Classic technique. Skate technique. Either way Yukon cross-country skiers are hard to catch on the trails.
For the second NorAm event in a row, Yukon Ski Team juniors were raking in the hardware at the Blackjack Nordic Ski Club on the outskirts of Rossland, B.C.
It was a golden weekend for Whitehorse’s Knute Johnsgaard. The 19-year-old came in first in the 1.6-kilometre skate sprint Saturday and then the 15-kilometre distance event Sunday.
“I was really pleased because I didn’t know what to expect going into the races,” said Johnsgaard. “In Silver Star, it was two classic races and these were two skate races. I hadn’t done a skate race – especially a skate sprint – in a while.
“I came out and won the qualifier by 11 seconds, which is a huge margin (for a sprint). So I’m really happy with that.”
Johnsgaard, a member of the national junior team, won silvers in both his races the previous weekend in the NorAm season opener.
In Sunday’s race, which was a mass start with the men’s open division, Johnsgaard hung on to the lead group of open skiers for the first lap before dropping back to some juniors.
“I decided to let them catch me because I was running out of gas … so I had a bit of energy to sprint at the end and managed to win the sprint (to the finish),” said Johnsgaard.
Medals came in on the junior female side as well. After just missing the podium with fourth-place finishes the previous weekend, Yukon’s Janelle Greer nabbed bronzes in the 1.4-kilometre sprint and then the 10-kilometre skate on Sunday.
Fellow Yukoner and junior national teammate, Dahria Beatty, also took in a medal from Sunday’s distance race, winning gold, gliding in 20 seconds ahead of the silver medalist.
“That was a really good race for me,” said Beatty, 17. “I was feeling a little bit tired the day before in the sprint, but I had more energy on Sunday and felt really strong. I was really focused throughout the race.
“I had other skiers to ski with the entire time. I actually finished with two other women who were (in the) open (division). So there were people to ski with and push yourself against the entire time, which was great.”
Beatty qualified in second for the sprint but got tangled up with another skier in the final.
“That happens in sprinting sometimes. The hills were a little narrow in some places and I just got tripped up with someone else’s skies and went down, so the pack got away from me,” said Beatty, who won a gold and silver the previous weekend. “But I had a good qualifier.”
Yukon’s Emily Nishikawa, who is a member of the national senior team, cracked the top-10 both days in the open division, taking sixth on Sunday and ninth on Saturday.
In open men, Yukon’s David Greer grabbed ninth on Sunday while teammate John Parry came 12th.
Johnsgaard’s golds represent his first at the NorAm level.
So are we watching a breakout year for him?
“I hope so,” said Johnsgaard. “It is really early but for sure it looks promising. I’m pretty excited to see how it plays out in the rest of the season.”
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