The third and final day of the NorAm World Junior/U23 Trials was the individual start freestyle distance race. This format is tactically simpler than the skiathlon and the sprint, but no easier.
Jess Cockney of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) ended up sixth, paying the price for uneven pacing despite feeling good. “I had a bad second lap that really knocked me out of contention,” he wrote in an email. “Other than that it was a good day.”
Graham Nishikawa (AWCA) missed the podium by a second to place fourth, struggling with a shoulder problem that flared up in Saturday’s sprint.
Hometown favourite Michael Somppi (AWCA) didn’t have any trouble, winning the men’s 15km in 36:56.5 at the venue where he grew up. “I felt great out there today,” he wrote. “I’ve had some good feeling all weekend on my skis. Those feelings combined with some frustration at being close to the podium in the previous two races, but not quite making it fueled my desire to win today.”
His plan was simple: “I didn’t worry much about pacing. I just tried to attack the course from the start and hold on at the end as best I could. The hometown cheers and my will to win helped me push when I started to tire.” After leading at each checkpoint, he was able to enjoy the moment, writing “it was awesome to share the podium with my two Canmore room-mates, Russell and Chris.”
Russell Kennedy (AWCA) was second, 24.5 seconds behind Somppi, and the first of the U23 competitors. “I felt real good right from the start,” he wrote. “I knew it was a good course for me and I had to get top U23 to secure a spot for the Liberec trip. It turned out to be the best race of my life. I was a little disappointed with my sprint result but I had finished as 2nd U23 in the pursuit and knew I could make a good weekend great today.”
Thunder Bay’s Chris Hamilton (AWCA) completed the podium, fewer than two seconds behind Kennedy. Graeme Killick took fifth, to complete AWCA’s sweep of the top six places.
In the Junior Men’s 15km race, Raphael Couturier (CNEPH) won for the second time at Lappe, finishing in 38.21.4. That time would have put him 9th in the Open men’s race. David Palmer (Black Jack) placed second, 24.3 seconds behind. Ezekiel Williams (Nakkertok) placed third for his third podium of the weekend, 40.3 seconds behind Couturier.
In the women’s 10km race, Emily Nishikawa (AWCA) finished in 29:01.6 to take her second win of the weekend, her third podium of the weekend, and her eleventh NorAm win. “I felt pretty good today, and I’m really happy with my whole weekend,” she wrote in an email. “Everything went really well, and I’m glad I was able to put together 3 good races in a row.”
Kate Brennan (AWCA) took third, fewer than three seconds behind Roy.
Annika Hicks (AWCA) was the top U23 racer, finishing in 30:00.5 for 7th overall and booking her trip to Liberec for the U23 World Championships.
In the Junior Women’s 10km event, Cendrine Browne (CNEPH) won in 29:08.5. This earned her a ticket to Junior Worlds, joining second place teammate Frederique Vezina who had already qualified. Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok) rounded out the podium, 1:21 behind Browne.
The U23 and Junior competitors now anxiously await the official announcement of the roster for the Liberec trip, expected sometime in the next 48 hours.
The older competitors are headed to Duntroon in two weeks, for the final chance to earn points toward World Championships in Val di Fiemme.
Full results are at zone4.ca.