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A Week After Junior Worlds, Kern Reaches Alpen Cup Podium

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women's 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Justin Beckwith)

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women’s 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Justin Beckwith)

There is still racing happening in Europe, and Julia Kern reached the podium last weekend at the Alpen Cup in Germany a very big way.

For starters, she was the third junior woman in the 15-kilometer freestyle mass start — the longest race she had ever done — last Sunday. As U.S. Ski Team Development Coach and trip leader Bryan Fish pointed out, she would have been 15th among the senior women that day in Arber, Germany.

“In the past, long distances have been my weakness and even the thought of a 15km would be daunting, however to my surprise this year I have found most of my best races have been in distance races,” Kern, 18, wrote in an email on Sunday. “I think I had a particularly good race today because I absolutely love mass starts and I was fired up to stick with the leaders for as long as possible.”

Kern is coming off Junior World Championships in Rasnov, Romania, where she posted two individual top 20’s in the freestyle sprint and 5 k classic. A week after her last race in Rasnov, the women’s relay, the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) and U.S. Ski Team (USST) D-team member competed in Arber.

“Coming off of World Juniors I was actually pretty tired. The combination of a lot of running, a compressed race week, and slow snow made more tired than I had expected,” she wrote. “I wasn’t sure what to expect from these races because I wasn’t sure how many people would be there and how I would feel after a few tough last few days in Romania.”

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women's 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women’s 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

In her first race of the Alpen Cup weekend, the 5 k classic, Kern placed fourth, 12.3 seconds off the podium and 42 seconds behind the winner.

“The field was pretty small, only 16 girls in the U20 race,” she wrote of the 5 k. “Many people were recovering from World Juniors and others didn’t get a start spot. Although the field was small, the girls there were strong skiers. I wouldn’t say I had an outstanding race, but I was still generally satisfied with my race.”

The next day, she described having “one of the fastest skis out there.”

“I think the biggest difference was my energy and mindset,” she added. “I often times have higher energy the second day of racing compared to others. Mentally, I didn’t feel quite in the race yesterday, but today in the mass start I was fully focused and out to win. I learned a lot about racing a 15km, as well as mass start tactics since we have so few lately with the lack of snow.”

The second U.S. woman in the junior races, Leah Lange placed 10th on both days. According to Fish, the U.S. brought 20 athletes to Europe — a mixture of U20 and senior skiers — for the last two OPA Cups of the season. Next weekend, they’ll compete at OPA Cup Finals in Toblach, Italy.

Other U.S. results from last weekend include: Becca Rorabaugh (APU) in 13th in the senior women’s 10 k classic last Saturday, followed by Erika Flowers (SMST2) in 17th, Liz Guiney (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in 21st, and Heather Mooney in 27th.

Akeo Maifeld-Caucci (Bridger Ski Foundation) leads a German while racing to 26th in the senior men's 30 k freestyle mass start on Sunday. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (Bridger Ski Foundation) leads a German while racing to 26th in the senior men’s 30 k freestyle mass start on Sunday. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

In the senior men’s 15 k classic on Saturday, Ben Saxton (SMST2/USST) placed 25th, Mile Havilick (Sun Valley SEF) in 27th, Logan Hanneman (APU) in 34th, Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (BSF) in 41st, Tyler Kornfield (APU) in 48th, and Lex Treinen (APU) in 56th.

In the junior men’s 15 k classic, Thomas O’Harra (APU) placed 20th, Zak Ketterson (NMU) was 21st, and Leo Hipp (NMU) 31st.

On Day 2, Maifeld-Carucci led the U.S. senior men in the 30 k freestyle mass start in 26th, Treinen was 30th, Havlick 33rd, Kornfield 43rd, Saxton 45th, and Hanneman 48th.

In the junior men’s 20 k freestyle mass start, Ketterson placed 17th, O’Harra was 29th and Hipp 34th.

Next stop: Italy. Fish explained they arrived in Toblach on Tuesday night.

“I am really looking forward to these races because the field will be big and very competitive!” Kern wrote of OPA Cup Finals. “The races [last] weekend has further built my confidence that I am getting faster every race and that I can be just as the fast as the girls here in Europe. I am hoping to carry my momentum from this weekend into OPA finals and I am hoping to put in my best races of the season.”

Results: 

Women: Senior 10 k classic | Junior 5 k classic | Senior 15 k freestyle mass start | Junior 15 k freestyle mass start

Men: Senior 15 k classic | Junior 15 k classic | Senior 30 k freestyle mass start | 20 k freestyle mass start

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