Local Junior athletes perform well at Championships | ParkRecord.com

Local Junior athletes perform well at Championships

Intermountain Division claims second place in points

Submitted by Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy and Park City Nordic Ski Club

Maddie Morgan of the Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy and Leah Lange of the Park City Nordic Ski Club climb Flagpole Hill in the Classic Sprint A Final at the 2017 USSA Cross Country Championships in Lake Placid, New York.

The best American Junior Nordic ski racers arrived at the Olympic Village in Lake Placid, New York for a week of racing in the 2017 USSA Cross Country Championships on March 3 – 12. Lake Placid is the home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games, where miracles are known to happen.

Over 400 athletes from 10 different divisions across the nation brought their 'A' game hoping for to get the Gold. Fourteen Nordic skiers from three local Utah teams qualified to represent the Intermountain Division (IMD). Athletes were selected based on their results from the Junior National Qualifying races that were held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Sun Valley, Idaho and West Yellowstone, Montana earlier in the season.

Madison Morgan, Daniel Fisher, Savanna Fassio, Jenae Rasmussen, Sarah Morgan, Lina Farra, Aidan Rasmussen and Logan Chamberlain from the Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy; Connor Patten, Leah Lange, Sydney Palmer-Leger, Lane Myshrall and Skylar Patten from the Park City Nordic Ski Club; and Ingrid Norton from Soldier Hollow all qualified to represent the IMD.

Gordon Lange (Park City Nordic Ski Club), Steve Cook (TUNA), Bill Hokanson (WNSC) and Zach Hall (SOHO) were the local coaches selected for the team. The coaches spent countless hours at the race course testing, waxing, and even re-waxing skis to ensure the IMD team's skis were the fastest on the course.

In addition to the 42 athletes that the Intermountain Division selects, any juniors who qualify for the U.S. Ski Team Scandinavia Cup, World Juniors or Youth Olympics earn an automatic berth to the U.S. Junior Nationals. Sydney Palmer-Leger from the PCNSC and Leah Lange, now attending the University of Utah, automatically qualified with their strong finishes at Senior Nationals at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah in early January.

The opening ceremonies and the parade of athletes were held at the historic 1980 Olympic Ice Rink. This rink was the home to the "Miracle on Ice," where the men's hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic Games.

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The week kicked off Monday with an Interval Start Freestyle distance race. The organizers made the last-minute decision to move the races from Mt. Van Hoevenburg to the Olympic Jumping Complex due to severe rain the week before. The new venue had a challenging 2.5-kilometer loop on man-made snow. The course started at the base of the ski jumps, climbed up to the top of the jumps and then looped back down. It was a difficult course and not for the faint of heart.

The U18/U20 Women started the day with a 5-kilometer race. Lange, Morgan and Norton skied into 10th, 14th and 22nd places, respectively, in the U20 division. Jenae Rasmussen and Savanna Fassio skied into 18th and 26th in the U18 division. Meanwhile, in the U18 men's race, Connor Patten took 42nd place.

Sydney Palmer-Leger led the way for the IMD team finishing second in the U16 Women's race. Lina Farra and Sarah Morgan finished 24th and 31st, respectively. Skylar Patten was the top skier for the U16 Men, taking seventh place. Aiden Rasmussen skied into 19th, while Lane Myshrall and Logan Chamberlain took 29th and 30th, respectively. Daniel Fisher took 35th in the U20 men's race.

The second race of Junior Nationals featured Classic Sprint races. Warm, sunny weather with intermittent snow storms made for a challenging and long day for both athletes and wax techs. Each racer skied a 1.5-kilometer qualifying lap on the sprint course. Those finishing in the top 30 in their age group advanced to the afternoon quarterfinals, semifinals, and then, the finals.

Leah Lange, Maddie Morgan, Jenae Rasmussen, Sarah Morgan, Sydney Palmer-Leger, Lane Myshrall and Skylar Patten all moved into the six quarterfinal heats. Of the skiers who made it into the quarterfinals, only the first two finishers in each heat moved on to the semifinals. At that point, they were guaranteed to race either in the 'A' or 'B' Final.

Maddie Morgan and Leah Lange both advanced into the FU20 'A' Final. Morgan had a breakthrough race taking the bronze medal, with Lange finishing close behind with a fourth-place finish. Jenae Rasmussen took sixth in her quarterfinal for a 28th-place finish. Lina Farra and Savanna Fassio finished 46th and 54th, respectively.

On the boys' side, Lane Myshrall took second in his quarterfinal advancing to the semifinals. Securing a place in the 'A' Final, he fought hard to earn the bronze in the U16 men's race. Teammates Skylar Patten, Aidan Rasmussen and Logan Chamberlain took 25th, 40th and 50th places, respectively. Daniel Fisher skied well at 31st place, just barely missing the qualifying rounds.

Sydney Palmer-Leger and Sarah Morgan both advanced to the girls' U16 'A' finals. Sydney struggled on Flagpole Hill, losing precious time to the top three skiers. She had to power through the finish stadium to take third. Morgan raced hard, as well, finishing in sixth.

Friday was the Interval Classic distance race which consisted of a 15-kilometer race for the men's U20, 10-kilometer race for the men's and women's U18, and a five-kilometer race for the men's and women's U16 division. Snow had fallen overnight and temperatures were dropping. It was a perfect day for a classic race.

Because it was an interval start, the racers that started earlier would have to watch the electronic timing boards to see if their placing would hold up. Racers could get split times from the coaches along the course to see if they needed to pick up their tempo and ski faster. The U16 men's race started off the day of racing. The racers skied two laps on the 2.5-kilometer loop.

Incredibly, local racers took two top-ten finishes with Skylar Patten earning second and Lane Myshrall taking 10th. Aiden Rasmussen skied into 23rd and Logan Chamberlain finished 30th.

The U16 women also did not disappoint with two more top-ten finishes. Sydney Palmer-leger had a solid race by capturing the gold medal and Sarah Morgan skied impressively into fourth. Lina Farra finished 54th.

Connor Patten took 40th in the men's U18 field. Jenae Rasmussen also took 40th in the women's side of the same division. The U20 women had great results with Leah Lange taking the silver medal, Maddie Morgan finishing in 14th and Ingrid Norton in 31st. Daniel Fisher skied to 43rd in the MU20 race.

The U.S. Junior Nationals wrapped up on Saturday with the Freestyle team relay races. Sub-zero temperatures and wind chill hovering around negative-25 degrees Fahrenheit forced the organizers to delay the races until the afternoon.

The U16's started the day off, and both the women's and men's teams were a force to be reckoned with. Sydney Palmer-Leger teamed up with Sarah Morgan and Annabel Hagen from Jackson Hole. Their team took the lead early on in the race and won the gold medal by over a minute and a half. The U16 men's team of Lane Myshrall, Skylar Patten and Johnny Hagenbuch from Sun Valley also crushed the competition by taking the gold. Aiden Rasmussen's team fought hard for an impressive fifth place. Connor Patten's team skied into 17th in the U18 field.

Jenae Rasmussen and her U18 team skied well into seventh place. Leah Lange and Maddie Morgan's team had an impressive race, as well, taking the bronze medal in the U20 race. Savanna Fassio and Ingrid Norton's team took eighth.

With Saturday's races came the announcement of the winner of the coveted Alaska Cup Award, an award for the division that earns the most points overall throughout the four days of competition. The IMD had an impressive week with 30 top-ten finishes, earning them enough points to move into second-place overall. Maddie Morgan, Leah Lange, Sarah Morgan, Sydney Palmer-Leger, Skylar Patten and Lane Myshrall all earned the All-American Award for their top-ten finishes.

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