Junior Skier of the Year
With the 2018/2019 season officially in the rearview, FasterSkier is running a series of articles highlighting some of the players and performances from the season. This year, the junior skier of the year is Gus Schumacher.
Perhaps it is a testament to the steady growth of U.S. developmental programming or perhaps it is a trickle down effect as Americans see more success on the World Cup level; one thing is clear when you consider the depth of the current field of junior skiers, the future looks bright. Choosing just one athlete to recognize as Junior Skier of the Year was not an easy decision, but the outstanding achievements of Gus Schumacher in 2019 make the 18-year-old USST D-Team member from Anchorage, AK a worthy recipient.
While his performance anchoring the gold medal U20 men’s relay team at Junior Worlds in Lahti was likely the most dramatic and noteworthy result Schumacher earned this season, his achievements extend much further. In fact, there was a major highlight for the Alaska Winter Stars standout each month.
In January’s Senior National Championships, Schumacher took 7th in the 15-kilometer individual start freestyle, 5th in the freestyle sprint, and 4th in the 30 k mass start classic amongst a field of senior men vying for World Cup starts and a spot on the team at World Championships. His results made him the top junior athlete in each race, except for the skate sprint where Noel Keefe took 3rd.
In February, in addition to his relay gold during World Juniors in Lahti, Finland, he placed individually in the top-10 twice with a 6th place finish in the 10 k skate and a 4th in the 30 k classic. He was also 16th in the classic sprint. These results were a significant improvement from his races during the 2018 World Junior Championships where his highest individual result was 15th in the skiathlon.
In March, Schumacher swept Junior Nationals on home turf in Anchorage. Not only did he win each event and anchor the winning relay, but his victories in both distance races, a 10 k skate and a 15 k classic, were won by a margin of roughly a minute each. Because of his results at U.S. Nationals and World Juniors, Schumacher earned his first starts on the World Cup during the final races in Québec City later in the month.
Finally, as the season wound down and April began, Schumacher wrapped up a fantastic season at Super Tour Finals in Presque Isle, ME. He took 8th overall in the freestyle sprint and landed himself on the podium with Simi Hamilton and Erik Bjornsen by taking 3rd in the 15 k classic. While skiing with the lead pack of 50 k racers, Schumacher also cruised to victory in the junior 30 k skate.
Before we wrap this up, we want to give a shout out to Kendall Kramer of Fairbanks who also swept Junior Nationals for U18 women. Kramer was also the top American in the 15 k classic at World Juniors with a 4th place finish, and ended her season in Québec with her first World Cup race starts at just 16-years-old. With results like these, she’ll certainly be in the running for this award in the coming years.