RUMFORD, Maine — After an exciting morning of mass start racing, the junior men and women had their chance to shine at U.S. Cross Country Championships on Friday.
With the morning’s snow flurries behind them, the athletes found themselves on a well-skied loop at Black Mountain. The junior men’s race consisted of three laps around the 3.26 k course for approximately 10 k, while the junior women raced two laps, one of which was on a shorter loop, for 5 k.
With just under 100 athletes taking to the start line in the junior men’s 10 k classic individual start, there was no lack of excitement. In a hard-fought battle, Benjamin Lustgarten (Middlebury) bested Scott Patterson (UVM) by just over three seconds. Benjamin Saxton (Minnesota Valley) followed closely in third.
The junior women’s race proved to be just as exciting with the top three finishing within seconds of one other. With such a short race, athletes went all-out. Many racers made the mistake of heading the wrong way on the modified women’s course, costing them several seconds that may very well have been crucial in such a short race.
In the junior women’s event, Anne Hart (Dartmouth) outpaced Corey Stock (CSU) by one second. Marion Wood (Alaska Winter Stars) was close behind in third.
Hart and Stock skied consistently throughout the race, holding the first and second place split times at both checkpoints out on course.
Stock said she stuck to her strategy which was “to ski consistently and really start going all out once I reached the mens sprint course.”
Her strategy landed her a spot on the podium. Woods went with a different tactic, moving up in the ranks as the race went on.
Racing resumes on Sunday with a 1.4 k classic sprint for the women and a 1.6 k for the men.