JuniorsRacingNew England Wraps Up Alaska Cup Trophy With Relay Wins

FasterSkier FasterSkierMarch 14, 2004

Editor's Note: This is the final daily update from the Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid. Look for a comprehensive wrap-up of JNs on Monday here on FasterSkier.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — New England skiers capped a dominant week Saturday when they captured the Alaska Cup, symbolic of team supremacy, as the Chevy Truck U.S. Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships drew to a close at the Verizon Sports Complex in Lake Placid.

The Relays, presented by the New York Power Authority, ended the event in as entertaining a fashion as the Sprints started them on Monday.

In cold, but sunny conditions, the New Englanders captured the women’s 3-by-5K junior 2 race in a photo finish. Other victories by this group, however, were no contest. The men’s junior 2 event, with double gold medallists Kevin Cutts of Townshend, Vt. and Dylan McGuffin of Northfield, N.H. skiing the opening and anchor legs, respectively, turned into a 45 second romp. In the middle portion, teammate Alex Howe of Gunstock, N.H. turned a five-second edge into a 16.4 second advantage that McGuffin brought home.

Bret Bedard, a student at the Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, anchored another win for New England, also by 45 seconds, in the men’s open junior division at the 3-by-5K distance.

New England ran off with the Alaska Cup, accumulating 1,528 points over the four days. Alaska was the next closest pursuer with 871 points.

The Mid-Atlantic team was able to “steal” a victory in the midst of their neighbor’s dominance. With Annelies Cook of Saranac Lake, N.Y. skiing a tactical middle leg, Mid-Atlantic took a four-second victory in the girls open junior category. Taylor Leach of Middlebury College skied the opening segment, while Laura Van Alst of New Paltz, N.Y., another who spent time in the passing lane, brought home the title.

“My coaches told me it was faster in the skate tracks and to go around and pass,” said Cook. She overcame four skiers in her final turn before the exchange, setting up Van Alst. “I felt so good in the Classic leg, and we picked the right people for the various legs.”

Cook is a member of the U.S. Biathlon Team and trains at the Maine Winter Sports Center. However, she is infatuated with idea of Classic technique cross country skiing.

“It feels good to go hard in Classic,” she continued. “It’s a good hurt. It’s cool to stride uphill and catch people.”

It’s even better to do it at home.

“Skiing here is great in front of family and friends and the ORDA (Olympic Regional Development Authority) people who know me. I could feel the encouragement.”

At the Junior Olympics, it’s the theme of encouragement that was reiterated by Luke Bodensteiner, Nordic Program Director for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

“The Junior Olympics drive participation at a young level,” said Bodensteiner. “Youngsters get turned on by this scene. They will always be involved in this sport, thereafter, in some capacity.”

As the 2004 races wrap up, thoughts will soon turn to the 2005 event in Truckee, Calif. But first, there’s the matter of distributing the official awards for the Free technique and Relay events. That will be done tonight at the closing party. The Hawaiian luau will offer a fitting end for a JO ski community that, after a long season, is probably thinking about spending some time on a beach.

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