Junior/u23 World Championships
by Nelson Allan
With efforts by the International Ski Federation to expand its reach into developing markets, the World Junior/u23 Ski Championships got underway in Rasnov, Romania from Feb. 22-26. Fears of having to cancel events due to a lack of snow and warm temperatures meant that some events were moved up to earlier time slots. In addition, athletes were forced to train on rollerskis in the days leading up to the Championships so as not to compromise the available snow.
Day One – Feb. 22, 2016
The week kicked off with the 1.3km freestyle sprints in warm, wet and sloppy conditions. The U.S.A.'S Logan Hanneman led the North Americans, placing 15th, with Canada's Julien Locke close behind in 16th in the U23 men's race. For the U23 women, it was Canadian Jennifer Jackson leading in 29th at her Worlds debut, with Kelsey Phinney finishing as the top U.S. skier in 34th.
In the quarterfinals, Hanneman finished third at 2.57 seconds behind in his heat and was unable to move on as the Lucky Loser. Locke had a strong quarterfinal, also finishing third, less than a second from the lead in a tight heat.
For the juniors, it was American Julia Kern (Stratton Mountain School) leading the way as the top junior woman in 16th, followed by Canada's Marie Corriveau (CNEPH) placing 25th overall. In the junior men's races, Henry Harmeyer placed 35th overall, while Antoine Blais (CNEPH) led the Canadians in 41st, both within seconds of qualifying for heats.
The quarterfinals were close, and Kern finished fourth in her heat only 2.08 seconds from qualifying for the semifinals, ending up 16th. Corriveau pushed hard in the quarterfinal, but didn't advance, finishing in sixth and moving up four spots from qualification to 25th.
Day Two – Feb. 23, 2016
Warm conditions continued in Romania as the Individual-start Classic races took place. The U.S.A.'S Katharine Ogden (Stratton Mountain School) impressed as the top North American in 13th in the junior women's 5km race, followed by teammate Kern in 18th. Canada was again led by Corriveau, who finished the day in 37th.
The junior men's 10km Classic race saw Cully Brown of the University of Vermont lead the U.S. junior men in 35th, while Canada's Ryan Jackson (Hardwood/carleton University) was the top Canuck in 46th.
Heather Mooney (Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club) led the North American women in the U23 women's 10km Classic race in 38th place, followed closely by Canada's Frédérique Vézina (CNEPH) in 39th. World Cup contenders were present, as Russia's Anastasia Sedova snatched first from Germany's Victoria Carl by 13.1 seconds, followed by the Czech Republic's Petra Novakova in third.
Three U23 U.S. men made it into the top 30, as Northern Michigan University's Adam Martin finished 23rd, Patrick Caldwell (Stratton Mountain School) finished close behind in 27th, followed by Kyle Bratrud (CXC Team) in 29th. Scott Hill brought home Canada's best result overall, finishing in 36th.
Day Three – Feb. 25, 2016
With Individual freestyle races being moved up a day and replacing the originally planned Skiathlon due to conditions, the U.S.A.'S Ogden was again the top North American on the day, landing in 13th in the junior women's 10km. Hannah Mehain led the Canadians in 54th.
U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Bryan Fish commented on Ogden's success, saying, “Katharine had an awesome day and was consistent in her race today, as well as in the results.”
Ian Torchia skied his way into the top 15 in the junior men's 15km race, just about 20 seconds shy of the top 10. Canada's Joey Foster led the Canucks with a 33rd placing on the day.
Temperatures dropped overnight and snow conditions greatly improved for what would be the last day of racing for the U23's. In the men's 15km Individual freestyle race, Caldwell (Stratton Mountain School) led the American U23 men, finishing 21st, just 1.3 seconds out of the top 20. Canada's Jack Carlyle had a strong race, finishing 32nd, three seconds from the top 30, with Alexis Dumas close behind in 38th.
On the U23 women's side, Vézina was the top Canadian in 35th, followed by the U.S.A.'S Felicia Gesior (Northern Michigan University) in 38th, with Phinney in 39th.
Day Four – Feb. 26, 2016
The juniors wrapped up the competition in Rasnov with the Team relays. The American women saw high points, including Kern starting out the relay strong, moving up to third before getting tangled up in a fall, bumping the U.S. to 12th before the hand-off to Ogden. With only 2.5 kilometres to make up time, Ogden delivered gutsy moves throughout the second leg to move the U.S. into fifth at the hand-off to Vivian Hett. The Americans settled for eighth on the day. Canada did not field a team due to illness.
In the men's 4x5km relay, Norway dominated the race to finish more than 45 seconds ahead of Russia. France finished third. The American men finished in 11th place overall after anchor Zak Ketterson clawed back five places on his lap. The Canadian men rounded out their World Junior Championships with a 15th-place finish.