After an eerily déjà vu experience of having the first race at nationals delayed by a day, Rumford pulled themselves together and presented a beautifully prepared course for the skate sprints. The CSU athletes toeing the line were Eli, Calvin, Nate, Kaytie (CSU alum), Zoe, Corey, Olivia, Cate, and Hadley. With six coaches and three parental support units, the ratio was pretty good!
The women raced first, around a 1.4km loop that they also use for Easterns, and I got the chance to watch them all go out. Jessie Diggins and Ida Sargent both looked particularly impressive, but the girls in blue (hehe) held their ground, looking very smooth, powerful, and quick. Looking at the results, it's becomes painfully apparent just how deep the nationals field really is - one second on the results list usually covered four to six skiers. Corey qualified for the senior heats in 17th, which was pretty exciting. Olivia missed the junior heats by two seconds, but looked great out there. The other girls had to battle some of the challenges of ski racing - Zoe overcame some last-minute stress when her skis never got delivered to the start, but raced on Julia's skis, and was racing with a smile on her face - nothing rattles her! Julia was so overcome by the speed of her skis that she took a tumble in the worst possible place - on a downhill leading into a flat, losing all her momentum. Cate had a minor asthma attack, of some sort, making the uphills a bit more of a challenge, but still skied pretty. Kaytie and Hadley both raced well, gaining some great race experience. All the girls were very positive and supportive after their races, a tribute to the great atmosphere we have on this team.
The boys raced second, and Eli had a fantastic race (I think), using his trademark high-tempo stride and combining it with some good power. He caught the Dartmouth skier who started in front of him, and went on to finish 49th, and the second J1. Nathan looked smooth and quick, with cool sunglasses. Calvin was skiing great too, sporting yet another different ski suit. The guy is just at the height of fashion. It was really cool to watch the top men skiing, they're just in a different league completely.
We also saw alums Chris Stock, Hilary Rich, and Chris Burnham speeding around the course.
After a wait, it was time for the senior heats. Corey skied super smart heats, and it quickly became apparent that this was a sprint course that relied on tactics. I was definitely nervous in her quarterfinal, as she was racing against #4, #7, and #12, who had clearly been faster in the qualifier. Luckily, Corey doesn't like letting people beat her, and despite a slight tactical error on the last downhill, she had a great finish sprint and took second in the quarters by a photo finish. You have to be top two to move on.
It was a long, stressful wait while they figured out the results, but Corey took it in stride. I won't talk about the nail-biting going on in the wax room. But they declared that Corey was in, and I don't think I've ever seen Jim Stock so excited! She cruised through the semi final; asking about her race after, the main word she used for the semis was "fun". It was another photo finish between 3rd and 4th, but they figured that one out a little bit sooner, and she was in to the A final!
The A final was crazy - with three CXC skiers off the front, it became a race for 4th, 5th, or 6th, but Corey skied smart and fast, and ended up 4th! We were all pretty excited.
After the senior heats, Eli got ready to go out in the junior heats. As they had only taken 24 juniors into the heats, he had to be top 3 in his quarterfinal. It was another very tactical heat, and Eli slipped into 2nd place with a smooth move around the uphill corner. He got a bit pushed back on the climbs, but was in a great position going into the downhill, and slingshotted himself from sixth to fourth on the downhill. Unfortunately, as he moved around someone in the finish for a sprint to 3rd, he stumbled, twice, and then crashed across the finish line and broke his binding off his ski. What a finish! Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and he was done for the day. But Eli stayed in 2nd place for J1s, and learned some great lessons in his heat, so in the end, it was a super positive experience!
I am super proud of all the CSU athletes here, and we had a really great dinner last night where we all talked about our highlights and lowlights of the day. Zoe's gone home for a few days of school, now, but she'll be back for Friday's race. Today we're off to the trails to preview the distance course, and tomorrow is the distance skate race!
Ooooh boy racing is fun =)