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 – As Corey Stock glanced up Hermod’s Hill, the grueling climb at Soldier Hollow made famous by the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics, she thought about the three racers in front of her.
The 17-year-old from New England couldn’t get over how good they looked.
That’s Stock for you. After winning eight Junior Nationals titles, including Wednesday’s J1 10-kilometer freestyle mass start, she still shifts the focus to others.
Yes, she caught up to Sloan Storey (IM/Sun Valley), Marion Woods (AK/Alaska Winter Stars) and Emily Hannah (RM/Steamboat Springs) on that hill and took a permanent lead.
Yes, hills are one of her strengths, which is partly why the Cambridge Sports Union skier has achieved two titles in as many races at the 2012 Cross Country Junior Nationals.
But Stock, who won Wednesday’s mass start in 29:20.6, said she went into the race without expectations. Initially second then fourth by the second of two laps, she hoped she get back in the mix.
“They had a gap on me for a lot of it so I was just trying to stay as close to them as I could,” Stock said. “But it was really cool watching them. They’re such strong climbers.”
Stock finished 6.3 seconds ahead of Storey, who was second after leading most of the last climb. Four girls converged at the bottom of the hill, and Storey started them up it.
“Corey Stock caught back up to the lead group and then I decided to try to go for it,” Storey said. “They all stayed along and it was just a fight all the way until the finish.”
As the two met near the top of Hermod’s Hill, named after the course’s Norwegian designer Hermod Bjorkestol, Stock took off.
“I realized I needed to start making a move to stay on the podium,” Storey said.
Unable to catch Stock, she successfully held off Woods by 0.9 seconds. Woods finished third (+7.2).
Smiling after the race, Stock, who won Monday’s classic sprint, talked about how much she liked the course and the girls she raced against.
“It was a great race,” Stock said. “It was a really hard one, but it was really fun. Really fun.”
Hannah finished fourth (+12.5) after mostly skiing in second. Sarah Freistone (AK/Alaska Nordic Racing) was fifth, Jesse Knori (IM/Sun Valley) was sixth, and Canadian Maya McIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers) placed seventh.
Kelsey Phinney (RM/Boulder Nordic) was eighth, Margaret Pope (IM/Sun Valley) was ninth and Rachel Hampton (RM/Durango Nordic) was 10th.
Caldwell Breaks Away
Paddy Caldwell knew exactly who was trailing him and by how much in the J1 boys 10 k freestyle mass start on Wednesday. Hearing splits from his New England coaches throughout the race, Caldwell was aware of his 5- to 10-second gap as he neared the end of the first loop.
With one lap to go and four New England teammates working together behind him, Caldwell (Stratton Mountain School) said he had a surge of inspiration.
He not only felt good; he knew was setting the pace for a potential team sweep.
“Coming through the lap lane, I started to put the hammer down and really pushed through the transitions as much as I could,” Caldwell said.
His skis proved they were fast as he rode them to the front of the pack on a gradual downhill before a massive climb. On the backside of Hermod’s Hill – the Whale’s Tail – he soared ahead and decided to keep pushing the pace.
With four kilometers to go, Caldwell heard four of his teammates were about 20 seconds behind him. That was great news, he thought, and soon Caldwell was 30- to 45- seconds ahead.
He crossed the finish line in 24:39.3, nearly 30 seconds ahead of anyone else. For Caldwell, it was his second individual victory at Junior Nationals and third including a relay.
“It’s huge,” Caldwell said. “It’s been a long season and this is championship time, and it’s really fun and exciting to have it all come together.”
Behind him, Eli Hoenig led a pack of New Englanders to the finish. Hoenig (Cambridge Sports Union) was second (+27.9), Fabián Stocek (NE/Holderness) was third (+28.2), and two others on the team – Sean Doherty (Mt. Washington) and Gino Pastore (Stratton) – rounded out the top five.
Monday’s classic sprint winner, Hoenig said it was a great feeling to be part of a New England sweep. On Tuesday night, he said one of their coaches told them to work cohesively if they found themselves in a pack ahead of the 80-plus racers.
While they were a chase pack of their own, the four maintained the momentum in an effort to catch Caldwell, switching the lead every 500 yards or so.
“We might have been slowly gaining, but we were definitely slowly breaking away from the pack,” Hoenig said.
Unsure if they’d close the gap, they tried anyway. On the final downhill, Hoenig as the group’s leader realized he needed to work for second.
“I thought [Stocek] was gonna shake-and-bake me, like, slingshot ahead,” Hoenig said. “It was a close one.”
After Doherty (+39.6) and Pastore (+41.6), Cal Deline of RM/SSC Vail finished sixth (+1:07.4). Jackson Hill (RM/Summit Nordic) was seventh, Max Scrimgeour (RM/Steamboat Springs) was eighth, Patrick McElravey (FW/Auburn) was ninth and Christian Shanley (RM/SSC Vail) was 10th.
Audrey Mangan contributed reporting.
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) 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.