P.C. skiers perform well at qualifier
More than 750 youth Nordic skiers took to the track at Soldier Hollow on Friday and Saturday for a Junior National Qualifier event in Midway.
Racers from the Park City Nordic Ski Club, the Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy, Team Soldier Hollow and The Utah Nordic Alliance represented the area, turning in several strong results in a competition that was loaded with the top junior talent from around the West.
As the competitions wore on over the course of the two days, Park City Nordic Ski Club Coach Gordon Lange noted that the conditions changed drastically.
"It was kind of what I would call challenging snow conditions," he said. "It went from being frozen solid to about six inches of slush during the day."
That led to some waxing problems, he added.
"You’re changing it all day long for a lot of kids," he said. "It was a challenging day, but everyone got through it. Those are the days that build character. The kids buckled down, skied well and got results."
Sabine Wilson of the Park City club had one of the best results of the day, winning the under-12 category over Team Soldier Hollow’s Sophia Burkemo.
Sydney Palmer-Leger also turned in a notable result. Despite racing up in age level, the 12-year-old snagged a fifth-place finish in the U16 women’s race, completing the 5-kilometer course in 19 minutes and five seconds.
Leah Lange continued the strong day for the Park City women, finishing fourth in the U18 10K race. Teammate Riley Douglas crossed the line in ninth place.
In the women’s U20 race, Wasatch Nordic’s Olivia Ekblad finished the 10K course in 33:56.3 to take third place overall. Sophie McDonald and Brenna Egan of Park City finished in fifth and sixth place, respectively.
Geneva Humbert of TUNA finished fifth in the U14 women’s category to turn in the best local finish in that race.
On the men’s side, Henry Gorman of the Wasatch Nordic squad finished third in the U20 15K race, crossing the line in 45:52.3. Alex Jackson of Park City finished 10th in the U18 race and Soldier Hollow’s Felix Firth and Park City’s Drew Palmer-Leger took 14th and 17th, respectively, in the men’s U16 competition.
Park City’s Lane Myshrall snagged a top-10 finish in the U14 category, crossing the line in ninth place. Janne Koch, also of Park City, finished fourth in the men’s U12 race.
In Friday’s sprint races, the Wasatch Nordic Ski Academy had a strong showing from their top women. Ekblad finished first in the women’s U18/20 sprint, while teammate Madison Morgan won the "B" final. Sophie McDonald of Park City finished sixth in the "A" final, a few spots behind Ekblad.
Park City’s Jared Shumate and Drew Palmer Leger and Team Soldier Hollow’s Alexander Burkemo qualified for the "B" final in the men’s U16 sprint. Karsten Hokanson and Gorman of the Wasatch Nordic team qualified for the "A" final in the men’s U18/20 category, with Hokanson winning. Gorman turned in the fastest individual time of the day, but finished third in the final.
Gordon Lange said he was happy with how the Park City skiers stacked up against the other clubs, both local and regional.
"Basically every field size that went out was around 100 kids," he said. "So when you’re putting kids in the top-20, multiple kids, that’s fairly respectable."
Being in the Intermountain Division, it’s no easy task to qualify for Junior Nationals, he added.
"Collectively, those kids in Vail and Steamboat and Sun Valley are pretty strong and we’re pretty strong," he said. "We’re fitting in with the top clubs in the country, or at least in the West."
With such a strong Olympic culture in Park City, Lange said the junior Nordic skiers can sometimes get lost in the background. But, he added, the sport is alive and well in Park City and the surrounding areas.
"It’s tough from the Intermountain Division to make it to Junior Nationals," he said. "And sometimes, if you’re not the best in the nation, it’s a little bit dismissed. But there are a lot of kids that do this sport and it’s very competitive."
The next Junior National Qualifier is in McCall, Idaho, Feb. 20-21. Then, Lange said, it’ll be off to Truckee, California, for the Junior Nationals. He’s hoping low snow totals across the West improve before then, especially in California.
"It’s definitely a concern," he said. "They have some snowmaking available, but I don’t know what their status is on that. They’re hurting, but it’s just bare everywhere — it’s pretty widespread."
The Junior Nationals will be held at the Auburn Ski Club in California from March 8-14. Visit http://www.xcjuniornationals2015.com for more information.
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