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 – Paige Schember knew her strengths, and they didn’t include sprinting.
Regardless, the St. Olaf College skier and F.A.S.T. Performance Training athlete decided to go for it in the 1.3 kilometer classic sprints at the 2012 Cross Country Junior Nationals on Monday. She held her own and represented the Midwest all the way to the OJ A-final, where Schember continued her gutsy racing.
Trailing Rachel Mason (Great Lakes/Michigan Tech) for the first half of the race, Schember attacked on the up-and-over final climb at Soldier Hollow and cruised ahead to an OJ sprint title in 4:20.25.
Mason was second (+4.02), and Sharmila Ahmed (Midwest/Go Training) was third (+4.65).
In the last race of the nearly eight-hour opening day of competition at Junior Nationals, Schember was the only non-New England winner. In five other races, the eastern team had a champion in every category, from the J2s to the OJ boys.
Without a New Englander in the OJ girls A-final, the race was all about the Midwest. Five of six competitors were from there.
Schember’s F.A.S.T. teammate, Elizabeth Simak finished fourth. Claire Galvin of Go Training was close behind in fifth, and Alice Flanders (Sisu Ski Club) placed sixth.
“It hasn’t even registered yet; I feel so awesome,” Schember said after the race. “That race was so much fun and I’m just in shock.”
That morning, she had been excited to qualify for the heats in 17th.
“I’m not a sprinter. I don’t consider myself one,” she said. “Every race I thought, I’ll just look forward to the next one and take it race by race. If I qualify, I qualify—and then every race was like, ‘Wow,’ so I’m just amazed right now.”
After placing second in her quarterfinal to Simak, Schember won her semifinal ahead of Galvin and Simak, who were second and third, respectively. Mason as the fifth-fastest qualifier won both her quarterfinals and semis.
The top qualifier, Felicia Gesior (GL/Northern Michigan) finished fifth in the B-final and 11th overall. She won her quarterfinal and was fourth behind Schember in the semis.
Overall results (scroll for J1 girls)
Lustgarten Leads New England
In a 1.3 k sprint, there isn’t much time for decisions. So when Eric Lustgarten, a sophomore at St. Lawrence University, forged ahead on the second and final significant climb at Soldier Hollow, he knew there was no turning back.
Previously hanging behind his New England teammates in the A-final, Lustgarten said the pace was relaxed. With five of six racers from New England, it wasn’t rocket science to figure out why. Regardless, Lustgarten chose to push the tempo.
“I realized I either needed to make a move or stick in second on the downhill to catch a draft,” Lustgarten said. “I decided to take it. Skis were perfect, magic skis today, and just finished as fast as I could.”
Lustgarten won the final for the OJ sprint championship in 3:08.15, nearly three seconds ahead of Austin Cobb (NE/Stratton Mountain School), who made up considerable ground from skiing around fifth to finish second (+2.71).
Nick Michaud of the Maine Winter Sports Center was third (+3:23) after passing the only non-New Englander, Sawyer Kesselheim (Intermountain/Bridger Ski Foundation), toward the end of the race.
With Dartmouth’s Silas Talbot in fourth (+3.78), New England swept the top four. Kesselheim finished fifth (+6.73) and Hans Halvorsen (NE/Green Mountain Valley School) was sixth.
Michaud qualified in first earlier on Monday. He went on to place second in the quarterfinals to Kesselheim and second in the semifinals to Lustgarten.
Lustgarten was the fourth-fastest qualifier and placed second in his quarterfinal to Kevin Bolger (IM/Sun Valley). Bolger went on to place second in the B-final after Kyle Bratrud (MW/Minnesota Valley), putting Bratrud in seventh and Bolger in eighth.
Overall results (scroll for J1 boys)
Audrey Mangan contributed reporting.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.