The territory’s best skiers hit the trails at the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club for the Yukon Championships this weekend.
The two-day event started with a classic race on Saturday, followed by a free-technique, or skate, race on Sunday.
Canadian Junior National Team member David Greer showed his class and dominated the open men’s categories on both days, winning the event handily.
The open men’s group faced a tough 10-kilometre classic course on Saturday, followed by a 15-kilometre skate course on Sunday that was described by racers as “brutal.”
In the open women’s event, Brittany Smith took the overall title by winning both races. The women competed in a 7.5-kilometre classic and a 10-kilometre skate on Sunday.
Along with their Yukon Championship medals, Smith and Greer were awarded the Gordon Taylor trophy for their performance.
In the younger age groups, Fabian Brook and Nesha Wright were awarded the Schiffkorn trophy for their hard work. The trophy is awarded to the best midget skiers over the two-day event.
Meanwhile, in a sprint finish worthy of the Olympics, Dahria Beatty and Janelle Greer finished in a dead heat in Sunday’s juvenile girls event. Greer won the Saturday classic event for the girls, while the juvenile boys’ race was won by Jeff Wood, who took Sunday’s skate event as well.
Race organizers and skiers were challenged by the weather.
A surprise snowfall in the early hours of Saturday morning, after the courses had been prepared, left the skiers with some slow tracks to tackle.
On Sunday, the cold, slow snow had more than one racer struggling for glide on the hills, making difficult courses even more challenging for the athletes.
Along with Yukon skiers ranging in age from four to more than 50, the event attracted the Hanthorn family (all six of them) from Fort MacPherson.
The NWT skiers took advantage of the Whitehorse trail system to get in some quality racing and tough competition in the classic event on Saturday.
Bonus program recipients
Cross-Country Yukon has announced the recipients of its bonus program, which rewards skiers who perform well at the national championships.
This year, the program paid out almost $4,000 to nine skiers, all of whom finished in the top 10 in races at the recent Haywood Ski Nationals held at the Whistler Olympic facility.
Not surprisingly, top of the cash heap was Graham Nishikawa, who had consistent top-10 results in the meet.
He was joined by sister Emily Nishikawa, Janelle and David Greer, Jeff Wood, Colin Abbott, John Parry, Brittany Smith and Bryn Knight.
Yukon Ski Team head coach Alain Masson was happy to be handing out the awards. “While we are awarding a little less than we did last year, we are giving money to more skiers than we ever have before — a really good sign,” said Masson.
“This is a testament to the depth our program has been attaining. It’s especially significant that these fine results were attained at one of the most competitive national championships we’ve seen in years.”
The Cross-Country Yukon program has been in place since 2004. It was designed to both recognize the exceptional accomplishments of its young skiers and to help offset the high training and racing costs that the athletes face when they compete at the national level.
Payouts under the program range from $500 for a senior skier placing top of the podium at the nationals to $60 for a junior skier who makes 10th place in a nationals race.
The fifth and final season of the Subway 5K Race Series will wrap up Wednesday at 6 p.m. The event will be a two-person relay.
Teams will ski either two laps of a 2.5-kilometre loop or two laps of a five-kilometre loop. The first skier on each team must use classic technique and the second skier must skate. The Canada Winter Games courses will be used.
All skiers and volunteers will enjoy a Subway supper right after the race.
The popular evening race series has been sponsored by Subway for the last five years. This event is the last race of the ski season and will be the last Subway Race — the restaurant chain has announced that its sponsorship will end after this season.
Race organizers and participants have appreciated the long-term support shown by Subway.
With an average of about 50 skiers plus volunteers at each event, there have been well over 1,000 participants in the last five years.
The registration deadline for Wednesday’s race is April 1 by 6 p.m. Late registrants will be welcome to participate, but subs will be provided only for those who register by 6 p.m. on Tuesday.