FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Hannah Boyer and Logan Hanneman got to experience something rare and special on Tuesday: a clinching anchor leg on their home trails for a national championship.
Boyer, a Fairbanks native now skiing at Northern Michigan University, and Hanneman, who competes across town for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, each helped Team Alaska win gold in the Older Junior divisions of the 3X3-kilometer classic sprint at Birch Hill Recreation Area.
And they did so in front of family and friends on the trails they’ve been skiing since they were kids.
“It was pretty awesome,” Boyer said.
Teammates Celia Haering and Stephanie Kirk made Boyer’s job easier by springing her to a 37-second lead over the nearest OJ team, though there were closer J1 squads in pursuit and the Norwegian guest J1 team ahead.
“Normally I don’t have a big gap like that,” Boyer said, adding that she nevertheless felt a bit of pressure to hold the advantage.
And being ahead isn’t exactly a cakewalk.
“It’s definitely more challenging when you can’t tell what’s going on behind,” Boyer said.
Boyer wound up 1:16 ahead of runner-up Intermountain. Rocky Mountain edged Alaska #3 for the bronze medal.
The boys race was much closer, with Alaska’s Forrest Mahlen, Vanya Rybkin and Hanneman topping Team Midwest by almost 13 seconds in 28:00.6.
Midwest anchor Ben Saxton actually skied 18 seconds faster than Hanneman but inherited too large of a deficit to catch him.
“We wanted to give (Hanneman) as much leeway as possible on that third leg,” said Mahlen, adding that Hanneman wasn’t on fresh legs after competing at the recent NCAA Skiing Championships.
Alaska also had extra motivation to topple the Norwegian J1 guest squad.
“We definitely wanted to beat the Norwegians. They kind of showed us up yesterday,” said Mahlen, who participated in the Norwegian Junior Championships last month.
Alaska accomplished that mission as Norway finished in 28:13.1.
But Saxton, the Midwest anchor, left disappointed as he was outlunged by Norwegian anchor Mattis Stenshagen by .1 seconds. Stenshagen came from behind, changed lanes in the final 10 meters and nipped Saxton in a photo finish.
“I put a hurt into him on that last uphill,” said Saxton, who also made the trip to Norwegian Juniors and got to know Stenshagen there. “(But) I let up on the homestretch. I thought I had a bigger lead. … That’s a lesson I’m not going to forget.”
For more photos from 2013 Junior Nationals, visit bertboyer.zenfolio.com. Proceeds go to the National Nordic Foundation (NNF).