Team Yukon faced 500 of the best skiers in the country, the US national team and skiers from 15 other countries last week at the Canadian Nationals at the Whistler Olympic Park in Callaghan Valley, BC.
David Greer was the first Yukoner to make the podium, claiming silver in the junior men’s 10-kilometre classic on Tuesday. Graham Nishikawa skied to a 7th place finish in the open men’s. Many Yukon skiers struggled to adjust to skiing in the soft snow of the Callaghan Valley.
Janelle Greer won Yukon’s first gold, in the juvenile girls’ 5-kilometre skate, while Graham Nishikawa took the silver in the open men’s 15-kilometre race in a huge international field. In all, 155 skiers from around the world were on hand, testing the 2010 Olympic venue.
Jeff Wood narrowly missed the podium, finishing fourth in the juvenile boys’ 7.5-kilometres, just seven seconds back.
On Friday, Emily Nishikawa won gold after leading from start to finish in the junior women’s free-techniques sprint.
She struggled earlier in the week but showed an impressive return to form in the sprints, where icy conditions and rutted snow chewed up by almost 600 competitors added an extra challenge.
Jeff Wood again narrowly missed the A-final for the juvenile boys’.
Sunday’s long distance classic events were characterized by a near blizzard at the start and clear, sunny conditions at the end. The trails collected 25 centimetres of soft slow snow, and wax problems plagued the skiers.
Only half the skiers finished the race, and Graham Nishikawa managed to hang onto fifth place in the open men’s 50-kilometre race, which was described as the most competitive field ever seen at the Canadian nationals.
Colin Abbot made his first appearance on the podium with a bronze in the junior boys’ 15-kilometres, and Jeff Wood finally cracked the top three as well, claiming bronze in the juvenile boys’ 7.5-kilometres.
Head coach Alain Masson was pleased with the team’s results over the week. “We had a good team this year. It’s not just the medal count that matters; we also had a lot of top-10 performances by our skiers in every age group and all in very strong fields. The team is consistent on every day in every race.”
The consistency showed in the overall club standings calculated at the end of the week’s racing. The Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club finished in fourth place out of all clubs in the country. Foothills Nordic from Calgary took the top honours for the fifth year in a row.
The Haywood Ski Nationals was the first major event hosted at the new Olympic facility at Callaghan Valley and was a major test for both skiers and organizers, who used the event to fine-tune the venue for the upcoming Olympics.
Saturday, Log Cabin, BC
Winners by division
Marcus Wattereus — men’s 50-kilometre
Sara Nielsen — women’s 50-kilometre
Scott Gilbert — men’s 25-kilometre
Stacy Edwards — women’s 25-kilometre
Fabian Brook — men’s 10-kilometre
Sheri Hogeboom — women’s 10-kilometre
Jim Hart — men’s 5-kilometre snowshoe
Marsha Columbo — women’s 5-kilometre snowshoe
Caelan McLean — 10 and under boys’ 5-kilometre
Maggie O’Connor-Brook — 10 and under girls’ 5-kilometre
Yasha Saldi — 11/12 boys’ 5-kilometre
Nahanni Dynes — 11/12 girls’ 5-kilometre
Playoff games 11&12 (March 20)
Klondyke Dental Molars 3
Medicine Chest 2
Ross Phillips and Adam Green scored a goal each, and Jim Baker netted one as well, and added a pair of assists, Lorne Burnett assisted as well.
Scoring for Medicine Chest were Blaine Demchuk and Chris McNutt, assisted by Lester Balsillie.
Yukon Inn 2
Edgewater Hotel 0
Dave White and Charles Brodhagen scored for the Yukon Inn, and Mike Blower assisted. Mike Hawkins recorded the shutout.