In the second major competition in as many weeks, Yukon cross-country skiers climbed up the podium steps at the Western Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships, a Haywood NorAm event in Canmore, Alta., over the weekend.
The influx of medals and top-10 results come just a week after a record five Yukoners made Canada’s team for the World Junior Championships and World U23 Championship. They will be held in Turkey at the end of February.
The Western Championships was a three-day “mini-tour” event. The skiers’ results in the classic technique race Friday and sprints Saturday determined their positioning at the start of the free technique pursuit race on Sunday. In other words, a strong performance in the first two events resulted in a bigger head start in the final race.
Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty, who made Canada’s junior worlds team the previous weekend, won three medals in junior women in Canmore.
“I had two good weekends of racing, these past two weekends with trials first and then westerns,” said Beatty. “I have a really good base with training this year and I’ve been healthy, which is key to doing well.”
Beatty won gold on Friday to start the Westerns. She then opted to race in the open category in the sprints in order to achieve more bonus time towards Sunday’s pursuit, taking 14th in the sprint.
On Sunday she crossed the finish line first for another gold in the mini-tour, and took a third gold for having the fastest time in Sunday’s race.
“I was really happy with my race on Sunday because I started the race in eighth in the open (category), and I worked my way up to fourth,” said Beatty. “I was skiing in a big group for a lot of the time, so it was really exciting.”
Amazingly, after this season, Beatty has two more years in the junior women division.
Teammate Emily Nishikawa, skiing in open women, also took three medals. Nishikawa, who is also going to the worlds next month, took gold in Friday’s five-kilometre classic and then fifth in Saturday’s sprint, pushing her to second in the mini-tour standings. On Sunday she finished second to capture silver in the mini-tour, but had the fastest time in the race for another gold.
Emily’s brother, Graham, made up a lot of lost ground over the weekend after coming ninth on Friday in senior men.
“It was pretty crazy because I’m usually pretty consistent in the NorAms,” he said. “I had a really rough day on Friday, finishing ninth. It was kind of bizarre. I think I didn’t eat enough breakfast, got halfway through my race and started to feel lightheaded. It was a bad day. I dragged myself around and just finished the race.”
Graham then came fourth in Saturday’s sprint, to move up to sixth in the mini-tour standings. He then took second in the mini-tour on Sunday for silver, but added a gold with the fastest time in the race.
“I started moving through the field, catching guys, started seeing the leaders coming backwards (towards me),” said Graham. “I started to charge hard and managed to catch the second and third place (skiers) with about a kilometre to go.
“It was a good weekend. It ended well. The start was definitely a bit bizarre.”
Graham will soon be returning to Europe for Continental Cup races in Switzerland and Latvia to try to get back in the World Cup series.
Yukon’s Janelle Greer, who is also heading to Turkey next month, made numerous podium appearances in the junior women. Greer won silver on Friday, 10th in the sprint – competing in the open category for more bonus time, like Beatty – and then claimed silver on Sunday in the mini-tour and silver in the race.
Greer’s brother, David, didn’t make the podium, but came close. Racing in the senior men division, he placed fourth on Friday, slipped to fifth in the standings after coming 20th in the sprint, and then ended eighth overall on Sunday. He will be attending the junior worlds for his second time next month.
Knute Johnsgaard, the fifth Yukoner heading to Turkey, opted to compete in the senior men division over the weekend, though still a junior. He nonetheless got strong results, taking 24th on Friday, 14th in the sprint to move into 22nd in the mini-tour and then placed 18th on Sunday.
Other strong results came from Yukon’s Holly Bull and John Parry.
Competing in junior girls, Bull finished fourth to start the mini-tour, came 10th in Saturday’s sprint, and moved to seventh on Sunday.
Parry, skiing in senior men, was 12th overall on Friday, placed 30th in the sprint on Saturday (dropping two spots to 14th in the mini-tour) and finished 14th overall on Sunday.
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