For an eighth consecutive year, Yukon will be represented at the FIS Nordic World Junior/U23 Ski Championships next month.
The incredible streak continues with Yukon Ski Team’s Natalie Hynes and Kendra Murray being named to Canada’s team for the championship, Cross Country Canada announced this week.
“I was definitely very surprised; I was not expecting it at all,” said Hynes. “It’s extremely exciting to travel internationally and ski, to see that next level of competition. That’s so cool.”
The two Whitehorse skiers were selected for the team following their performances at the Haywood NorAm junior and U23 world trials, Thursday and Friday in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Murray, who ages out of the division at the end of the season, will compete in under-23 at the championships that will be held Feb. 23-28 in Romania.
Hynes, who turned 18 on Monday, could attend two more in junior (under-20) before aging up to U23.
“It’s nice thinking I could qualify another year, potentially,” said Hynes.
“We’ve only had a handful of athletes who have been able to qualify that young,” said Yukon Ski Team head coach Alain Masson. “It’s unusual; it doesn’t happen too often.”
Hynes was the only Yukon skier to collect hardware at the trials in Thunder Bay. She won silver in the junior girls five-kilometre classic on Friday with a time of 17:06.06, just 8.63 seconds behind the winner Hannah Mehain of B.C., who also made the worlds team.
“I started third last, which is usually an advantage in interval start,” said Hynes. “But for this race, because we got five inches of fresh snow the night before, by the time I started skiing all the tracks had been washed out on all the hills. So it made for a little bit of interesting conditions, but it was definitely fun.”
Murray placed fourth in the senior women 10km classic at 34:05.83 and was third for U23 skiers.
Other Yukon results on the day include Colin Abbott seventh in the senior men; Caelan McLean 15th and Hudson Lucier 33rd in junior men; Annah Hanthorn, who competed at last year’s junior/U23 worlds, eighth in senior women.
Murray had the best result for Yukon the previous day in the skate sprints, taking sixth. Hanthorn placed 10th, Lucier 40th and McLean 42nd in their respective divisions.
Hynes placed 22nd after being eliminated in the quarterfinal.
“Considering freestyle sprints is definitely not my strong point, I was happy to have qualified to move on to heats and get that experience racing,” said Hynes.
(Sunday’s skiathlon races were cancelled due to cold temperatures.)
Hynes was the overall top female at the Don Sumanik Memorial Races in Whitehorse last month and was subsequently named to Yukon’s ski team bound for the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Greenland this March. It won’t be her first major Games.
Murray won a bronze and Hynes placed eighth in the 7.5-kilometre classic at the 2015 Canada Winter Games just under a year ago in Prince George, B.C. They both skied on Yukon’s bronze winning 4×3.75-kilometre relay team at the Games.
Though Romania will be Hynes’ first worlds, it won’t be Murray’s. She skied for Canada at the Winter World University Games in Trentino, Italy, in December 2013. Murray has also raced for Canada at three Junior World Orienteering Championships.
Following the trials Murray travelled to Ottawa to train and could not be reached by press time.
The Yukon Ski Team’s eight-year streak at the junior/U23 worlds began with Whitehorse’s David Greer in 2009. Since then Yukon has been represented by Olympian Emily Nishikawa as well as Dahria Beatty and Knute Johnsgaard, who are both currently on the national development team, among others.
The worlds saw a record five Yukon skiers compete in 2012.
“This year we didn’t know if it was going to happen,” said Masson. “We knew we had an outside chance with Natalie and Kendra, but not as good a chance as other years. Other years it was Dahria and Knute who were top-ranked athletes with a good chance of it happening. Natalie wasn’t ranked highest in junior or Kendra in U23. We thought we had a chance, but things had to line up.”
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