Whitehorse skiers Knute Johnsgaard and Natalie Hynes were the big winners following the Don Sumanik Memorial Race Series at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club.
The two skiers won the Don Sumanik Cup for male and female after posting the fastest combined times on the long courses in the Nov. 30 skate race and then this past Saturday in the classic technique race.
It was really a team effort. Members of the Yukon Ski Team threw a “snow shovel party” on Thursday, shoveling snow onto the course to help make the classic technique race a success.
“We were out for two hours Thursday night, shoveling a pile in the middle around the 3.75(-kilometre) loop,” said Hynes. “Then we went around and packed it and tracked it. We didn’t have enough snow before to make a decent track. It was a new experience that I’d never done before.
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“It was the first time this season that we’ve skied with a track. Before it was just a shallow track or not really any track at all.”
The classic technique Sumanik race is usually a mass-start event, but because of limited track Cross Country Yukon used an individual-start format. Still, a total of 94 skiers took part, more than twice as many as the Don Sumanik skate technique race the previous weekend.
“The whole ski team was out here shoveling snow,” said Johnsgaard. “That kind of makes the race more fun when everyone gets together and shovels snow onto the race course … Our goal was to get one good track in.
“Everyone did an amazing job – all the volunteers – and the race was a huge success.”
Johnsgaard, who is a member of the Yukon Elite Squad, produced the fastest overall time for males on the long course both weekends to win the Cup for a third time. He also won the Sumanik Cup in 2008 and 2009.
The 22-year-old completed the 11.25-kilometre course in 30 minutes and 59.9 seconds in the open men category Saturday.
A pair of junior boy skiers were second and third fastest on the long course. Caelan McLean – the 2012 Sumanik Cup winner – finished in 33:19.1, ahead of Mac Prawdzik at 33:49.9.
“I’m not always here for these races because I’m often off racing NorAms at the start of the year, so it was lucky this year that there weren’t any conflicting races,” said Johnsgaard. “It’s always fun to come back and do the local races. It’s always such a good atmosphere.”
The three fastest female skiers on Saturday’s 7.5-kilometre course were from three separate categories. Hynes was first in junior girls at 26:09.7, juvenile girl Hannah Deuling was second at 26:27.1, and junior female Adrienne Hynes was third fastest at 26:40.7.
Natalie was second fastest overall for females in the Nov. 30 Sumanik skate race behind Whitehorse’s Annah Hanthorn, a member of the junior national ski team. Hanthorn, who won the Sumanik Cup last season, was absent from Saturday’s race.
The win marked Natalie’s first Sumanik Cup, which bears the name of Whitehorse Olympian Emily Nishikawa, who won it in 2005 and 2006.
“It’s pretty cool. I wasn’t expecting it,” said Natalie. “It’s an honour.
“I wasn’t even thinking about that, so it was kind of surprising. It was an awesome surprise.”
The Sumanik races are two of three events Cross Country Yukon will use in selecting the team for the Canada Winter Games, as well as other major events such as the Haywood Ski Nationals and the western championships.
The third selection race will be the Haywood NorAm this weekend in Rossland, B.C.
Johnsgaard, Hanthorn, as well as Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty and Kendra Murray, have been pre-selected to represent Yukon at the Games this February in Prince George, B.C.
Beatty, who won five medals at the Haywood Ski Nationals last season, is a member of Canada’s development national team, along with Nishikawa. Murray placed third overall in the U23 women’s aggregate standings and Johnsgaard first in the U23 men’s aggregate standings at nationals last season.
“I’m pretty lucky that this is the last year I’m eligible for the Canada Games,” said Johnsgaard. “It’ll be my second Canada Games, so I’m looking forward to hopefully bringing home some medals.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org