Comp Canada: Hay­wood Ski Na­tion­als

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Julie Me­lan­son

by Julie Me­lan­son

The 2016 Hay­wood Nordic Ski Na­tion­als, held March 18-26 in White­horse, Yukon, had near 500 ath­letes and 46 Yukon Ski Team ath­letes com­pet­ing in the largest event hosted in the Ter­ri­tory. Rac­ing started with the Clas­sic-ski Team Sprint as vet­eran Can­more, Alta. res­i­dents Jesse Cock­ney and Ivan Babikov of Foothills Nordic won the men's race. Yan­nick Lapierre and Pa­trick Ste­wart-jones from the Nakker­tok Club cel­e­brated the sil­ver medal, while Lappe Nordic ath­letes from Thun­der Bay, Ont., Andy Shields and Evan Palmer-char­rette, skied to the bronze.

Home­town girls Emily Nishikawa and Ken­dra Mur­ray stormed to the top of the women's podium. Nakker­tok skiers Alexan­der Slo­bo­dian and Claire Grall-john­son fin­ished in sec­ond place, while Hard­wood Hills ath­letes Madi­son Fraser and Is­abella How­den rounded out the women's podium in third place.

In the 10km CL In­di­vid­ual Start, Alex Har­vey of Saint-fer­réol-les-neiges, Que. smashed the men's field, demon­strat­ing that he is still in top shape, win­ning by nearly 90 sec­onds. Toronto, Ont.'s Len Val­jas skied to the sil­ver medal, while Knute Johns­gaard grabbed the third medal for White­horse ath­letes.

Build­ing on the Team Sprint ti­tle, Nishikawa did not dis­ap­point. The home­town crowd who lined the trails saw her cap­ture her sec­ond-straight Na­tional ti­tle, clock­ing the top time of 14:47.7 in the women's 5km CL race.

“It is so fun to be rac­ing on my home course. It was another great race, and I'm su­per-happy to win my sec­ond gold medal in my home­town. The vol­un­teers are do­ing an amaz­ing job, and it is a real plea­sure to race here,” said Nishikawa. Fel­low White­horse res­i­dent Dahria Beatty had a sil­ver-medal fin­ish, while Kather­ine Ste­wart-jones of Chelsea, Que. had a firm grasp on the bronze.

In the men's 15km skate-ski race, Har­vey con­tin­ued his show for Canada's next gen­er­a­tion of elite skiers, ski­ing to his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Na­tional ti­tle.

Har­vey bat­tled it out with two of his World Cup team­mates, with Babikov and Graeme Kil­lick (Fort Mcmur­ray, Alta.) com­ing in sec­ond and third.

“Of course, we are all a lit­tle tired at the end of the sea­son, but I think it is re­ally im­por­tant for all Na­tional Team skiers to come to the cham­pi­onships when the sched­ule al­lows,” said Har­vey, who had two World Cup podium per­for­mances this year.

“I think giv­ing the up-and-com­ing skiers the op­por­tu­nity to race against us

shows them the speed and tech­nique they need to be suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tion­ally. I re­mem­ber be­ing a ju­nior and ju­ve­nile and want­ing to com­pare my­self in real life to the top Cana­dian guys.”

Beatty snagged her first Na­tional ti­tle in the 10km skate-ski race, fin­ish­ing ahead of Nishikawa in a bat­tle de­scribed by Beatty as a race of “who could suf­fer the most.” Kather­ine Ste­wart-jones skied to her sec­ond-straight bronze medal in the women's ac­tion.

Beatty and Har­vey con­tin­ued their win­ning streak in Canada's North in the freestyle sprint. Fol­low­ing a long, com­pet­i­tive sea­son, Beatty some­how dis­cov­ered another gear to win back-to-back gold medals on the two-lap course for her sec­ond-straight vic­tory. She seemed to get stronger as the day pro­gressed, lined up against six of Canada's top fe­male sprint­ers in the head-to-head women's fi­nal of two laps around the 600-me­tre course that fea­tured one large climb, tight cor­ners and a down­hill into the sta­dium that leads to the up­hill fin­ish.

Olivia Bouf­fard-nes­bitt (Morin Heights, Que.) claimed the sil­ver, while Maya Macisaac-jones (Athabasca, Alta.) was third.

It was a clash of the Cana­dian ti­tans in the men's sprint fi­nal. While Val­jas was de­ter­mined to end Har­vey's golden run in White­horse, Yukon, the duo were matched head-on in the fi­nal; but, in the end, it was Har­vey se­cur­ing his third con­sec­u­tive vic­tory. Julien Locke of Nel­son, B.C. skied to the bronze medal.

Nishikawa and Har­vey were the big win­ners as the Hay­wood Ski Na­tion­als came to a close. The Olympic vet­er­ans proved they are the top women's and men's cross-coun­try skiers in the coun­try af­ter smash­ing the field in the gru­el­ing 30km- and 50km Clas­sic-ski races to cap off a long 2015-16 sea­son.

Nishikawa, 26, cap­tured her third gold medal of the week in the women's marathon. The 2014 Olympian led wire-to-wire in the four laps around the track. The home­town girl thrilled the White­horse crowd with a golden time of 1:43.12.

“That was a fun way to cap off the sea­son. It has been so great get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to race Na­tion­als in White­horse,” said Nishikawa. “I had another great race to­day, and had a lot of fun out there! It has been in­spir­ing watch­ing the up-and-com­ing rac­ers com­pete here.”

Cen­drine Browne of St-jérôme, Que. was the next best fin­isher, more than three min­utes off the pace. Kather­ine Ste­wart-jones con­tin­ued her steady fin­ish to the sea­son, grab­bing her third bronze medal of the week.

Har­vey left White­horse and the 2015-16 sea­son with a per­fect record, hav­ing won his first three starts. Work­ing well ahead of the field as a pack of three, Har­vey, Kil­lick and Babikov jos­tled up and down the rolling White­horse ter­rain for the fi­nal Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship crown.

Kil­lick went head to head with Har­vey un­til the fin­ish, but came up a hair short of tak­ing down the leader of the men's team, win­ning the sil­ver medal. Babikov fin­ished seven sec­onds off the pace in third.

The na­tion­als also saw Head Coach, Justin Wadsworth, rec­og­nized for his con­tri­bu­tions as he an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion fol­low­ing Ski Tour Canada. He was one of the most ac­com­plished head coaches in the his­tory of the Cana­dian Na­tional Ski Team with a break­through at the 2011 FIS Nordic World Cham­pi­onships while coach­ing Devon Ker­shaw and Har­vey to his­toric gold in the team sprint - the first Cana­dian males

(above) Justin Wadsworth Head Coach hon­oured at his last race fol­low­ing his res­ig­na­tion (l-r) Val­jas, Johns­gaard, Nishikawa, Wadsworth, Kil­lick, Babikov and Har­vey. (fac­ing left) Alex Har­vey shown here lead­ing the Freestyle Sprints was un­beat­able adding

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