The 2015/2016 awards continue, chosen by the FasterSkier staff based on performances from last season. While not scientific, these points of recognition are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review.
Andy Shields, Thunder Bay National Development Centre
One point. That was the difference between the men’s overall NorAm winner and the runner-up of Canada’s Continental Cup circuit this season, and emerging skier Andy Shields came out on top.
The 25-year-old Thunder Bay National Development Centre member — who broke through at the World Cup level with the 30th-fastest time in the men’s 15 k freestyle pursuit at the Ski Tour Canada (STC) in Quebec City — made his international World Cup debut this season. In all, he tallied eight World Cup starts in 2016 (including six stages of the Tour), but it’s what he did on the NorAm that makes him our choice for Continental Cup Skier of the Year.
“It was a pretty good race,” Shields told FasterSkier after the Quebec City pursuit, his second World Cup distance race, in which he placed 65th with the 30th-best time. “The wave start I was in was pretty quick, so I was able to get in the front group with them, and they pulled me along to a really good time on the day. Pretty happy that I’m able to manage that pace.”
Shields started 2015/2016 modestly, with an 11th-place finish in the freestyle sprint at the U.S. SuperTour opener in West Yellowstone, Mont., followed by a 37th place in the 15 k skate the next day.
In the first NorAm of the season in Canmore, Alberta, Shields reached the podium in the classic sprint, placing third behind his NDC teammate Bob Thompson and Patrick Stewart-Jones, of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA), respectively. From there, Shields continued to gain momentum, winning the skate sprint at the next NorAm in Sovereign Lake, B.C., and placing fourth in the 15 k skate race before leaving for nearly a month of World Cup racing in Europe.
Upon returning to Canada in late January, Shields didn’t waste any time jetting to first and second in two NorAm distance races in Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec. He went on to win the 20 k classic mass start at Eastern Canadian Championships, and at Western Championships, he finished in the top six in all four races: placing second in the 20 k classic mass start and third in the classic sprint. After that, Shields packed his bags for the STC, raced six World Cups in nine days, then finished his season at Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. There, he missed the podium in four individual races, but reached the skate sprint final and placed sixth.
Between the men’s NorAm distance and sprint races this past season, Shields was the most consistent — besting Kevin Sandau (AWCA) by the slimmest of margins (1 point) in the men’s overall. Shields was fourth in the overall sprint standings, behind Julien Locke (Black Jack), Bob Thompson (NDC Thunder Bay), and Patrick Stewart-Jones (AWCA), respectively.
Dahria Beatty, Alberta World Cup Academy/Canadian U23 Development Team
The winner of the both the women’s NorAm overall and sprint series, Dahria Beatty dominated from start to finish last season, winning both a distance skate race and classic sprint at the Canmore NorAm opener, then winning four more NorAms before taking part in the STC.
During her first-ever World Cup tour, in which she notched 15th in the Canmore classic sprint, Beatty turned 22. The national U23 development team skier went on to win two out of three individual races she competed in at nationals in her hometown of Whitehorse (winning the 10 k skate and skate sprint, and placing second in the 5 k classic).
For her 15th place — her first individual World Cup top 30 — FasterSkier dubbed her Breakthrough Skier of the Year. For her performances at home in Canada on the NorAm circuit, finishing in the top eight of every race she competed in this season, Beatty is Continental Skier of the Year.
“My ideal goal for this season would be able to crack the top 30 on the World Cup,” Beatty said in December before leaving for Canada’s U25 B-Tour trip in Europe. “That’s a big goal…”
Kevin Sandau, Alberta World Cup Academy
Kevin Sandau’s only 27, but it feels like he’s been at the forefront of Canadian cross-country skiing for a long time. After debating whether he would compete in 2015/2016, Sandau started the winter on a tear, winning back-to-back Canmore distance races in December and remaining undefeated in NorAm distance races until Easterns in early February (where NDC Thunder Bay’s Michael Somppi dethroned him in the 15 k skate).
After that, Sandau never reached the top of the podium again, but he came close in second in the 10 k skate at Westerns (behind Russell Kennedy of Canmore Nordic). At the end of the season, he finished second in the NorAm overall with 724 points, one short of Shields.
On March 26, after placing fifth in his final race of the season (the 50 k classic mass start at nationals), Sandau announced his retirement on Facebook.
“Today marks the end of my racing career. The memories are countless and the experiences beyond amazing. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the past 10+ years,” he wrote. “Thanks so much to all the volunteers, coaches, teammates, skiers, parents, fans and role models for the journey. I’m looking forward to the next chapter and hope it’s as good as the last. KevOut.”
Sandau previously stated that his season-long goal was to qualify and focus on the STC. He did so, placing 43rd overall in the Tour. In his career, he raced 29 World Cups, starting with his first in 2008 in Canmore.
Besides skiing, Sandau brought humor to his ski racing and shared it on social media.
In a prank April Fools’ article on FasterSkier, Sandau played along with the idea that he would be Canada’s next head coach.
“I feel like my practical experience on the domestic circuit and top-50ish on the World Cup is what really sets me apart from the rest,” he jested. “You learn a lot of racing in the back of a World Cup, it’s like the best seat in the house, and you can watch firsthand the whole race as it unfolds, at least for a little bit.”
Cendrine Browne, Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre/U23 Development Team
Second to Beatty by 160 points in the NorAm overall, Cendrine Browne, a 22-year-old member of the Pierre-Harvey Training Centre (CNEPH) in Quebec and national development team, was one of Beatty’s biggest rivals on the circuit.
After placing second to her in the first sprint of the season in Canmore, Browne joined Beatty on the European B-tour trip. She returned to her home trails at MSA to win both the 5 k classic and 10 k freestyle pursuit — but Beatty didn’t race.
“I chose to race because I would have done intensity anyways,” Browne wrote in an email afterward. “The Noram points are also interesting if I win.”
Browne beat Beatty outright in the 10 k freestyle at Easterns, then bested the women’s field by nearly 53 seconds in the 15 k classic mass start at Westerns (ahead of Annika Hicks of Canmore Nordic and Katherine Stewart-Jones of NDC Thunder Bay and the national development team, respectively).
Browne finished the eight-stage STC in 40th overall and placed second to Emily Nishikawa in the season-ending 30 k classic mass start at nationals.