Now that winter is winding down I have some time to report on the J2 championships. This year they were held at the Rickert Nordic Center in Ripton/Middlebury, VT. I had never skied at Rickert before and I must say that the courses used were really nice and challenging with 3 good climbs and some twisty-turny downhills that kept you on your toes. CSU had a good crew of J2s on the Mass team including Joey Carleo, Will Rhatigan, Tyler Lee, Jackson Hardin, Jacob Jampel, Lydia Yoder, Julia Homa, Janelle Deneau, Izzy Cole, Talia Seltzer, Gabby Vandendries and Madeline and Hannah Rieders. Upon setting up shop next to the Midwest's CXC team tent, I chatted a bit with one of the coaches, who asked if I knew Maddy. Of course, I replied, she's one of our coaches! Turns out he skied with Maddy in high school and both were MVPs on their team and they were best buds. I sent off a photo to Maddy. Its a small world.......
The course for Friday's skate race was pretty hard and some of the corners got scraped down to ice which made things pretty interesting for the later starting waves. J2 races are all run in wave starts with 1 skier from each team. In addition to the NE teams, partial teams from NY, Great Lakes and CXC attended, which made for better competition. The girls got the weekend off to a fabulous start as four Mass girls placed in the top 10, led by Gabby in 6th, Talia in 7th, Grace Smith from Greylock in 8th and Janelle in 10th, followed by Izzy in 18th, Hannah in 24th, Madeline tied for 39th, Julia 53rd and Lydia 67th. On the boys side Joey finished a solid 5th in a close race followed by Will in 16th, Jackson 34th, Jacob 37th and Tyler 50th. With the races over for the day the team headed back to the Middlebury Inn for dinner. While the Inn is very nice, somehow they must have thought they were not feeding athletes and so dinner was, shall we say, a bit on the skimpy side. Following dinner a bunch of kids went off to the store to try and find a bit more sustenance. An army moves on its stomach, and so do cross country skiers!
Saturday dawned pretty cold and as soon as we wolfed down a good coaches breakfast, Alex and I headed back up the road to start wax testing. The forecast called for a pretty quick warmup into the waxing death zone of the low 30s. With a lot of testing we nailed down the kick for the girls race using stick wax (Toko yellow covered with Red) and no klister (YES!!!) and off they went. I was concerned it would continue to warm up too much but when the first girls came into view Talia and Janelle were killing it. Vermont, on the other hand was having all kinds of problems with their skis. Eventually Talia and Janelle finished 2nd and 4th and quickly followed by Gabby in 7th, Grace in 12th and Izzy in 16th. Hannah came in 27th, Madeline 40th, Lydia really moved it up, coming in 54th and Julia 79th.
For the boys we changed the wax to straight yellow, but the conditions now got kind of weird. The tracks had started to glaze in the sun earlier, but now heavier clouds rolled in and the glaze froze. The boys did not have great skis. On the good side, none of the boys had particularly good skis. However, Maine clearly had the best skis and it showed in the results. Joey struggled a bit and finished in 12th, behind Matt Wiseman of Greylock in 10th. Jacob had a great race and moved way up to 26th with Will right behind in 28th, Tyler in 52nd and Jackson in 66th.
Suzanne Carleo organized a great food table for the intermission before the afternoon sprints. The weather turned cloudy and the wind came up and before too long waves of sprints headed out onto the challenging 1K sprint course. Once again, Talia and Janelle led the way for the Mass team, finishing in 8th and 9th. Izzy fired off a great sprint and came in 12th. Gabby was 29th, Hannah 32nd, Madeline 39th, Julia 61st and Lydia 74th. The boys races followed, with Joey banging out a good one for 4th place. Will came home in 17th and then Jacob surprised himself having a great race in 25th. Jackson moved way up to 32nd and Tyler in 67th.
Back at the Inn, the team headed off to the banquet while coaches waxed and then sought dinner on their own. Turns out the banquet was a bit skimpy too and they ran out of pasta. Hmmmm, seems to be a pattern here. That, and the kids would lose an hour of sleep with the time change.
Sunday's race was the mixed gender, mixed technique relay, always a fun event. Once again Alex and I headed over at the Crack O' Dawn, and froze until the March sun popped over the horizon. It would stay colder for the relay, so waxing wasn't a big problem and we went with Swix 45 and 55 (sorry Rob). The relay is always exciting, particularly the start. With a downhill start at the beginning of the race, even with the really wide course, it had been decided the girls would do the scramble leg as that might reduce the total chaos. I don't think anyone broke a pole or fell, so I guess it worked! Talia got the first Mass team off to a great start in the classic leg handing off in 2nd. CSU girls led off several of the other teams as well with strong performances by Izzy and Lydia. Talia handed off to Matt Wiseman who had a solid leg handing off to Janelle. Janelle skied well and handed off to Joey who brought the team home in 4th. The 2nd team with 3 CSUers finished in 9th.
The Mass team showed a lot of energy and had a lot of fun during the weekend. It didn't hurt that the weather was basically pretty nice, mid-winter conditions. Everyone gained a lot of good experience and for the first year J2s they survived banging out 4 tough races in 3 days. I had fun as head coach and working with the other coaches and particularly enjoyed having Alex wax up the test skis for me to test! So awesome! Kathy got a lot of grief from NH coaches for being on the Mass team at J2s. Next up, EHS!