American Katharine Ogden (Stratton Mountain School) made the most of her World Junior Championships debut, placing 11th in the women’s 5-kilometer freestyle individual start on Wednesday in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The 17-year-old Stratton Mountain School T2 Team athlete was the top North American skier and finished 24.5 seconds behind winner Victoria Carl of Germany.
Ogden is coming off a U.S. Nationals performance where she placed sixth in the 10 k freestyle and won the juniors’ 5 k classic mass start.
Ogden wrote in an email that her strategy was to ski hard throughout the race and focus on the uphills – where she thought she could make up the most time. Going into the race, she was hoping for a top-20 result but wrote that she did not know what to expect.
“I skied the whole race pretty hard because everyone was saying that the people here go out really hard and keep going really hard,” Ogden explained, adding that she skied alone except when she briefly skied with a Swiss skier who started in front of her.
Ogden wrote that the experience at Junior Worlds has been incredible.
“Everything here is new and exciting and different … I love skiing with all of the people from different countries and learning from them as well as learning from my amazing and talented teammates from the U.S.,” she wrote.
Race-winner Carl skied to a time of 13:26.9 and gapped the field by over five seconds to earn her second victory of worlds. She also won Tuesday’s 1.3 k classic sprint.
“It’s a big and very important moment for me personally and in my career. The day is unbelievable. It’s a very, very big success for me. The course is great! I would also like to thank my coaches and everybody, who supported me today,” she said in a post-race interview with the International Ski Federation (FIS).
Rounding out the women’s podium were two Russians – Anastasia Sedova was 5.3 seconds off pace in second, while Natalia Nepryaeva finished 5.9 seconds behind to take third.
“The course was hard and difficult, but I was well prepared for today’s race. I had some troubles with my legs, but I coped with it,” Sedova told FIS.
Nepryaeva explained to FIS that the course was difficult, but her training at the venue this season was a large factor in her second third-place finish in as many days.
Meanwhile, Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok) led the Canadian women in 25th (+1:05.0)
The race comes a day after Stewart-Jones earned a 19th place performance in Tuesday’s 1.3 k classic sprint. The 19-year-old found success at the international level prior to Kazakhstan. She earned 15th in the freestyle sprint at the 2014 Junior World Championships freestyle sprint in Val di Femme, Italy.
Stewart-Jones wrote in an email that she was happy with the result, especially when recalling a 56th-place finish in the same event at Junior Worlds two years ago.
“I felt a lot better than I thought I would and sort of expected to have to push to keep the same pace during the second half, but that wasn’t the case,” she explained, adding that while coaches were giving her splits she was not focused on her place during the race.
Stewart-Jones maintained a consistent pace throughout the race, as she was also 25th at the 1.7 k split.
Teammate Anne-Marie Comeau (CNEPH/NST) crossed the 1.7 k split in 21st but eventually fell to 39th (+1:23.2). Two fellow Canadians finished back-to-back – Annah Hanthorn (Whitehorse) was 44th (+1:35.8) and Maya Macisaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers/NST) placed 45th (+1:36.6).
American Vivian Hett of North Michigan University (NMU) was right behind in 46th (+1:42.8), followed by two teammates – Kristen Bourne (NMU) in 51st (+1:53.6) and Alayna Sonnesyn (University of Vermont) in 52nd (+2:04.2).
Dumas Cracks Top 30 to Lead North Americans
Russian skiers dominated the men’s 10 k freestyle, snagging the top four places, while Canada’s Alexis Dumas (CNEPH/NST) was the lone North American skier to finish in the top 30. The 19-year-old took 30th, and crossed the line 2:09.3 minutes behind winner Alexey Chervotkin (23:36.4).
Desis Spitsov was 15.9 seconds back from his teammate to take second, while Alexander Bakanov trailed by 34.4 to take third. The Russian trio told FIS that their sweep was indicative of Russian skiing and that they were pleased to share the podium with teammates.
“We are extremely glad to stand on the podium together,” Chervotkin said.
“I’m glad to stand here with my teammates also. I hope the other days of competitions will be successful for the Russian team too,” Bakanov added. His third-place performance comes off a second-place finish in Tuesday’s sprint.
Meanwhile, Dumas wrote in an email that his plan was to start strong, as he is typically a slow starter.
“In an event like World Juniors you cannot afford to be conservative. You have to hammer as hard as you can and if you fade, at least you tried,” he wrote.
Dumas started strong, and was 21st overall at the 1.7 k split. He later faded to 34th after 5 k. He explained that his race went well but he felt there was a potential for a better result, as he felt he could have skied with more speed on the last lap and on the course’s downhill section.
Dumas added that he likes the difficulty of the course along with its long climbs.
“You have to be strong in your head to continue pushing hard. I think I’m good with dealing with the pain and that really helped me today because I definitely felt pain all through my body,” he wrote.
Dumas improved on his results from the 2014 Junior Worlds in Italy, where he finished 60th in the 20 k skiathlon and 46th in the 10 k classic.
“My experience from last year in Val di Femme definitely helped me. I was a lot more confident. Last year, I wasn’t feeling good at all, but I learned a lot and this year I was ready to perform,” he explained.
American Ian Torchia of Northern Michigan University of was the next North American finisher, taking 35th (+2:20.2), and Canada’s Philippe Boucher (CNEPH/NST) was right behind in 40th (+2:24.4). Thomas O’Harra of Alaska Pacific University – who placed 14th overall in Tuesday’s sprint – finished 49th (+2:36.3).
After the sprint was pushed back on Tuesday due to air-quality concerns, the air was clearer on Wednesday, according to Ogden.
She wrote that since the race started at 11 am, the pollution was fairly under control, as the smog remains in the valley and the city of Almaty in the morning before gradually rising into the mountains throughout the day.
“I didn’t notice it during the race, although afterwards I did have a bit of a weird cough,” she added.
Nakkertok Head Coach Kieran Jones wrote an email on Tuesday, “That stuff is out of our control. That’s always been the message — control what you can, and don’t worry about anything else.”
Racing in Kazakstan continues Thursday with the U23 10/15 k freestyle interval starts.
— Chelsea Little and Lander Karath contributed reporting