The three Whistler Nordics skiers who travelled to the Haywood Nor-Am Western Canadian Championships returned home with great results in races held Friday to Sunday (Feb. 23 to 25) in Grand Prairie, Alta.
Junior girls Jenya Nordin and Lauren Doak and juvenile boys’ skier Austin Reith each secured multiple top-10 finishes in their age groups during the event, which featured a 2.5-kilometre sprint prologue and longer races in both the classic and skate disciplines.
Whistler coach Jessica Aldighieri was very pleased with the performances of her athletes, who were racing their last major event before the national championships take place in Whistler at the end of March.
“They did really well,” said Aldighieri. “It was definitely a step towards nationals and kind of seeing where they measure up.”
Reith stepped on the podium in the Friday sprints, finishing third out of 36 skiers and finishing less than 1 ˝ seconds back of the winner. Doak also recorded her best finish of the week in the sprints, placing fourth with a time that was 15 seconds off the winning pace. Nordin placed ninth.
In Saturday’s interval start classic races, Doak and Nordin were 11th and 14th, respectively, on their 10-km course. Reith finished 12th over his five-km distance, finishing less than a minute back of the winning time.
All three skiers improved their results in the mass start skate races of the same distances on Sunday, led by Doak’s sixth-place showing. Nordin placed 10th and Aldighieri was happy to see the two girls thrive in their first 10-km races to date.
“Lauren skied really well — the second day she was only 45 seconds off one of her main competitiors in B.C., which is really good for her,” she said. “Jenya fell in that race but probably could have been really close.”
Reith hung with a main pack that stayed together for nearly all of his mass start, finishing 10th at just 20 seconds off the lead.
Youth skiers from the Whistler Nordics will race in the B.C. Midget Championships that are taking place Saturday and Sunday (March 2 and 3) in Revelstoke.
CVTC skiers performing well
Athletes from the Callaghan Valley Training Centre (CVTC) were also on hand for races in Grand Prairie and head coach Chris Manhard was happy with their performances in what was also their final tune-up before nationals.
Manhard said “exceptional” performances came from Sebastien Dandurand, who won the junior men’s class by nearly 30 seconds in Sunday’s 30-km race, and Stefan Sander-Green, who similarly blew away the junior field in the 15-km classic on Saturday.
“Everyone had fairly strong results,” said Manhard, who also noted Colin Ferrie’s second-place finishes in all events. “(Ferrie) has been the most consistent the entire year. He won twice at the Eastern Canadians, so he was coming in as probably the favourite and it was nice to see the other guys beat him up a bit.”
CVTC skiers are on a week of downtime before they begin ramping back up to peak for nationals. Manhard is encouraged by his skiers’ recent performances as they head into the Canadian championships, and is hopeful the hometown advantage will play a factor at the event.
“There’s always an advantage, and for several reasons,” said Manhard. “One is wax — just getting used to the hard waxing conditions in the Callaghan definitely helps a lot. In the classic races, it’s an advantage for sure.
“Right now, I think we’ve had quite a good season. Everyone has had good results this year … and they’re happy and they’re confident heading in.”
It appears that the CVTC’s toughest opponents at nationals will come from Quebec’s national development centre, as Manhard said there’s a rivalry beginning to brew between the two facilities.
“At nationals, it will be up for the taking between us,” he said. “That’s sort of our rival training centre, so it will be interesting to see how things go.”
The Haywood Ski Nationals take place March 23 to 30.