Eight local Park City Ski and Snowboard athletes qualified for the XC Junior National Championships this weekend
After training all year long, preparation for the season’s most important race finally comes to fruition when eight local youth will travel to California to take part in the Cross Country Junior National Championships.
“The Junior Nationals is what we spend all season working for, so now that it’s finally here we are excited about it,” said coach Gordon Lange. “A lot of our kids have this event as one of their ultimate goals they want. … So to have eight qualify is a pretty solid number. This is a testament to all of the hard work and dedication the athletes of continuously put in.”
The seven-day championships are set to begin on Sunday, March 8 at Donner Summit 9 miles west of Truckee with a training day followed by opening ceremonies that evening. Monday is the Classic Individual Start, followed by a Tuesday training day and Wednesday’s Freestyle Sprint. Thursday is another training day, followed by Friday’s Skate Mass Start and Saturday’s Classic Relay Competition and closing ceremonies.
According to Lange, Park City left for the competition on Friday and is getting up early for a training day on Saturday to get the athletes accustomed to the local snow, the course and anything else that may give them an advantage later on. That extra training time is something that could prove vital as the competition rages on.
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The eight Parkites qualified for the junior nationals in both the 18-20 and Under-16 divisions in the men’s and women’s competitions.
For the 18-20 division, 14 athletes from the Intermountain Division for each gender qualified while the U-16 division took 11 athletes from each gender. The athletes were able to qualify based on their results at the three Junior National Qualifier events spread out throughout the season.
Leading the way for Park City is Wes Campbell — the No. 1 qualifier in the U-16 division. John Olson has also qualified from Park City, finishing in ninth place in the division.
Campbell, a sophomore at Park City High School who recently finished 38th in the Class 5A cross-country state championships last October, has a chance to solidify his place as one of the top youth cross-country skiers in the nation.
“I don’t like to use the word ‘potential’ but at some point, maybe not this year but sometime real soon, he’s going to be really good,” Lange said of Campbell. “He just has this calmness about him when he’s out on the course. … He doesn’t put a lot of pressure on himself, at least you can’t see it, but it’s quite unique that a kid can do that. I just look forward to watching him race.”
Lane Myshrall is another Park City athlete who could make some noise in the 18-20 division after placing third overall in qualifiers. One of the oldest skiers on the team, Myshrall is no stranger to Junior National Championships, so his experience could be vital to his success in California.
“He is someone who’s looking at trying to pursue a college career in skiing, which is difficult to do, so this could help him a lot,” Lange said of Myshrall. “He’s been training in a very professional means this season. … He’s doing everything he can to train smart, be healthy and not overlook the small details to be very good.”
For the women, Elena Grissom is another name to watch as she qualified fifth in the U-16 division. Another PCHS cross-country runner who finished 13th at the 5A state championships last year, Grissom is ready for this moment, according to Lange.
“Last year she qualified by the skin of her teeth but she’s ready for this one after gaining that experience last year,” Lange said. “She’s very slight in stature but she’s very fierce in the way she competes. She’s right in the mix with some really talented girls in her division so this is a good barometer to judge where she’s at.”
Also qualifying for Park City are Emma Page and Bailey Carmack in U-16 female division and McKinley Hibl and Magdalina Lelito in the 18-20 female division.
In one of their final training sessions prior to leaving for nationals, a very special guest who means a lot to Lange greeted them.
Rosie Brennan is a Park City Ski and Snowboard alumni currently ranked 16th in the world in cross-country skiing. The three-time junior national champion met with the Park City contingent to offer some words of advice, something that Lange says was inspirational for the kids.
“She just so happens to be taking a break on the World Cup schedule and met us for training,” Lange said. “That’s what’s so cool about this ski town. … She’s just as excited to get these kids fired up and she is doing well on the world cup tour.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.