All 2012 Cross Country Junior Nationals coverage is brought to you through the generous support of The Memory Clinic, in Bennington, Vt., committed to caring for the mind since 1987. Currently conducting clinical research on the Alzheimer’s disease vaccine.
MIDWAY, Utah — Prior to the final day of racing at Junior Nationals, Rocky Mountain had yet to claim a gold medal. But when they win, they win in a big way, and took both the J1 and OJ boys’ titles 3×3 k relay. Both age classes started together, making for a crowded race, but at the end Rocky Mountain’s J1 anchor, Max Scrimgeour (Steamboat Springs WSC) had beaten all 47 other J1 and OJ teams to the line, clocking in at 16:43.6. New England took second, a mere 0.3 seconds behind, and the Midwest came home with the bronze (+9.3).
It was a mark of just how fast the 3 k relay course was that the top boys only took five-and-a-half minutes to ski it, and the speed played to Rocky Mountain’s advantage. The distance was essentially an extended sprint, and as skiers who race on the trails at Soldier Hollow throughout the winter, Scrimgeour, Cal Deline (Ski and Snowboard Club Vail) and Christian Shanley (SSCV) were no strangers to the fast, tactical racing.
The scramble leg was so tight that the top ten teams made the first exchange within thirteen seconds of each other.
“For the transitions, there were so many people, so looking around for your partner was like, ‘Oh, there he is!’” said Shanley, Rocky Mountain’s middle leg.
The winning team used words like “crazy,” “energetic,” and “super hectic” to describe the relay.
Deline, Rocky Mountain’s scrambler, said he “didn’t get the best start,” but after moving his way through the lead group, was able to stay with them and put Shanley in the second position at the tag, less than two seconds behind Midwest 3.
Shanley knew he had to catch the skiers in front of him, and put his head down on the climb out of the hollow to move up in the pack.
By the time the second legs reached the bottom of Hermod’s Hill, the top skiers were all still OJs. But by the tag-off, New England’s J1 had taken the lead and sent its anchor, Paddy Caldwell, out with the entire field chasing him.
Scrimgeour was the third J1 at the final tag-off, and though got boxed in at the bottom of Hermod’s, a gap then opened up on the climb and he took it.
“I just went for it,” said Scrimgeour. When he came into view of the stadium at the front, it was still anyone’s race. But he outsprinted Caldwell and his own Rocky Mountain OJ teammate to the finish.
“I think we were definitely thinking we could win J1, but I wasn’t thinking overall,” said Scrimgeour.
A gleeful hoard of Rocky Mountain athletes and coaches met Scrimgeour and his teammates at the finish for congratulatory high-fives. Their victory was made all the sweeter by the fact that the OJ boys’ team of Charlie Von Thaden (SSWSC), Mike Vigers (SSCV) and Tucker McCrerey (Summit NSC) had also won their class for Rocky Mountain.
As the scramble, Von Thaden started off faster than his J1 counterpart.
“I got off pretty fast—I was in third around the first hairpin,” he said. “Then I think the draft pushed everyone in front of me, and then it was a mad scramble up Hermod’s.”
Despite its steep pitch, the leaders all V2ed up that final wall of a climb. The relay course only went partway up Hermod’s — skiers were less tired at the top and carried incredible speed down the whale’s tail descent back down to the stadium.
Von Thaden tagged off to Vigers, who skied the second-fastest OJ middle leg of the day. Hermod’s was again where Rocky Mountain moved up, and Vigers moved them into sixth — still right with the lead pack.
When McCrerey took off for the anchor leg, “it was still anybody’s game,” he said. A group of about seven skiers were all within striking distance going into the final climb.
He sprinted over the top of Hermod’s, cruised back down, and when he came into the stadium nearly lost the race.
“I almost got tangled up again at the finish, but I was able to stay on my feet and take the win,” said McCrerey.
Asked if they knew they could win the relay, McCrerey said the Colorado trio had been working towards it all season long, ever since they made the November trip to West Yellowstone, Montana.
“That was the goal from the beginning,” he said.
Complete relay results (scroll for J1/OJ boys).
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.