The site of the 2002 Nordic Skiing Olympics hosted a Super Qualifier for the Junior National Championships on Jan 28-29. As a Super Qualifier, athletes from teams outside the region can also earn points toward qualifying for JNs, so in addition to all the teams from the Intermountain Division, teams from Rocky Mountain, Far West, Pacific Northwest, and other Divisions travelled to these races.
This venue can easily handle the large number of competitors . The course is spectator friendly: looping across almost treeless hillsides, against the spectacular backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains. Brilliant sunshine reflects off the snow. At 9 am, it is only 8 degrees, and the few trees are coated in frost, sparkling in the sun.
The competitors start and finish in a World Class stadium, complete with powerful sound system, announcing starts, calling finishes, and an electronic billboard towering enormous at the finish, posting results immediately. Saturday’s distance races, Classic technique, went off in mass start format.
The start area offered 7 perfectly set lanes across for the first 200 yards, then narrowed to 3 lanes leaving the stadium. Skiers climb a short gradual hill, then descend the first downhill under a bridge, to a long climb to get out onto the course. Right here skiers know if they have good kick, if the wax techs manning the many wax benches set up near the start have hit the wax right, enabling them to stride smoothly with power up the hills. This makes all the difference on this course, which includes many such ascents.
The scene at the start is a colorful frenzy of activity: each team has set up several wax benches, some under bright tents emblazoned with team name and logo, though on this relentlessly sunny day coverage is more for sun protection than to keep snow away. Dozens of pairs of skis are waxed by teams of experienced wax techs, who receive a flow of information from coaches skiing the course, radioing reports of how various test skis are performing. The prepped skis are laid out carefully in long rows, ready for their owner to retrieve them in time to test before the race.
Saturday’s schedule calls for the youngest racers to go first, the oldest last. The day is warming, and by the time of the J1/OJ races it is so warm the competitors ski without hats, some with their lycra suits pulled up baring muscled calfs and forearms. The intensity of the moment is evident in the faces of the athletes as they ski by: focused, driven, hoping their skis are fast, that they have kick on the uphill, glide on the downhill, that they don’t crash, that no skier in front of them crashes, that they can dig deep for more power, more speed, a deeper tuck, a faster double pole, even when their vision narrows, their lungs gasp for air, their muscles scream to stop. Much at stake today: points toward a place on the team going to Junior Nationals!
Results: The J1/OJ men’s race, 3 laps of a 5K loop, saw a tight finish with the top 6 of the 126 competitors finishing within 3 seconds of each other. Bridger Ski Foundation took 3 of the top 6 finishes in this class. In contrast, the Girls J2 winner, Maggie Williams of Sun Valley, won that Division’s 5K by a margin of more than 30 seconds. Annie Pokorny, also of Sun Valley, won the J1/OJ F class 10K by 22 seconds. Soldier Hollow, the home team, took one 1st place finish: Marc Jackson, J2 Boys, 7 seconds ahead of 2nd. Full results available at www.summittiming.com.