**NOTE: Stay tuned for a BIG photo gallery of even more JO's pictures tomorrow!
Another JO’s have come and gone. Last week (Mar 5-10) at Soldier Hollow, the nation’s best junior skiers gathered for competition at the 2002 Olympic ski venue. There were four races over 7 days. Multiple champions were crowned, racers gave it their best, and some of the fastest junior skiers were showcased in fine fashion …right in time, as the snow quickly melted away. Soldier Hollow lived up to it’s expectations: tough climbs, fast downhills, and fantastic vantage points for spectators.
Intermountain Division owned the show this year, and eventually took home the Alaska Cup trophy (awarded each year to the top division) at the week’s end with a whoppin’ 1423 points. This could be a record setting point total (archives not available upon posting of this article). New England snagged second with 1002 points, and Team Alaska claimed third with 888 points. In order, Rocky Mountain, Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Far West, High Plains, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes claimed the remaining spots.
Skate Individual Sprints:
From day one, Intermountain race suits flooded the sprint heats and podium. Forty-two heats took place on Monday afternoon. With one heat every 5 minutes (over a 3 hour time span), it was a bit confusing keeping up with all the races. Intermountain skiers were in almost all the heats. With such a huge lead after the first day of sprint races, other teams had their work cut out for the remainder of the week.
Ian Havlick of Intermountain edged out Patrick O’Brien, while Ida Sargent of New England beat Mellie Park to take top honors in the OJ sprint races. Tom Smith (PNSA) and Sophie Caldwell (New England) claimed gold in the J1 sprint races. Minnesota state champion Jessie Diggins (Midwest) gutted out the girls J2 sprint win. In perhaps the most impressive show of the day, High Plains J2 George Cartwright hammered the field in the sprint race. He qualified 8 seconds ahead of the second J2, and proceeded to blow everyone away in each heat enroute to cruising to his first National Championship title. Cartwright also claimed High Plains division’s first gold medal in the 4-year history of existence as a USSA division.
Skate Mass Start race:
Due to the high temps during the heat of the day, the race jury voted to start races at 8 AM to combat the warm temperatures and rapidly thinning snow conditions. The first two races of the day experienced bullet-proof hardpack conditions. By the end of the day, the course was both softer and slower. A 5km loop was used, which included the arduous â€œ2kmâ€ uphill and the infamous Hermod Hill (where â€˜Muuhlegg The Doper’ schooled everyone in 2002). Hermod Hill proved to be another show stopper again in the junior races.
Mike Matteson of Sun Valley (Intermountain) conquered the OJ boy’s race in exciting fashion, but not without some tactical racing strategy. Alaska’s Max Treinen took the solo lead early in the race and held a 10 second margin over the 4-person chase pack for nearly 9 km, before the pack reeled him in on Hermod Hill. In the OJ girls race, Mellie Park broke away and cruised to a 13 second victory over Robyn Anderson of New England.
Another Treinen, Lex, won the J1 boys skate race, edging out Noah Hoffman of RMD and Alaska’s Patrick Johnson. Treinen skied a conservative race, and saved up for a final push up Hermod Hill and the finish sprint. Erika Flowers of Bozeman (Intermountain) beat Jamie Bronga (Team Alaska) in a close sprint finish to take the J1 girls title.
In the J2 girl’s race Jessie Diggins (Midwest) once again used Hermod Hill to gap the 5 person lead pack she was apart of to claim the win over Elizabeth Guiney of Park City. George Cartwright, the machine from Lander, WY, put on a huge burst of speed on Hermod’s to gap the field and cruise home with a convincing 10 second victory.
Classic Individual race:
After winds Wednesday night and rain Thursday morning, the snow cover on the trails got very thin. The jury was forced to relocate the races on the only remaining sections of man-made snow. The courses used for the skate races (portions of Olympic 5km course, Hermod Hill, etc) were abandoned. Races began at 8 AM in order to combat warm temperatures that pushed 60 degrees! All 400+ skiers (again) were on the course at 15 second intervals. Surprisingly, the race courses held up quite well.
George Cartwright and Katherine Ingalls won the J2 races. Casey Kutz and Noah Hoffman took the J1 titles. Ida Sargent and Kyle Fredrickson took home the OJ titles.
Rocky Mountain took a bit of the spotlight from Intermountain in the relay races. They were the only division to win more than one relay, taking the J1 Boys and the J2 girls races.
The Pacific Northwest J2 team of Riley Shannon, Erik Bjornsen, and Pat Madden took the boys title, and the RMD team of Hannah Hausman, Paige Elliott, and Katherine Ingalls won the J2 girls race. Both teams won in handy fashion and cruised to the finish with room to spare.
The Intermountain J1 girls team of Mali Noyes, Erika Flowers, and Kate Dolan won the over-all race (J1/OJ raced together), and the New England OJ girls team of Ida Sargent, Stephanie Crocker, and Robyn Anderson won the OJ race (finishing 3rd over-all).
In the last relay of the day, the combined J1/OJ men (in ridiculously soft mashed-potato red klister conditions), the Rocky Mountain J1 boys team of John Gerstenberger, Noah Hoffman, and Miles Havlick won the final race at JO’s ahead of an Intermountain team. The top OJ men’s Midwest team was Kyle Fredrickson, Tim Cook, and Ben Fick which placed fourth overall (J1/OJ) in the race.
Each year the Dave Quinn award is given to the skier who demonstrates a balance of dedication, passion, sportsmanship, and results. Each division nominates one skier and a jury of coaches vote to determine the recipient. The Dave Quinn award has traditionally been awarded to older skiers, but this year was given to George Cartwright — the very deserving J2 (who won three individual gold medals) of High Plains.
Congratulations to all skiers!
The 2008 US Junior National Championships will be hosted at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska.
All photos by Torbjorn Karlsen