Comp Canada

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Sara Mey­ers

The Hay­wood Ski Na­tion­als held in Can­more, Alta. from March 21-25 took place in cooler tem­per­a­tures with bright blue skies. Re­tired Na­tional biathlon team mem­ber Zina Kocher of Rocky Moun­tain Rac­ers won the Open Women's 5km race, fol­lowed by Jenn Jack­son of Lappe Nordic in sec­ond.

“I missed the ex­cite­ment of racing,” said Kocher. “I haven't raced in Na­tion­als since they were in Whistler. I thought they were hold­ing them here, so why not.” Kocher says she has kept in shape: “I want to race, but I don't miss the lac­tate pain,” she added.

Third went to Sun Val­ley's Dee­dra Ir­win (USA), while the third-best Cana­dian was On­tario's Is­abella How­den of Team Hard­wood.

For the men, the Univer­sity of Den­ver did well, with Ger­man racer Moritz Madlener grab­bing the win by six sec­onds over White­horse Ski Club's Gra­ham Nishikawa, who was crowned the Cana­dian cham­pion. Third went to Nor­we­gian Eivind Romberg Kvaale, also of the Univer­sity of Den­ver, with Jack Car­lyle of Soo Fin­nish com­ing in next as the sec­ond-best Cana­dian, with Lappe's Michael Somppi fifth over­all and the next-best Cana­dian.

In the ju­nior women's race, Han­nah Me­hain of Sov­er­eign Lake Nordic claimed the top spot, fol­lowed by Zoe Wil­liams of Nakker­tok and Darya Sepandj of Foothills Nordic. In the ju­nior men's com­pe­ti­tion, the God­frey twins, Ty and Reed, gave Can­more first and sec­ond on the podium, with Ski­nouk's An­toine Cyr in third.

Emily Nishikawa (Nst/white­horse Ski Club) and Devon Kershaw (NST/ Onap­ing Falls Nordic) bat­tled through in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult con­di­tions to climb onto the top of the women's and men's podi­ums in the 10km/15km Clas­sic-ski in­ter­val-start races.

Fresh off com­pet­ing at the World Cup fi­nals in Que­bec City, the two vet­er­ans of the Na­tional Ski Team hand­ily won their first Na­tional ti­tles of 2017.

“It was so hard, hot and the con­di­tions were vi­cious,” said Kershaw. “I cramped up with five kilo­me­tres to go. It was a re­ally hard day, but this is my home. I love Can­more and I think it is im­por­tant for the kids to see that even af­ter a hard World Cup sea­son, you should come and sup­port the Na­tional Cham­pi­onships.”

Win­ning the men's 15km race, Kershaw shared the podium with two Amer­i­can skiers from the Univer­sity of Den­ver. Dag Frode Trolle­boe was sec­ond, while Madlener skied to the bronze. Graeme Kil­lick (Ptarmi­gan Nordic/awca) of Fort Mc­mur­ray, Alta. was the sec­ond best Canuck, while Davis Palmer from the Black Jack Ski Club clocked the third-best Cana­dian time.

Emily Nishikawa showed her White­horse strength again, win­ning the women's 10km Clas­sic-ski race. Amer­i­can Mary Rose (Sun Val­ley SEF) posted the sec­ond-fastest time, while Kather­ine Ste­wart-jones (Nakker­tok Nordique) of Chelsea, Que. was the next-best Cana­dian, fin­ish­ing third over­all. Que­bec City's Fred­erique Vez­ina (CNEPH) was the third-best Cana­dian in the women's field.

Emily Nishikawa and Lappe Nordic's Evan Palmer-char­rette went on to cel­e­brate Na­tional ti­tles in the Buff Canada sprint races. Emily Nishikawa left lit­tle doubt she is the woman to beat in Canada af­ter sprint­ing to her sec­ond-straight Na­tional ti­tle in the 1.3km Clas­sic com­pe­ti­tion.

Af­ter qual­i­fy­ing third for the round of 30 in the head-to-head heats, the 27-year-old was on a mis­sion for gold while lead­ing the coun­try up and down the steep hills of the Can­more Nordic Cen­tre. Emily Nishikawa cruised through her open­ing two heats be­fore top­ping her ri­vals in the fi­nal.

“It was an­other great day. The con­di­tions got slower and slower as the day went on. I re­ally was just try­ing not to get tripped up in the deep snow, but I'm so hon­oured and thrilled to win,” said Emily Nishikawa. “I am so ex­cited and so ex­hausted. This is my fifth race in six days. It has been a lot, but I couldn't be hap­pier. There has been so many high­lights of the sea­son, and to fin­ish it here in Can­more with two Na­tional ti­tles is pretty ex­cit­ing.”

Emily Nishikawa opened a siz­able lead on the 2016 women's sprint cham­pion and fel­low White­horse, Yukon res­i­dent Dahria Beatty (White­horse Ski Club), who bat­tled to a sil­ver medal. Ste­wart-jones locked up the bronze.

Later in the day, Palmer-char­rette of Thun­der Bay, Ont. was crowned Cana­dian cham­pion af­ter plac­ing third in the men's race as the top Cana­dian. Ger­many's Madlener was first to cross the line, while his fel­low Univer­sity of

Den­ver team­mate from Nor­way, Trolle­boe, fin­ished sec­ond.

An­toine Briand from Sk­ibec was the sec­ond-best Cana­dian male, while White­horse's Knute Johns­gaard (AWCA) was the third-best Canuck.

Van­cou­ver's An­nika Richard­son (Holly­burn Ski Club) hand­ily won the ju­nior women's sprint event, while Eti­enne He­bert (Mon­tériski, QCST), and a mem­ber of Canada's Ju­nior World Cham­pi­onship team, was crowned ju­nior men's sprint cham­pion.

Emily Nishikawa and Kil­lick be­came the cham­pi­ons of the cross-coun­try ski marathon as the sea­son came to a close. The Olympic vet­er­ans proved they were the top women's and men's cross-coun­try skiers in the field af­ter grind­ing through the challenging 30km and 50km skate-ski races.

Emily Nishikawa con­trolled the pace with Kocher, up and down the pun­ish­ing hills at the world-renowned Can­more Nordic Cen­tre un­til the fi­nal three kilo­me­tres, where Nishikawa opened a 47-sec­ond lead on Kocher, who took home the sil­ver medal. Vez­ina won the race for the bronze medal.

“Can­more is one of the tough­est places to race. The hills are re­lent­less, and it suits my ski­ing,” said Emily Nishikawa. “I at­tacked on the wall of the last lap, which is the tough­est part of the course. I just went for it, and didn't look back.”

In the men's, Kil­lick won his first 50km skate-ski dis­tance race at the Na­tional Cham­pi­onships. The 28-year-old per­se­vered in a battle to the fin­ish line over the seven-lap course just edg­ing out Lappe Nordic's Andy Shields in a sprint to the line. Michael Somppi, also with Lappe Nordic out of Thun­der Bay, Ont., put in a strong ef­fort for the bronze.

Gareth Wil­liams (Tele­mark Nordic/bcst) of Kelowna, B.C. led the ju­nior men's 30km skate-ski race. Feed­ing off the ex­pe­ri­ence gained com­pet­ing in the past weekend's World Cup fi­nals in Que­bec City, the mem­ber of Tele­mark Nordic stomped the field to cap­ture the ju­nior ti­tle.

Richard­son cap­tured back-to-back ti­tles in the ju­nior women's di­vi­sion. Lisle Comp­ton of Kenora Nordic also reached the podium for the sec­ond straight race – this time win­ning the sil­ver medal.

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