(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Jasper Good, a U.S. Nordic Combined skier, and Annika Taylor, a California native who races for Great Britain.)
Twelfth, 13th, 15th. Those were the top results three Americans posted in Thursday’s competitions — between nordic combined and cross-country — at U23/Junior World Championships in Rasnov, Romania.
Jasper Good, a 19-year-old nordic-combined skier from Steamboat Springs, Colo., raced to 12th in the normal hill/5-kilometer Gundersen, finishing 1:13.3 behind winner Thomas Portyk of the Czech Republic, after starting 1:20 back. Portyk improved from second in the jump to win by 5.1 seconds in 11:01.5 minutes. Germany’s Terence Weber placed second and Estonia’s Kristjan Ilves, the jump leader, finished third (+5.4).
Good jumped to 14th then raced the seventh-fastest 5 k to climb to 12th. On Tuesday at junior worlds, he recorded his career best in his fourth World Championships: 11th in the normal hill/10 k.
“I wanted to put myself in the fight for a top 10 finish and I did that both days so to some degree I am happy with that,” Good wrote in an email on Sunday after the competitions. “Although I really wanted to break the top 10 I am happy as I was able to put two consistent competitions together. Both days were what I would call an accurate portrayal of my average level. I am happy that my average had me finishing in the top 15 on both days but a little disappointed I wasn’t able to have a slightly above average day to get me into the top 10.”
“With all of the challenges we were faced with this week between lack of snow, wind on the jump hill, and an excessive amount of schedule changes I am happy I was still able to move past it and perform when it mattered,” he continued.
In the normal hill/4 x 5 k team event on Friday, Good and fellow Americans Jared Shumate, Stephen Schumann and Ben Loomis placed sixth, about 5 1/2 minutes behind the Austrian winners. According to Good, that was his team-best result at junior worlds.
“I think the fact that our team event rank has been improving every year I have been on the team is a huge testament to the potential coming up in US Nordic Combined!” Good wrote.
He planned to finish the season with two more weekends of Continental Cup competitions.
In Thursday’s individual nordic-combined competition, three Americans followed Good with Koby Vargas in 32nd, Schumann in 38th and Shumate in 44th.
Friday also marked the last day of individual cross-country racing as well, Katharine Ogden of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) and U.S. Ski Team (USST) finished 13th in the junior women’s 10 k freestyle individual start, two days after placing 13th in the 5 k classic. On Thursday, Ogden finished 1:11.4 behind Ebba Andersson of Sweden, the winner in 23:29.8.
Andersson won the 10 k skate (originally scheduled as a skiathlon, but changed before the championships because of low snow) by 29 seconds, ahead of Germany’s Katharina Hennig in second and 32.2 seconds ahead of Norway’s Tiril Udnes Weng in third. The fifth starter, Andersson consistently clocked the fastest splits in the four-lap race. Ogden started sixth and posted times that ranked within the top 15 for most of the race.
“The conditions were fast and icy with a little corn snow built up in some places,” Ogden explained in an email.
The course had frozen overnight, giving it a much different feel than the slow slush athletes had previously raced in this week.
“I struggle a little in faster conditions like that which is why I was focusing on really skiing bigger and getting more power as opposed to my usual fast tempo skiing,” the 18-year-old Vermont native continued. “I had high expectations going into this race and I was initially a little disappointed with how it went result wise. However, I am really psyched that I fought it out and raced as hard as I could in conditions that did not favor my strengths.”
“Katharine Ogden had an awesome day and was consistent in her race today as well as in the results,” USST Development Coach and trip leader Bryan Fish told USSA. “She did a great job holding on to her place throughout the race.”
Also making the top 30 in the junior women’s race, Vivian Hett of Northern Michigan University (NMU) placed 30th (+2:06.3) for her career best in two world championships.
“My goal coming into the competition was to better my results from last year,” Hett, 19, wrote in an email. “I felt like last year didn’t do a great showing of the skier I would like to be and I feel as if I have improved that this year.”
In Rasnov, she achieved her first top 30 after placing 36th in the classic sprint at 2015 junior worlds in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“My main focus today was to pace the race correctly,” Hett explained. “Being from sea level, I like to consider Romania at altitude even though it’s not very high up. We’re at about 3500ft at the race venue and I knew that if I went out too hard, I could possibly burn up. With that being said, it was my goal to ski the first lap smoothly and go from there.”
At the race’s halfway point, her split time ranked 23rd. By 7.5 k, Hett’s time was 25th fastest and she ended up 30th.
“The second half of the race was tough but I kept getting splits that I was in the mid 20s and that kept me firing,” she wrote. “I’m very happy with my results. It’s the best I’ve done at Junior Worlds and it makes all the summer and fall training worth it!”
Also representing the U.S. in the junior women’s race, two other NMU skiers Nicole Schneider and Sarah Bezdicek placed 40th and 46th, respectively.
Canada’s Hannah Mehain finished 54th, Natalie Hynes was 56th and Sadie White 59th.
In the 4 x 2.5 k freestyle relay on Friday, the U.S. junior women raced to eighth, 1:07.3 behind the Swedish winners, and Canada, with two athletes out sick, was unable to field a full team and did not finish.
Julia Kern (SMS/USST) started first for the U.S., putting the team in 12th at the first exchange, 15.3 seconds behind Russia in first.
“Julia had an awesome leg until she tangled with an Italian girl and fell,” Ogden explained in an email on Friday. “She gained back a bit of time but still tagged off in 12th place.”
Ogden raced the fifth-fastest second leg to improve to seventh, 16.4 seconds behind Sweden in first by the second exchange.
“I made up most of the places that I got by utilizing a quick V1 up some of the steeper pitches,” Ogden wrote.
Hett lost one position on the third leg and tagged off in eighth, 45 seconds behind Sweden, and Bezdicek kept the team in eighth through the finish, crossing the line 30 seconds after Italy in seventh.
“Our team was happy with our result,” Ogden explained. “It would have been awesome to have seen what would have happened if Julia hadn’t fallen but then again that’s totally just a part of the game and it happens.”
Sweden won the final race of the championships, with Emma Ribom, Elina Rönnlund, Andersson, and Jenny Solin, in 22:30.7. Norway was just 0.6 seconds away from gold in second place, and Russia finished third, 10.2 seconds behind.
Mehain skied the first leg for Canada, tagging Hynes in ninth, 10.6 seconds behind the leaders. Hynes then came through the second exchange in 12th before the team had to pull out of the race without two more athletes.
In the junior men’s 15 k freestyle on Thursday, Ian Torchia, another NMU Wildcat, raced to 15th for his best result of the week. In two Junior World Championships, it was his second-best individual result after placing 11th in the 20 k skiathlon last year in Almaty.
“Coming into the week I had high goals and after the disappointment of 43rd in the [10 k] classic race I threw that race in the toilet and refocused for the skate,” Torchia wrote in an email.
“My strategy was to try and start out hard but I was missing a little pop today so I was lucky to get a ride off the eventual 6th place Russian Ivan Krillov,” he added. “I stayed on him thanks to my fast boards waxed by Justin Beckwith and the hard working tech crew. After he peeled off for his finish I gave it all I had in the last lap and held onto 15th.”
Torchia finished 1:24.2 behind the winner, Ivan Yakimushkin of Russia, who completed the six-lap race in 31:19.1. Yakimushkin won by 12.2 seconds over Norway’s Mattis Stenshagen in second place, and Russia’s Denis Spitsov was 29.2 seconds back in third.
“I was happy with my performance today as the icy fast power course with short steep climbs did not play to my strengths,” Torchia wrote. “I was originally disappointed with all the changes from a skiathlon to a 20k mass start to a 15k individual start but as a team we all adjusted and dealt with the ‘interesting’ conditions for all the races this week.”
According to Fish, “Ian Torchia did an excellent job in pacing his race and moving up,” he told USSA. “He kept charging hard throughout the race and eventually was able to move all the way up to 15th place, in a very competitive field.”
Joey Foster led Canada in 33rd, 2:22.5 behind the winner, for his best result in his debut junior worlds. Also for Canada, Philippe Boucher placed 39th, Ryan Jackson was 57th and Antoine Blais 61st.
Racing for the U.S., Cully Brown placed 41st, Zak Ketterson was 60th and Leo Hipp 74th.
Norway trounced the junior men’s 4 x 5 k relay on Friday by 47.7 seconds, winning in 43:07.5 with Stenshagen, Vebjørn Hegdal, Jan Thomas Jenssen, and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo.
Russia took silver and France earned bronze, 1:18.2 behind Norway.
The U.S. placed 11th (+3:21.5) with Torchia, Brown, Henry Harmeyer, and Ketterson. Canada finished 15th (+4:29.1) with Boucher, Foster, Blais, and Jackson.
“Scrambling for the relay tomorrow on such a narrow course is going to be hectic,” Torchia predicted on Thursday, adding he was “looking forward to mixing it up with the best.”
He tagged the U.S. in ninth after skiing the first leg, 12 seconds behind Norway in first. Brown held that position but slipped 57.4 seconds behind the leaders (Russia) by the second exchange. Harmeyer lost two places by the final exchange, tagging in 11th and 2:21.8 out of first, and Ketterson remained in 11th through the finish.
Canada opened with Boucher racing to 17th by the first exchange (+1:04.6), then Foster held that position and tagged Blais 2:04.5 out of first. Blais raced the 11th-fastest third leg to bring his team to 15th by the final exchange (+3:10.7) and Jackson kept them in 15th, about 30 seconds away from either 14th or 16th.
In the U23 men’s 15 k freestyle, Paddy Caldwell led the U.S. in 21st and Adam Martin placed 29th for the second-consecutive top 30’s for both Americans.
Caldwell, of the Dartmouth and Stratton ski teams, as well as the USST D-team, finished 1:34.2 behind the winner for his best result of the week.
Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger won it in 31:13.3, while France took second and third with Clement Parisse (+13.3) and Alexandre Pouye (+32.8), respectively.
“Today’s race was my main focus for the week,” Caldwell, 22, wrote in an email. “I had awesome skis out there — big thanks to all the wax techs for getting amazing skis. I did not feel as good as I had hoped out there today, my legs felt heavy and I couldn’t keep the distance pace that I usually aim for. With that the wheels started to come off the last few laps and I fell back quite a bit. I wanted to be up in that top five/ top ten spot but didn’t have it today.”
After posting the sixth-fastest split at 2.5 k, Caldwell’s time stood up as the 12th fastest at 7.5 k, and by 12.5 k, he was down to 20th.
“He went out strong in the beginning and lost a little bit of time in the end, but he still showed a lot of promise in a very deep U23 field,” Fish told USSA.
Caldwell’s career best at a U23 or junior world championship was 10th in the 20 k skiathlon two years ago in Val di Fiemme, Italy. That was at junior worlds; last year at U23’s in Almaty, he placed 15th in the 15 k freestyle and 20th in the 30 k skiathlon.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Caldwell wrote that he’s “Not entirely sure what the rest of the season holds! But I am looking forward to spring series and whatever races I have between now and then!”
On Friday, Matt Liebsch announced that he had earned the final men’s spot for the U.S. at the Ski Tour Canada (STC) — the season-ending World Cups from March 1-12. U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover previously explained in an email that either Liebsch or an outstanding performer at U23’s would earn that final spot.
For Martin, who declined the U.S. team’s offer to compete at STC (instead choosing to focus on NCAA Championships in two weeks), he left U23 World Championships “quite satisfied,” as he considered classic skiing to be his strength.
“I started more aggressively than Tuesday,” Martin wrote on Thursday. “Fortunately, an Italian who was on his first lap caught me on my second lap, and I skied with him until the finish. This helped me dig deeper I think.”
He finished 2:01.6 behind the winner and one-tenth of a second out of 28th.
“Leaving the championships I’m optimistic,” Martin, 21, wrote. “I would really like to qualify again next year and race [at U23 World Championships] in Soldier Hollow.”
In his first world championships, Canada’s Jack Carlyle cracked the top 40 in 32nd (+2:10.4). Also for Canada, Alexis Dumas placed 38th, Scott James Hill was 42nd and Angus Foster finished 72nd.
Akeo Maifeld-Carucci of the Bridger Ski Foundation placed 39th for the U.S. and Kyle Bratrud (CXC) was 43rd.
In the U23 women’s 10 k freestyle, Germany’s Victoria Carl claimed gold by in 23:14.1, 18.9 seconds ahead of Slovenia’s silver medalist Lea Einfalt and 27.1 seconds ahead of Russia’s Anastasia Sedova in third.
A California native and dual citizen of Great Britain, Annika Taylor (Sugar Bowl Academy Elite Team) achieved her first top 30 in two U23 World Championships, placing 30th, 2:06.8 behind the winner.
Taylor, 22, has spent most of the season racing World Cups for Great Britain. She led the British team in Rasnov, with Sarah Hale finishing 40th in Thursday’s 10 k skate. Earlier in the week, Taylor finished 34th in the 10 k classic and 36th in the freestyle sprint.
“I was really looking for a top-20 result at these championships, so I was left wanting more at the end of the week,” Taylor wrote in an email. “At the [World Cup] races in Falun, my body felt really good, most likely indicating a bit of a peak in performance, which then left me tired in the training week leading up to Romania. Although I didn’t achieve my results-based goal for the championships, I still had a few personal ‘wins’ of the week, including racing my 24th race of the 15-16 ski season, marking 4.5 months on the ski-traveling road, and seeing friends from the EISA carnival circuit!
“After 4 years at UNH focusing only on distance racing, this year has been a ‘relearning how to sprint’ year, and I’m excited to get to race a few sprints at the Tour of Canada!” she continued. “I’m also planning on racing Supertour Finals in Craftsbury (as long as my body keeps going after racing 8 races at the T of C).”
Canada’s Frédérique Vézina finished 35th (+2:35.6) for her best result of the week. Americans Felicia Gesior and Kelsey Phinney placed 38th and 39th, respectively, and Heather Mooney was 42nd and Kristen Bourne 44th for the U.S.
Canada occupied 45th through 47th, with Kendra Murray, Alannah Maclean and Sophie Carrier-Laforte, respectively.
“Overall, Romania was a positive and unique experience,” Taylor wrote. “I had so many laughs with my British teammates, shared plenty of hugs with Heather and Kelsey, played with stray dogs, visited Dracula’s castle, and even got a slight face-tan!”
On Saturday, most of the athletes planned to leave Romania. Ogden is headed to Ottawa, Canada, to compete in the eight-stage STC.
“Romania was an awesome experience and I think that I will definitely remember the stunning views of the Transylvanian alps,” Ogden reflected. “And I’ll probably remember all the crazy schedule changes and the heroic effort of the organizing committee to pull off this even with barely any snow.”
- 10 k freestyle
- 15 k freestyle
- 2016 U23/Junior World Championships
- Adam Martin
- Alexandre Pouye
- Anastasia Sedova
- annika taylor
- Bryan Fish
- Clement Parisse
- Denis Spitsov
- Ebba Andersson
- Elina Rönnlund
- Emma Ribom
- Ian Torchia
- Ivan Yakimushkin
- Jan Thomas Jenssen
- Jasper Good
- Jenny Solin
- Johannes Høsflot Klæbo
- Julia Kern
- Katharina Hennig
- katharine ogden
- Kristjan Ilves
- Lea Einfalt
- Mattis Stenshagen
- Paddy Caldwell
- Simen Hegstad Krueger
- Terence Weber
- Thomas Portyk
- Tiril Udnes Weng
- Vebjørn Hegdal
- Victoria Carl
- Vivian Hett
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.