In fourth Wasatch Citizens Series race, cross-country skiers prepare for junior nationals
The cross-country race season is drawing to a close, with only one more Wasatch Citizens Series race ahead, along with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Cross-Country Junior National Championships, scheduled to start on March 4 at Soldier Hollow. With that in mind, competitive racers at the U-18 level chose their skis carefully, and competed in the fourth Black Diamond Wasatch Citizens series race on Saturday at Soldier Hollow.
Savanna Fassio of Park City Ski and Snowboard’s Nordic team came in first in the girls U-18 5K race with a time of 13 minutes, 35.1 seconds, followed by Jenae Rasmussen in second with a time of 13:54.4, and Geneva Humbert (also a PCSS athlete) in third.
The track was a 2.5-kilometer loop, which started with a lengthy climb then dropped into rolling hills before ascending again to the finish.
After the race, Humbert and the other racers fought to catch their breath after finishing what she said was a very tough course.
“I didn’t push as hard as I could have, but I’m glad at what place I got,” Humbert said, who finished with a time of 14:14.9. “It was mainly fast skis and being able to push yourself up that big hill at the beginning.”
Humbert said the Park City team, and athletes from around the state of Utah, are still in heated competition for the top 12 spots in the Intermountain West region — the cutoff for the junior national championships.
Though Humbert said she is in a good position — ranked 10th with nearly a 20-point lead over anyone that could bump her out — she and her fellow racers aren’t in a position to relax.
“All of our points are so close right now that if we get one bad race we would be out of the top 12,” she said. “I still need to go and push it as hard as I can, because I can’t just go easy and see (what) happens.”
Though the Wasatch Citizens Series did not count toward those rankings, U-18 Team Soldier Hollow racer Pearl Harvey, who took fourth on Saturday, said it was a way to stay sharp before the McCall qualifier next weekend — the last opportunity to earn region points — and the junior national championships.
“It’s a really tough course,” Harvey said. “By far one of the toughest courses we’ve had all season. None of the (junior national qualifiers) have really come close to how tough this course is, just because it’s pretty much all uphill and there’s pretty much no rest.”
Harvey’s teammate, Lina Farra, said the season is still up in the air.
“We’ll see what happens in the next week or so,” she said. “And this is really good experience for that; just getting in good practice.”
It was also crunch time for younger athletes like Easton Boyer of Team Soldier Hollow, who competes at the U-14 level.
Boyer finished first in his age group, completing a lap around the 2.5-kilometer track in 7:43.
“It was hard, but I felt like it was faster than I thought it would be,” he said. “It was kind of icy and you can catch a lot of people on the downhills.”
Boyer said he and his teammates have been focusing on the Intermountain Youth Championships in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Feb. 24-25.
“(Practices) are hard; they’re hot and it’s very slushy,” Boyer said. “It’s one to two hours of straight work. I practice two to three, sometimes four, days a week. It’s hard to balance it out with soccer practice, but it’s fun to get out here on the snow.”
Boyer said between 10 and 16 athletes from Team Soldier Hollow will go Jackson Hole in two weeks.
After a season of warm weather and snowmaking issues, the venues are also preparing for the culminating events.
“It’s been hot in Salt Lake, so we don’t have a lot of snow at Mountain Dell, where most of us train, and the Utah Olympic Park, where my team skis, is just mud right now,” Humbert said. “It’s been really hard to find snow, but we’ve been going around it, running a lot and weight lifting. We’ve made it work.”
Soldier Hollow Development Coach Evelyn Dong said the track used on Saturday would be enough to field the junior national championships.
“At the very minimum, they would have to have a sprint loop,” Dong said. “We have more than a sprint loop right now, we have about 2.5 kilometers, and we could host it on this.”
Park City Mountain Resort is scheduled to start limited summer operations on Saturday, including the operation of PayDay lift for hikers and bikers.