Katharine Ogden didn’t worry too much about the slush at Junior World Championships on Tuesday. She tested her skis once, remained confident in her kick and resolved to “hammer the whole thing” because 5 kilometers is pretty short, the 18-year-old Stratton Mountain School and U.S. Ski Team D-team member explained in an email.
“I didn’t notice too much of a change in the conditions between laps, although by my second lap I’m not sure I would have noticed much, it was definitely a sufferfest out there,” she wrote.
Ogden raced to 13th in the 5 k classic individual start on the second day of U23/Junior World Championships in Rasnov, Romania, leading the U.S. team on a classic distance day with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The sixth starter, Ogden finished 56.8 seconds behind the winner Marte Mæhlum Johansen of Norway, who completed the two-lap race in 15:34. In Ogden’s second junior world championships, the result was her third best after placing sixth in the 10 k skiathlon and 11th in the 5 k freestyle last year in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“I’m psyched about my race and I’m hoping to carry the momentum into the skate 10k which is a much better event for me,” she wrote of Thursday’s race. “I’m mostly focused on the skate race here.”
When asked how Rasnov compares to Almaty, Ogden explained they are “pretty similar in some ways but completely different in others.
“Almaty was a huge industrial city while Rasnov is a small rural mountain town,” she wrote. “The low snow has been common to both venues, however the situation is much worse here in Romania. It’s pretty awesome that we get the opportunity to travel to these crazy places and race because neither place is one that I would ordinarily get to experience.”
Finishing 21.2 second off her teammate’s pace and 1:18 behind the winner, Julia Kern (SMS/USST) notched her second-straight top 20 in as many races at this year’s junior worlds.
Kern finished 18th, and like Ogden, whose time ranked 18th at the halfway point, Kern sped up on her second lap to improve from the 24th-fastest split at 2.5 k.
“Honestly, my plan was to feel it out as I went along because when I saw the first starters lap, they looked like they were in a lot of pain and that it was super slow and grueling,” Kern wrote in an email. “I also had talked with my coach Matt Boobar about water ‘feeds’, where he would dump cold water on me while I was racing so I could cool off a little. I found the cold water helped me cool off a little in the heat.”
She started the race 26th out of almost 80 junior women and felt the conditions were likely similar for everyone: “hot, wet, slow, and slushy,” she wrote.
“Quickly after I had started out, my body set into a pace automatically that was appropriate,” Kern explained. “Is was so slow out there that it was really hard to go significantly faster without wasting a lot of energy; it was almost like the speed you were going was hard to change. … I definitely didn’t feel like I was having a good race just by how slow I was skiing, but I guess the results showed otherwise.”
Her goal had been a top 25, so 18th place exceeded that.
“I am very happy with my result today and pleasantly surprised!” she added. “The coaches had done a great job giving splits out on course, but I knew that when they said I was top 20, there were plenty of fast girls still behind me. It is hard to tell how I feel about the actual race because I don’t think it felt good for anyone; it was all about who could fight through the pain the fastest.”
Finishing 5.3 seconds behind the winner, Norway’s Lotta Udnes Weng placed second for the second-straight day and Germany’s Antonia Fraebel took third (+10.7).
Canada’s Marie Corriveau placed 37th, 2:04.8 behind the winner, and explained in an email that she found it difficult to push hard in the slushy conditions.
“I am not used to skiing in those conditions,” Corriveau, of the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre in Quebec City, wrote. “I know it was the same for everybody, but usually I take advantage because of my good technique, but today it was almost impossible to ski well.
“I am not feeling bad [about] my race, because i know I gave everything!” she added. “For sure, I would expect better for a 5km classic, but with the circumstances, I am pretty happy with this 37th place!”
Behind her, Canada’s Hannah Mehain placed 44th, Natalie Hynes was 58th and Sadie White 62nd. For the U.S., Vivian Hett placed 48th, and Leah Lange was 52nd.
Three Americans in the U23 men’s 15 k classic finished in the top 30, with Adam Martin of Northern Michigan University leading the way in 23rd. Paddy Caldwell (Dartmouth/SMS/USST) placed 27th and Kyle Bratrud (CXC) was 29th.
Unlike the junior women, who raced two laps, the men rounded the 2.5 k loop six times. A few men opted to double pole on skate skis and two of them, including Canada’s Julien Locke, were disqualified for violating classic technique.
“Preparing for this race presented some challenges I haven’t encountered before,” Martin, who previously raced at 2014 Junior World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, wrote in an email. “To preserve snow, race organizers only allowed athletes to ski in short time periods on Sunday and Monday. I don’t think this affected me as I was able to pick my skis and execute the intervals I had planned, but it was definitely something new.”
The 21st starter out of approximately 70, Martin recalled the snow feeling significantly slower on his third lap.
“I usually make an effort to start very hard, but considering the conditions, my focus was more on being relaxed at the beginning,” he explained. “I am happy with that strategy because it didn’t take long to feel the effort.”
Considering this was his personal best at a world championships, after placing 26th in the 10 k classic at 2014 junior worlds, Martin wrote that it felt great to improve.
“But to be honest it’s hard for me to celebrate too much when there are 22 guys beating me by up to three minutes at the event,” he added after finishing 3:02.2 behind the winner, Jens Burman of Sweden, who took gold in 40:02.
Russia’s Alexey Chervotkin was 26.8 seconds back in second place, and Norway’s Mikael Gunnulfsen placed third (+36.6).
In an email to FasterSkier, U.S. Ski Team Chris Grover recently explained that Martin had turned down World Cup starts for the Ski Tour Canada. In his place, there is one opening on the men’s roster that can be filled with an “outstanding performance” at U23 World Championships.
“As a collegiate skier … I think in some sense NCAAs is my only obligation each year for NMU,” Martin wrote of his decision to decline the spot. “Furthermore, I think I have some improvements I need to make especially in sprinting before I am ready to race a World Cup. Finally, I’m very excited to race some fast guys at NCAAs in a few weeks; I think they will be very high quality competitions.”
Finishing 25.2 seconds back from Martin on Tuesday, Caldwell placed 27th (+3:27.4) in his second U23 World Championships (after placing 15th in the 15 k freestyle and 20th in the 30 k skiathlon in Almaty last year). He started 19th and hung in the top 30 throughout his six laps.
Also in his second appearance at U23 worlds, Bratrud, in bib 22, notched his second-career top 30 after placing 19th in the 15 k freestyle last year. On Tuesday, he finished 3:46.1 back after posting faster splits earlier in the race.
“The race course today was pretty insane,” Bratrud wrote. “Originally it resembled Eagle glacier [in Alaska] which had me pretty stoked but as the race went on it broke down pretty bad. I’m not sure I have ever raced in conditions like that. Definitely an experience. Maybe the longest 15k I have ever done, at least feeling wise.
“I have been targeting these races my whole season so I was definitely disappointed with my result, but all things considered I am not super worried,” the 23-year-old Minnesota native added. “I didn’t feel great warming up and I generally don’t classic well in these type of conditions nor have I raced on them this year or more then a handful of times in my entire career. The wax techs worked extremely hard to give us great skis in these extremely challenging conditions. I am really looking forward to the skate race and the races moving forward [this season] in Germany and Italy.”
About 16 seconds outside the top 30, Canada’s Scott James Hill placed 36th (+4:03.3), Jack Carlyle was 42nd, and Alexis Dumas finished 53rd.
American Logan Hanneman was 55th, coming off 15th place in the freestyle sprint on Monday. He started 53rd, the latest of the North Americans aside from Locke, of Canada, who started 59th but was disqualified for skating.
In the junior men’s 10 k classic, Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo claimed his second-straight gold in 28:57.8. Coming off three medals at the Youth Olympic Games, South Korea’s Magnus Kim (who is half Norwegian) placed second, 11.2 seconds back, and Finland’s Lauri Lepisto earned bronze (+25.4).
American Cully Brown finished 35th (+2:01.9), Ian Torchia was 43rd, Thomas O’Harra 54th, and Henry Harmeyer 65th for the U.S.
Ryan Jackson was the top Canadian in 46th, followed by Antoine Blais in 52nd, Joey Foster in 56th, and Philippe Boucher in 67th.
In the U23 women’s 10 k classic, Heather Mooney, a former Middlebury skier, was the top American in 38th (+4:27), just ahead of Canada’s Frédérique Vezina in 39th (+4:31).
Russia’s Anastasia Sedova won gold in 28:49.4, while Germany’s Victoria Carl finished 13.1 seconds back in second, and Petra Novakova of the Czech Republic was third (+17).
Also for the U.S., Kristen Bourne placed 40th, Felicia Gesior was 42nd, and Kelsey Phinney 44th.
Canada’s Kendra Murray finished between Gesior and Phinney in 43rd, Jenn Jackson was 45th and Sophie Carrier-Laforte was 46th.
Also on Tuesday, 19-year-old Jasper Good raced to 11th for U.S. Nordic Combined in the normal hill/10 k Gundersen. In his fourth Junior World Championships, it was his first individual top 20.
Fifteenth on the hill, he posted the 13th-fastest ski time to finish 11th, 3:48.9 behind the winner, Austria’s Bernhard Flaschberger. Germany’s Vinzenz Geiger crossed the line nearly a minute later in second (+59.6). Germany’s Terence Weber held onto third (+1:08.5) by three-tenths of a second over Eero Hirvonen of Finland in fourth.
“This year’s World Junior Championships are full of schedule changes and an extreme lack of snow here in Rasnov,” Good wrote on his Facebook page. “We were able to get the first individual competition off yesterday and I had a career best finish of 11th place! I didn’t ski my best race, but I was able to move up from 15th after jumping! I’m happy with this and excited to improve in the next competition! “
Also for the U.S., Stephen Schumann placed 31st, Jared Shumate was 37th and Koby Vargas 44th.
Racing continues Thursday with the cross-country 10/15 k freestyle individual starts, replacing the skiathlons. Friday’s junior relays have been shortened to 4 x 2.5 k for the women (and remain 4 x 5 k for the men), and Wednesday’s nordic combined event was postponed.
Nordic combined has two remaining competitions: the normal hill/5 k on Thursday and normal hill/4 x 5 k team event on Friday.