Toblach, Italy. “A wheel of cheese is the best podium prize by far. Thanks to our amazing staff for making me some rocket skis and supporting me to a 3rd place at OPA Cup Finals!” Kern posted on Facebook. (Photo: Julia Kern/Facebook)

(Press release)

TOBLACH, Italy – A week after placing third in the Alpen Cup freestyle mass start in Arber, Germany, Julia Kern (Stratton Mountain School) led the U.S. team once again, with two podium finishes in the final weekend of racing March 11-13 at OPA Cup Finals in Toblach, Italy.

The races kicked off Friday, March 11, with a 2.5 k freestyle prologue for the senior women, two U.S. women finished in the top 25. Erika Flowers (Stratton Mountain School T2 Team) finished 22nd overall followed by Liz Guiney (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in 25th. Becca Rorabaugh (Alaska Pacific University) was the next American, finishing 29th, followed by Heather Mooney in 31st. Switzerland’s Nadine Faehndrich edged Germany’s Elisabeth Schicho for first by just 1.6 seconds, followed by Italy’s Ilaria Debertolis who finished third.

Women’s 2.5 k freestyle results

Kern, 18, led the U20 women, finishing fifth in a competitive 2.5 k freestyle, just 9.8 seconds out of first, behind Germany’s Katharina Hennig. France’s Delphine Claudel was second and Italy’s Anna Comarella finished third.

U20 women’s 2.5 k freestyle

The senior men skied a 3.3 k freestyle on Friday, where Logan Hanneman (APU) grabbed a spot in the top 10, finishing seventh overall. Hanneman was just 0.8 seconds from a top-five finish. Miles Havlick (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) was the next American, finishing 22nd, followed by Lex Treinen (APU) in 23rd, Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (Bridger Ski Foundation) 36th, Tyler Kornfield (APU) 42nd, and Kyle Bratrud (CXC Team) 49th. Switzerland’s Ueli Schnider edged Italy’s Roland Clara for the victory, just 0.3 seconds ahead, followed by France’s Clement Parisse who finished third.

Men’s 3.3 k freestyle

Zak Ketterson (Northern Michigan University) led the U.S. U20 men, finishing 10th overall. Thomas O’Harra (APU Nordic Center) was the next American, finishing 24th, followed by Leo Hipp (NMU) in 37th. Czech Republic’s Michal Novak stole first by 5.5 seconds ahead of Germany’s Janosch Brugger, followed by Italy’s Mikael Abram who finished third.

U20 men’s 3.3 k freestyle

Competition continued Saturday with a 10 k classic for the women. Rorabaugh finished 17th overall, followed by Guiney in 22nd, Flowers in 26th and Mooney in 32nd. Germany swept the podium as Elisabeth Schicho grabbed another victory, 4.7 seconds ahead of teammates Monique Siegel, and Julia Belger in third.

Women’s 10 k classic

Kern grabbed a coveted spot on the podium in the U20 women’s 5 k classic. Germany’s Katharina Henning claimed another victory, followed by Italy’s Anna Comarella and Kern who finished just 17.2 seconds behind in third.

U20 women’s 5 k classic

In the men’s 15 k classic, Hanneman led the U.S. men in 28th overall. Bratrud was the next American, finishing 38th, followed by Kornfield who finished 41st, Treinen 44th, Havlick 46th, Maifeld 47th and Saxton 48th. Switzerland’s Ueli dominated the 10k to claim another victory 1:41 minutes ahead of Italy’s Roland Clara and Czech Republic’s Ales Razym who finished third.

Men’s 15 k classic

O’ Harra and Ketterson led the U20 men, grabbing a spot in the top 30 in a 10 k classic race. O’Harra finished 28th overall followed by Ketterson in 30th. Hipp was the next American, finishing 35th. France’s Martin Collet skied to a convincing first place finish 36.2 seconds ahead of Germany’s Janosch Brugger and France’s Jules Lapierre who was third.

U20 men’s 10 k classic

The weekend concluded with a 10 k freestyle pursuit for the women on Sunday. Rorabaugh led the U.S. senior women, grabbing a spot in the top 20, finishing 16th overall. Guiney was the next American, finishing 22nd, followed by Flowers in 28th, and Mooney 32nd. Switzerland’s Faehndrich grabbed the victory 8.7 seconds over Italy’s Debertolis and Slovania’s Lea Einfalt.

Women’s 10 k freestyle pursuit

Kern grabbed another podium in the U20 women’s 10 k pursuit. Kern finished second overall, just 7.7 seconds behind Switzerland’s Lydia Hiernickel. Germany’s Henning finished third.

U20 women’s 10 k freestyle pursuit

Treinen led the U.S. men in a 15 k freestyle pursuit, finishing 18th overall. Havlick was the next American, finishing 29th, followed by Maifeld-Carucci in 42nd, Kornfield 43rd, Hanneman 46th, Saxton 50th, and Bratrud 62nd. Germany’s Florian Notz edged Italy’s Enrico Nizzi for first by 2.2 seconds, followed by Austria’s Johannes Kattnig who finished third.

Men’s 15 k freestyle pursuit

Ketterson grabbed another top 10 in a U20 men’s 15 k freestyle pursuit race, finishing ninth overall. O’Harra finished 23rd, followed by Hipp in 31st. Czech Republic’s Michal Novak grabbed first just 1.2 seconds ahead of France’s Jules Lapierre and Switzerland’s Dajan Danuser who finished third.

U20 men’s 15 k freestyle pursuit

 

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Eastern Canadian Championships Attract Nearly 800 in Points Race Before STC

Julien Locke (l) celebrates his second-career NorAm win in the freestyle sprint at 2016 Eastern Canadian Championships on Friday at Nakkertok near Ottawa. (Photo: W. James MacLean)

Julien Locke (l) celebrates his second-career NorAm win in the freestyle sprint at 2016 Eastern Canadian Championships on Friday at Nakkertok near Ottawa. Sebastien Boehmler-Dandurand (behind) placed second, and Jesse Cockney (r) was third. (Photo: W. James MacLean)

By Gerry Furseth

Julien Locke of the Black Jack Ski Team overpowered a tactical freestyle sprint final to win the second NorAm of his career on Friday at the Nakkertok South trails near Ottawa on the opening day of Eastern Canadian Championships.

Despite a remarkably low snow year and freezing rain in the preceding week, the organizing committee and volunteers were able to host what is expected to be the largest International Ski Federation (FIS) points event ever held in North America. With 783 athletes registered, it is likely that this will top the current record holder, last year’s NorAm Easterns.

This is the last weekend for Ski Tour Canada (STC) selections (except for the NorAm overall leaders) and the pressure is on for the top athletes.

“Fast conditions at Nakkertok today,” Locke wrote in an email, “with sugary climbs and icy downhills.”

All six male finalists finished within 1.5 seconds of one another in the 1.5 k sprint. Locke won in 3:12.40 after qualifying fifth in 3:09.87. Sebastien Boehmler-Dandurand (Canmore) placed second, 0.22 seconds back. Jess Cockney, of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and national senior development team, took third in his first non-European race this season, just nine-hundredths of a second behind Boehmler-Dandurand.

According to Locke, Knute Johnsgaard, another AWCA and U23+ development skier also coming off World Cups in Europe, “pushed the pace a bit on the first climb but then it all came back together before the second time up,” Locke wrote.

ILocke moved up in the field over the second half of the course and followed Patrick Stewart-Jones (AWCA) on the final descent, then carried his momentum across the line to take the win.

“There was a lot on the line with Canada Ski Tour selections and a broken pole at the top of the last climb ruined any chance I had of a podium finish,” Stewart-Jones wrote on Facebook on Friday after placing sixth, 1.45 seconds behind Locke.

Johnsgaard finished fourth, 0.99 seconds back from the win. “I feel I was the strongest in the field but was tripped up on the last hill and was sprawled out on my stomach as everyone skied by,” wrote Johnsgaard, the top qualifier in 3:07.43. He went on to win the first quarterfinal then place second to Locke in their semifinal.

Cockney improved as the day progressed after qualifying in 12th, 6.12 seconds off Johnsgaard’s qualifying pace.

“It’s been really frustrating to be this slow [in qualifying] compared to where I have been the last few years,” Cockney wrote in an email. “I found some better speed for the heats and skied the course well.”

He won both his quarterfinal and semifinal, ahead of the second-fastest qualifier Simon Lapointe (Quebec Ski Team) and Andy Shields (NDC Thunder Bay), who placed second respectively in each heat.

In the final, Shields ended up fifth, just 0.23 seconds ahead of Stewart-Jones.

The next stop for Locke is U23 World Championships in Romania at the end of this month.

“Today was my last sprint before departing for Europe (Feb. 12) and was great preparation for U23s,” Locke wrote. “It was great to have Knute, Andy and Jess back racing after their time on the World Cup.”

Results: Brackets | Qualifying


In the women’s 1.4 k freestyle sprint, Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers) won the qualifier in 3:19.18 before dominating each one of her heats, including an action-packed final, which she won in 3:17.29.

Jenn Jackson (NDC Thunder Bay) finished second, 3.36 seconds behind, after repeatedly trading places with Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (AWCA/NDST), who took third, 3.97 seconds back. Jackson took the lead at the start of the second lap.

“Maya and I came into the hill close together and were holding pace until the hill pitched up and we switched to offset and she started to pull ahead,” Jackson wrote in an email. “I was a bit frantic to get on her tail, missing a couple pole plants trying to accelerate, then face planted and completely lost contact and any chance of winning.”

Bouffard-Nesbitt was happy with her podium after qualifying fourth, 7.43 seconds behind MacIsaac-Jones.

“I was happy with how I raced tactically,” she wrote. “I was right where I wanted to be off the start and held my position in second until halfway through the course where Jenn Jackson went flying by.

“On the last uphill Jenn tripped herself up and I passed her to take second, but after the last downhill into the finish she flew by me again and she carried more speed than me going into the last 100m,”  Bouffard-Nesbitt added. “[Jackson] skied the final well today and she earned that second place.”

Dahria Beatty (AWCA/NDST) and Alannah Maclean (NDC Thunder Bay) were out of contention early, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.

“I got tangled up 200m out of the start in the final with Alannah Maclean and we both fell,” Beatty wrote in an email. “By the time we were able to untangle ourselves we were 10+ seconds back from the other ladies.”

The second-fastest qualifier, 1.43 seconds behind MacIsaac-Jones, Beatty had won her quarterfinal and placed second to Jackson in their semifinal. In the final, Beatty was able to catch Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/NDST), but Browne edged her by 0.35 seconds for fourth, 7.4 seconds behind MacIsaac-Jones.

In an email, Browne described having low energy after qualifying in sixth, winning her quarterfinal then advancing in fourth as a lucky loser out of her semifinal, behind MacIsaac-Jones, Bouffard-Nesbitt and Maclean, respectively.

“My only tactic was to stay in contact with the group in the A final,” Browne wrote. “I didn’t manage to do that, but I’m still happy with my 4th place, which I wasn’t expecting with the day I was having.”

After the sprints, 434 younger racers born in 1998 or later opened their weekend with a prologue time trial.

 

Results: Brackets | Qualifier

Complete results

 

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Stowe SuperTour Moved to Craftsbury

After unremitting rain on Wednesday in Stowe, Vt., the U.S. SuperTour races scheduled to take place this weekend, Feb. 6-7, at the Trapp Family Lodge trails have been moved to the 2.5-kilometer race loop at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

“The Stowe Nordic organizers, as well as many of the Stowe volunteers will also be there to help run the races. The C’bury courses are in actually really great shape, considering all the rain we got in NE [Wednesday]!” Amie Smith, high-performance director of the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA), wrote in an email on Thursday.

Images of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s race loop may be found at the NENSA Facebook page or the Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s Snow Report page. Currently, there are 4 k of groomed trails open.

Racing kicks off Saturday with a women’s 5 k freestyle individual start and a men’s 10 k freestyle individual start.

Sunday marks the second day of racing with a women’s 10 k classic individual start and a men’s 10 k classic individual start.

A complete schedule of events may be found here. Live timing will be provided by Bart Timing and may be found here.

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