Moving right along with our Skier of the Year awards, we’re delighted to introduce Junior of the Year for all the talented U19’s out there. The big hypothetical prize goes two outstanding North Americans, U.S. biathlete Sean Doherty and Canadian Anne-Marie Comeau, who have already notched results most seniors would envy, and they haven’t graduated high school yet.
Sean Doherty (Vermont Collegiate Biathlon/Ethan Allen)
It’s a pretty big moment when you grab your nation’s flag and ski across the finish uncontested, and Doherty, a high-school senior, did just that at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Youth and Junior World Championships in January in Obertillach, Austria.
One day after notching silver in the 7.5-kilometer sprint, the 17-year-old from Center Conway, N.H., became the first American to win gold at the Youth and Junior World Championships since Jay Hakkinen in 1997. Despite some early penalties, Doherty collected himself and skied to a nearly 30-second victory in the 10 k pursuit race, soaking up every moment he could.
“It was incredible,” he told FasterSkier after the race. “It was just amazing to know that it was locked up, that I was going to be able to grab the flag at the end, all the stuff that I just see people do at big World Championship type races, and then all of a sudden, wow, I’m going to be able to do that.”
The next day on Jan. 27, Doherty racked up another silver, this time in the 12.5 k individual race, to become the winning-most U.S. biathlete at Youth and Junior World Championships.
Great results and medals are nothing new to Doherty; last year at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, he anchored U.S. biathlon’s mixed relay to its first medal: bronze. After his most recent performances in Obertillach, Doherty appeared in Sport Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd.”
“It was an amazing week,” Doherty told TeamUSA.org. “The best way I could put it is that it was incredible to have all that good racing come together in a week when it really, really counted.”
Anne-Marie Comeau (Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre)
At just 16 years old, this Québec athlete, who shares the same training centre and town (St-Ferréol-les-Neiges) as Canada’s celebrated World Cup skier Alex Harvey, is quickly rising to similar success.
In December, Comeau earned her first World Cup starts in Canmore, Alberta, and made the top 50 in both the 10 k classic mass start and 15 k skiathlon. In the classic race, she was the top junior and second Canadian out of 14 nation’s group women. (Did we mention she’s 16?)
In late January, she ventured to Liberec, Czech Republic, for her second Junior World Ski Championships. There, she was the second Canadian to teammate Frederique Vezina in the 10 k skiathlon, placing 34th despite a crash while Vezina tallied 29th.
Back in Canada, Comeau wowed at Canadian Ski Nationals in March, finishing 11th in two races: the 5 k freestyle and 10 k classic. She wrapped up her season on yet another high note in California, placing 14th – the best of any junior or Canadian – in the U.S. Distance Nationals 30 k classic mass start at Royal Gorge near Truckee.
In recognizing top juniors, we couldn’t go without giving some love to Ben Saxton (F.A.S.T. Performance Training) and Logan Hanneman (Alaska Pacific University).
Both born in June of 1993, these two were neck-and-neck rivals throughout the season, with Hanneman beating him in three races at Junior Nationals, including a photo-finish skate sprint, but Saxton finally edged him in the OJ 15 k classic mass start.
“It was a pretty great feeling to finally come out on top,” Saxton told JN2013Fairbanks.us.
At 19, Saxton achieved fifth at U.S. Nationals in the classic sprint and went on to place 14th at Junior World Ski Championship in the same event. Hanneman, 19, was right behind in 16th in the Junior Worlds classic sprint and nearly made the podium at senior nationals in Midway, Utah, where he was fourth in the freestyle sprint.
“I definitely wanted to make it out of the quarters but the qualifier was so hard … I was just like, ‘Oh, gosh, this is not going to happen,’” Hanneman said at the time. He went on to win the junior 10 k classic mass start in Midway.
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.