Our JN skiers have returned from the Great White North to . . . the Great White New England! I'm not sure any of us would have expected to be greeted by a snow day upon our return, but it certainly is nice to have a day in which we can regroup, reorganize, and get a jump on a week's worth of laundry.
We had a successful second half of our competition week, despite the disappointment of not being able to pack the Alaska Cup back into a New Englander's suitcase.
Forecasted low temperatures and high winds brought the viability of holding Thursday's sprint race into question, but fortunately the temps were higher and the wind speeds lower than expected, resulting in a chilly, but not unpleasant, day for the sprints. Fairbanks' time zone placement and its apparent solar time (I think that's the term I want) meant that even though the boys finals didn't start until after 6:00 pm there was enough daylight to race without flipping the switch on Birch Hill's elaborate lighting system.
Gavin, Julia, Leah, Zoe, Cate and Eli all made the heats and were fierce in their head-to-head competitions. Zoe's first heat was particularly fun to watch as she skied a great tactical race, letting the Norwegian girl lead up both hills, then slingshotting ("shake and bake!") around her on the final downhill into the stadium. Zoe and Julia both made it to the A finals in their divisions, coming in third and second, respectively. Eli put the hammer down in his last match to win the B final, earning him a seventh place finish. Gavin fought hard in the B final to take 8th. Leah and Cate just missed the semis to finish 15th and 19th respectively. Other CSUers had strong prelims: Sonya 35th, 52nd Hadley, 57th Charlotte, 33rd Calvin, 38th Rion, and 44th Nate.
After a brief ski on Friday morning we traveled to the home of David Monson, widower of famed Iditarod champion Susan Butcher. (Monson's eldest daughter attends the Saint Paul's School in New Hampshire and is friends with NE skier Jack Schrupp.) She and her younger sister (both accomplished mushers) hooked up the dogs and took us on trips around the pond that fronts their spectacular log house. Inside we snacked on homemade cookies and marveled at the craftsmanship of the home's interior.
Saturday's mass start races were fast and furious--and tough! Kilometer number one was all uphill, ascending to the top of Tower Hill, the high point of the course. J2s skied one five kilometer loop, J1s and women OJs skied two, and men OJs skied a grueling, three-lap, 15 kilometer race. It was a punishing culmination to a week of hard skiing, but CSU skiers put up some great results. Julia skied off the front of the three-person lead pack of Katharine Ogden and Alaska's Lydia Blanchette for the win in the J2 race. Congrats to our National Champion! Leah fought hard at the line to come in fifth, only a millimeter out of fourth. Eli was just off the podium in fourth; Cate fought hard to stay in the lead pack for much of the JI race, ultimately double poling across the finish line in 18th with Zoe, who finished 17th. Gavin had another top 30 finish at 24th along with Nate at 28th, Calvin at 29th, and Rion was 36th just ahead of Luke Costley (and he was just ahead of him at EHS 2 years ago - history repeats). Sonya came in 53rd to complete her first of many JN trips while Hadley was 50th and CharCole 54th.
Things didn't slow down from there as we scrambled to travel wax our skis, catch a bus back to the Wedgewood Htoel, shower, get spiffed up for the dance (!), and head back onto the bus for dinner and awards. Olympic gold medalist Becky Scott gave an inspirational speech in which she spoke not only of her hard work as an athlete, but also as an outspoken critic of performance-enhancing drugs. A steady stream of CSU skiers made their way to the stage for awards, several of them completing multiple laps across the stage and back up again just in time to receive their next medal. CSU ended up 4th in the club competition, just off the podium, but top NE club just ahead of Stratton. CSU did make the podium in the girls club competition coming in 3rd while the boys moved up to 6th from last year's 8th.
A massive bonfire kept us warm outside the recreation center as volunteers scrambled to dismantle the dining set-up and clear the dance floor. Sonya and I headed to the airport for a 10:30 pm flight out of town--anyone who wants details on the evening's activities will have to get their information from another source!
It was a cold, exciting, and very, very fun week. It gave me great pride to say I was a CSU coach; I can't imagine being with a part of a more dedicated and fun group of athletes!
NE Coaches Kathy and Tracey
Easier to ride in the sled than do the work yourself
These dogs love to run on snow too
Re-ON makes a friend
New England's best with Olympic gold medalist Becky Scott
Behind the mask she's all business
Cate leads out the relay start
Julia showing how to sprint
Leah fighting tough
Zoe on the hunt
Gavin showed that he can sprint too