LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – As the Chevy Truck U.S. Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships completed the third of four competition days, over 400 skiers were greeted by a brief, near blizzard-like snowfall shortly after the start of Friday’s Free Technique races, presented by I LOVE NY.
Fortunately, the squall was short-lived and its impact on skier performances over the five and 10 kilometer distances at the Verizon Sports Complex was minimal.
Sadie Bjornsen of Winthrop, Wash., in her first Junior Olympic appearance, captured first place in the women’s junior 2 category. Her time of 15 minutes, 25.4 seconds was 33 seconds ahead of the field despite weather issues.
“When I went out, it was not snowing,” replayed Bjornsen. “Then the blizzard came and I had no eyeglasses. My eyelids froze shut and I couldn’t see. I was snowplowing around the corners. But I love these hills. That’s what I’m best at.”
In anticipation of the weather, Bjornsen’s coaches had the skis stone-ground prior to the race. “And they also have this new wax. It’s awesome in this snow,” she said.
Like Kristina Owen, another Washington state skier who took a gold medal on Wednesday, Bjornsen runs cross country in the fall and won a U.S. title Dec. 15 in New Mexico.
Her training, and approach to it, is a bit out of the ordinary. “I ski race against guys mostly and sometimes I win,” she continued. “I want people to beat me to make me work harder. I have awesome coaching and I love racing. Someday it would be fun to go to the Olympics.”
One of those “awesome” coaches is Chris Clark, now living in Winthrop, Wash. Clark grew up in nearby Middlebury, Vt.
“I’ve skied here many times over the years,” said Clark. “I knew what our kids would be getting into and we tried to prepare for this.
“We’ve had a great week. The kids have been able to keep their energy going.”
They will have to do that one more day. The Relays, presented by the New York Power Authority, will close these 2004 Junior Olympics at 9 AM Saturday. Competitions are set for 3-by-3K and 3-by-5K.
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