John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News Amanda Thomson, seen here during the Don Sumanik Memorial Race on Dec. 9, took second in the junior girls free sprint after qualifying in first place at the 2018 NorAm Westerns in Red Deer.

Team Yukon skiers bring back podium finishes, confidence from NorAm Westerns

‘It’s always good to be successful on courses you know will be used next year’

Nine of Team Yukon’s cross-country skiers made the trip to the River Bend Recreation Area in Red Deer for the 2018 Haywood NorAm Westerns and brought back some stellar results.

Head coach Alain Masson said the three-day event was a success.

“It was a great weekend,” said Masson. “Sprinting is usually not one of our strengths, so it was nice to see some of our athletes did really well in the sprint.”

The top sprinter for the Yukon contingent was Amanda Thomson, who qualified first in the junior girls 800-metre free sprint, and finished second in the finals. Also in the junior girls category, Hannah Jirousek qualified 25th and finished in 23rd spot.

In the juvenile girls race, Sonjaa Schmidt and Dahlia Lapointe both qualified in the top 10. Schmidt finished seventh after the B final and Lapointe snagged 11th.

Four skiers — Derek Deuling, Sasha Masson, Victor Emile-Thibeault and Ben Puskas — raced in the juvenile boys sprint and all four finished in the top 20. Deuling finished in seventh, Emile-Thibeault in 10th, Sasha Masson in 13th and Puskas in 16th.

The lone junior boy, Nichollis Schmidt, qualified in 11th position but finished in fifth following the finals.

Yukon’s skiers were again putting up solid results the next day in the mass start classic race.

In the best Yukon finish of the weekend, Deuling won the juvenile boys five-kilometre race with a time of 14:10.3. Emile-Thibeault finished 50 seconds off the pace in sixth and Puskas and Sasha Masson both cracked the top 15.

Thomson again cracked the podium with a third-place finish in the junior girls 10-kilometre race, just 18.6 seconds behind the winner, Molly Miller. Jirousek finished in 11th place.

Nichollis Schmidt finished 16th in the junior boys 10-kilometre race while Lapointe and Sonjaa Schmidt finished 14th and 24th respectively in the juvenile girls five-kilometre race.

Team Yukon was only able to enter two official teams into the free relays on day three, but they both skied to top-five finishes.

Deuling, Emile-Thibeault and Sasha Masson made up the juvenile boys 10-kilometre team that finished second, just 20 seconds back of the winners. The junior girls team of Thomson, Sonjaa Schmidt and Jirousek finished fifth in the 10-kilometre relay.

In the junior boys 10-kilometre relay, a team of Nichollis Schmidt, Puskas and Yellowknife’s Nicholas Bennett skied to a third-place finish.

Beyond the results, this competition was a valuable opportunity, as the River Bend Recreation Area will host next year’s Canada Winter Games.

“It’s always a confidence-booster for athletes to do well on courses that will be used for Canada Games,” said Alain Masson. “The age next year for Canada Games is under 20, so it’s going to be an older competition for some of our younger athletes, but it’s always good to be successful on courses you know will be used next year.”

Next up for Team Yukon skiers are the B.C. championships in February.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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