Eastern Canadian Championships
The Eastern Canadian Championships, held Feb. 2-4, got underway at Nakkertok in Cantley, Que. with chilly -15°C temperatures, but lots of sun. Doubling as a U.S. Supertour and Canadian Para-nordic National Championships, the senior fields were stacked with top athletes from across the continent and the Para competitions hotly contested.
Morning Classic qualifiers were won by Becca Rorabaugh (Alaska Pacific University [APU]) and Julien Locke (Black Jack). Locke won by a commanding five-second margin, an impressive performance especially considering he travelled over from the Seefeld World Cup just a couple days before.
The women’s heats saw Rorabaugh (APU) continuing her winning ways, out-lunging Kaitlynn Miller (Craftsbury) and Erika Flowers (SMS T2) to take the early lead for the weekend’s mini-tour. Laurence Dumais (Fondeurs-laurentides/aiawca) was the top Canadian woman, placing second in the B-final.
Top men’s qualifier Locke (Black Jack) dominated the early heats, but in the final was challenged by Ben Saxton (SMS T2). Locke made a small tactical error on the final corner, giving Saxton a break as they entered the finishing straight, which was enough for Saxton to hold off Locke with a photo-finish win. Home-crowd favourite Patrick Stewart-jones (Nakkertok) claimed third, just ahead of four-time U.S. Olympian Kris Freeman (Caldwell Sport/stratton).
Para-nordic athletes kicked off the weekend with a Prologue that saw Derek Zaplotinsky (Strathcona Nordic) win the men’s Sit-ski by just 0.3 seconds over Sebastien Fortier (Skibec). Cindy Ouellet (Para-club Nordique Mont-sre-anne) took a decisive win in the women’s Sit-ski, while Andy Lin (Nordic Racers) and Lyne-marie Bilodeau (Orford) earned titles in the men’s and women’s Standing categories.
It was another cool, sunny day at the Nakkertok Ski Centre in Cantley with the “The Cyclery” Race Day beginning with the men’s 15km
Individual skate races. John Hegman (Sun Valley) took a 10-second victory over David Norris (APUNSC) in the Open Men’s competition. Tad Elliott ((Ski & Snowboard Vail) was third, while Jack Carlyle (Soo Finnish) of Sault Ste Marie, Ont. was the top Canadian in fourth, just three seconds from the podium.
For the women’s 10km, Rosie Frankowski of Anchorage (APU) dominated the event with a 37-second margin of victory over the previous day’s sprint winner Rorabaugh (APU), while Flowers (SMS T2) finished third. The top Canadian in fourth was Frédérique Vézina (Mont-ste-anne/cneph).
In Para-nordic events, Ouellet won her second title in the women’s 2.5km Sit-ski race, while Fortier (Skibec) was the fastest over the same distance in the men’s race and was joined on the podium by Yves Bourque (Mauriski) and Ethan Hess (Nordic Racers). Kyle Barber (Laurentian Nordic) won the 5km men’s Standing competition, while Bilodeau (Orford) doubled up on the women’s side.
The weather changed dramatically as warmer temperatures and heavy snow greeted the racers at the “Fresh Air Experience” Classic Pursuit races at Nakkertok Nordic.
Para-nordic racers were the first to take to the tracks with Zaplotinsky (Strathcona Nordic) returning to the top of the podium ahead of Fortier (Skibec) and Bourque (Mauriski) in the men’s 5km Sit-ski and Tanya Quesnel (Para-laurentian Nordic) earning her first National Championship title in the women’s 5km. In Standing categories, Barber (Laurentian Nordic) claimed his second gold of the weekend, while Bilodeau (Orford) made it a clean sweep of the women’s Standing events with a third victory.
In the Open Women’s competition, Frankowski (APU) claimed her second gold in two days in a dramatic race with her teammate Rorabaugh (APU). Frankowski started the day 47 seconds ahead of Rorabaugh, who clawed back most of that time over the 10km, finishing just two seconds back at the finish. Third, with the fastest elapsed time of the day, was Miller (Craftsbury). Olivia Bouffard-nesbitt (Fondeurs Laurentides/rocky Mountain Racers) was the top Canadian in fourth.
In the men’s 15km race, Hegman (Sun Valley) started the morning with a 10-second advantage over Norris. Norris quickly overtook Hegman and skied on for a commanding 1:18 lead over Vermont’s Ben Lustgarten (Craftsbury). There was a photo finish for third, as Minnesota’s Brian Gregg (CXC/LNR/TEAM Gregg) beat out Colorado’s Tad Elliott (Ski & Snowboard Vail) in the final sprint. The top Canadian was Scott Hill (Barrie XC) in ninth.
The weekend concluded with Quebec topping Ontario for the Overall Eastern Canadian Championship title.
Ben Saxton wins the men's sprint CL in a photo finish with top-qualifier Julien Locke.