Whitehorse skiers will all but certainly surpass last year’s hardware tally at the 2016 Haywood Ski Nationals this week.
After three race days with three more to go (counting today) skiers from the hosting Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club have claimed eight medals – the same as last year’s total at the national championships.
With those medals and a bevy of other strong results, Whitehorse is second in the club standings behind Ontario/Quebec powerhouse Nakkertok, which is going for its seventh straight club aggregate title.
Home-trail advantage has got to count for something.
“I’ve been gone from Whitehorse for four years now, but I skied on them so much when I was younger that they are kind of ingrained into me, so as soon as I re-ski it once all the little memories come back. I think that’s a distinct advantage,” said Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty. “One of the biggest advantages is having so many supporters, having that home-field feel with everyone cheering your name. That support is here and I think that’s just as important as knowing the trails well.”
Hometown skiers won five medals in the first two days of racing and added another three in Tuesday’s free technique interval start races.
Beatty, 22, grinded out a gold medal in the senior women’s 10-kilometre on Tuesday, narrowly outpacing fellow Whitehorse skier Emily Nishikawa by just 6.2 seconds.
Nishikawa had the fastest time on the first two laps of the three-lap race, but Beatty outpaced Nishikawa by almost 13 seconds on the third lap for the win.
“Today’s race I felt really good. It’s a tough course and I knew I’d have to suffer as much as possible to get the best result,” said Beatty. “On the last lap I just made an invisible finish line at the top of the course – there was a lot of downhill to the finish with a little climb and I knew I’d be able to recover enough to do the last climb.
“I was one of the first starters, so I didn’t really know how I was doing compared to everyone else because they hadn’t started yet. So I just skied as hard as I could.”
Nishikawa’s silver on Tuesday was her third medal of the week. The Sochi Olympian and Whitehorse’s Kendra Murray won gold in the senior women’s team sprint on Saturday and Nishikawa then won another gold in the senior women’s five-kilometre classic on Sunday in another tight one between the national teammates. Nishikawa, 26, eked out a 6.3-second win over Beatty in that race.
“She definitely pulled away from me time-wise at the end of the race on Sunday – she gained her time at the end of the course – and I was able to do the same thing to her today,” said Beatty. “It’s been fun having such tight times between the two of us.”
Whitehorse’s Natalie Hynes added her second medal of the week on Tuesday. The 18-year-old won silver in the junior girls 10-kilometre race, coming in just 15 seconds behind the gold medalist from Ontario. Hynes, who raced for Canada at the junior worlds a month ago, won gold in the junior girls five-kilometre on Sunday.
Whitehorse’s other medal came from Knute Johnsgaard – another member of the national team. The 23-year-old won bronze in the senior men’s 10-kilometre on Sunday.
Johnsgaard placed sixth in the senior men’s 15-kilometre free on Tuesday. Olympian Alex Harvey of Quebec picked up his second gold on the week following a win on Sunday. Olympian Ivan Babikov took the silver and national team’s Graeme Killick took the bronze on Tuesday.
The action continues today will the long sprints followed by the short sprints Thursday and will wrap up with classic mass start races Saturday.
Over 470 skiers, including 46 from Yukon, are taking part in this year’s nationals, making it the largest event ever hosted by the Whitehorse club.
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