On a blue sky day in Whistler, BC, Emily Nishikawa (Alberta World Cup Academy) skied away from the rest of the NorAm field for her first win of the season. She completed the 15 k skiathlon at the Whistler Olympic Park in 46:03.0, just 7.0 seconds ahead of runner-up Alysson Marshall (AWCA). Alana Thomas (Nakkertok) took a close third (+7.2).
The lead women skied in a pack for the classic portion of the race, and after the exchange to skate gear, Nishikawa said she made her move in the final lap, pulling away from Marshall, Thomas and Zoe Roy (Stella Racing), who finished 9.3 seconds back.
Racing in Whistler this weekend is a return to familiar territory for Nishikawa, who has previously trained with the host club, the Callaghan Valley Training Center.
“I know the trails pretty well,” said Nishikawa, who is a member of Cross Country Canada’s Senior Development Team. “It’s definitely good to be back.”
The series of three races over four days—Thursday’s skiathlon, a freestyle sprint on Saturday and a 10/15 k classic on Sunday—serve as Canada’s trials for its World Junior and U23 Championship teams. In the past, an outright win at the trials has guaranteed skiers a spot on the team, which has Nishikawa pretty pleased with her race.
“The goal is to perform well at U23s, but the first step is to qualify, so I’m pretty excited,” she said. “This takes some pressure off.”
Marshall, her teammate at AWCA, was happy with her execution of the skiathlon.
“I tried to stay relaxed for the classic portion and my exchange went well,” she wrote in an email. “I started to get fatigued in the skate section and Emily got away from me in the last lap and I wasn’t able to reel her back in.”
Overall, she said she felt good out on the course. Marshall is also a member of Canada’s Senior Development team, and competed on the World Cup earlier this season.
Marshall was happy with the conditions at Whistler—”It was sunny, the tracks were fairly firm and my skis were great!” she said.
For Thomas, Thursday’s third-place finish was her highest of the season thus far. “My plan for the year is to do as many NorAms as I can and do my best in all of them,” she said.
Last week, Thomas competed in the freestyle sprint at U.S Nationals in Rumford, ME, where she posted the 10th-fastest time in the qualifier. On the opposite side of the continent on Thursday, Thomas said her energy was up.
“My plan was to go out hard and stay with the fastest girls I could,” said Thomas. From there, she tried to ski calm and keep the effort up through the finish.
Competition resumes in Whister on Saturday with the freestyle sprint.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.