Another race day on the sprint course in Canmore. Today, it was a few degrees colder making slightly slower conditions than yesterday but other than that everything was exactly the same. As I got ready to toe the line in the qualification, I was reminded that running starts were not allowed as apparently this was a problem in yesterday’s qualification. I’m not sure how exactly one would time this feat but it definitely would have been entertaining to watch. I started out hard and successfully navigated the track change which was problematic in yesterday’s prelim. In the hilly section of the course I was feeling awesome and knew this was going to be a good one. I started getting really excited on the last hill as I was gaining quickly on my 15 second person. The gap left between us was going to be the perfect distance for drafting on the downhill. I was already thinking about how I would slingshot around her going into the finish. I just had a couple more double poles left before I could fall into a tuck when I stuck a pole between my legs and was down before I knew it. I untangled myself and got up but was swearing to myself for making such a silly mistake. The qualification in sprint races is where sprint points are awarded and the US team is then using points to determine the Olympic Team. Its also necessary to have low enough FIS points to even race in the Olympics. This fall was going to be costly as every extra second racks up points quickly. I still ended up 9th overall and the 2nd American but it was really frustrating to know I could have done much better.
Putting the qualifcation aside, I got ready for the heats. After having raced the course yesterday I was confident of my strategy before even starting which is not something that usually happens in sprint racing. Usually you have to ski a heat or two and go with the flow before you can truly know how the course will ski. I had an uneventful quarterfinal and advanced into the semis. My goal was not to finally be in the A final so it was really important that I had a good semifinal. I took off hard from the start and was leading on the inside when I got to the first major corner. Then somehow the girl directly behind me got her ski stuck between my leg and we both spun around. We managed to stay on our feet but after untangling ourselves we well behind the rest of the our heat. B final crossed through my mind and I went for it. I took an outside line though the next corner to pass people cluttered on the inside and then ran outside the tracks as hard as I could to pass a few more and get into the top 2 positions again. By now I knew it was either going to be a great heat or I was going die. I managed to hold on and finish 2nd in the heat. This was the first time I had ever made an A final in a competitive senior race so I was really psyched. In the final, I used the same tactics and skied hard and aggressive through the first corners. I was still with the leaders on the last big climb of the course but then I started to fade and the wheels came off quickly going over the top. I didn’t have enough of a lead to hold off the draft of the 5th and 6th place girls so they both passed me on the downhill and I couldn’t quite pass them back double poling to the finish. So I ended up last in my final but was close to 4th so it wasn’t nearly as much of a disaster as the final in the Bozeman SuperTour.
So its another race down and a few more lessons learned. I won $50 in prize money and the Canadians were very confused when I said I couldn’t take it. They kept asking me why because none of the officials were familiar with NCAA rules. Even after I explained one official says, “Could you just take a little of it?” and another tells me, “Just pocket it and I won’t tell.” Finally someone suggested that I donate it the Right to Play Charity which is a athlete-based organization that uses games and sports to help the development of kids from underprivileged areas or the world. This sounded great so I agreed, and the officials were so excited that they gave me my $100 late registration fee back. It was perfect! A huge thanks to Rick Kapala and Travis Jones of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation for the great skis and for letting me join their team this weekend!