Area athletes compete for places at cross-country junior nationals
The Utah Nordic Alliance and Soldier Hollow hosted the junior national super qualifier cross-country races on Friday and Saturday, drawing more than 700 athletes from around the West. For the junior-level athletes, including locals, the race was an opportunity to earn valuable points toward qualifying for the junior national championship races, scheduled for March 11-16 in Anchorage, Alaska.
All told, the Intermountain Division, which includes competitors from Utah, Idaho and western Wyoming, will be allowed to send 50 competitors to junior nationals — 11 boys and 11 girls in the U16 age group, and 14 boys and 14 girls from the U18 and U20 age groups.
The fields of competition are large. On Saturday, 120 racers took to the starting line in the U16 girls classic mass start 5K.
Sabine Wilson, a TUNA racer, finished 11th, making her place at junior nationals all but secured.
She had placed fourth on Friday in the freestyle sprint with a time of 3:45.35.
Before the super qualifier, she had placed well at a race in Bozeman, Montana, the first of three qualifying events of the season, and put herself in the first ranked position in the junior national points leaderboard behind an athlete who had prequalified.
She finished Saturday’s race with a time of 14 minutes, 33.9 seconds, which she said no easy task on the busy track.
“It’s complete madness,” Wilson said of the mass start. “People are falling all over the place uphill and downhill. There was this poor girl; she fell twice – once on each hill of the first lap, and the first time I had to make my way around her, then the second time I tripped over her ski. But that’s racing. That’s what happens.”
The next-fastest local finisher was McKinley Hibl of Park City Ski and Snowboard. She finished in 24th in Saturday’s race with a time of 15:21.1.
TUNA athlete James Cessna was the leading area competitor in the U16 boys classic mass start on Saturday. He finished 13th with a time of 12:40.9. He was followed by Park City’s Wes Cambell in 15th with time of 12:47.5. Joseph Bonnacci, a TUNA racer, finished 16th with a time of 12:47.9.
Campbell took eighth in Friday’s sprint with a time of 3:25.89. Cessna took 16th (3:32.28).
Cessna was eighth in the junior national standings table before the super qualifier, Campbell was sixth and Bonacci was 12th, based on their results from the qualifier in Bozeman.
Lina Farra of Team Soldier Hollow had already prequalified for the junior national competition in the girls U18-U20 group, and didn’t race at the super qualifier.
However, Pearl Harvey, a former Soldier Hollow athlete who now trains with her parents, who were both elite biathletes, did.
Harvey took sixth in the sprint race on Friday (3:43.41), and fifth (29:45.6) in the 10K classic mass start on Saturday.
Harvey said she had a little bit of trouble in the race after selecting a ski setup that wasn’t ideal, but she felt good about her result.
“It was kind of hard to get kick, but I fought well and did the best I could with the skis that I chose, and I turned out fifth so it’s OK,” she said.
Before the super qualifier she was 10th behind the prequalified athletes in the junior national standings.
With two fifth-place finishes and a sixth-place finish, she said she will have a good shot at reaching junior nationals.
Park City Ski and Snowboard’s Geneva Humbert finished 13th in the sprint on Friday with a time of 3:47.43 and sixth on Saturday (30:21.4). She was ranked 12th in junior national point standings.
Tory Peters, a TUNA athlete, finished 17th in the sprint (3:50.20) and the mass start (30:46.8) and was ranked seventh in junior national points. Victoria Olsen and Ma Vinding of Park City Ski and Snowboard were ranked 15th and 16th respectively.
In the boys U18-U20 sprint on Friday, Logan Chamberlain of Team Soldier Hollow finished 18th (3:05.44), then took fourth in the 10K mass start on Saturday with a time of 23:44.9.
Skylar Patten of Park City Ski and Snowboard took 14th on Friday (3:01.25) and sixth on Saturday (24:08.7).
Chamberlain was ranked third behind Skylar Patten of PCSS, in second, in junior national points. Both were also led by six prequalified athletes, including Lane Myshrall of PCSS and Vincent Bonacci of Soldier Hollow.
Chamberlain said Saturday’s mass start was tough, with lots of climbing and very little rest.
“Mass starts are a frenzy,” he said. “There’s always someone going your speed, so it’s a battle, you just have to be ready to go to war.”
The athletes will travel to Boise, Idaho, for the last qualifying event of the season on Jan. 9-10, after which the final junior national roster will be finalized.
For a complete list of results from the TUNA-Soldier Hollow super qualifier go to summittiming.com.
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.