FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Alaska and New England each achieved a sweep in the opening girls races at the U.S. Cross Country Junior Nationals ski championships.
Norway, despite owning the day’s most dominant performances, couldn’t quite get a sweep of its own on Monday.
While Norwegian twins Tiril and Lotta Weng blew away the competition in the 5-kilometer interval-start freestyle (with Tiril winning in 14:19.2, more than a minute ahead of the top American), their NTG Lillehammer teammate Lisa Kvamme was nipped by an American in the Junior 1 division. That prevented the Scandinavians from repeating the performance of their male teammates earlier in the day.
But in the Older Junior division, Alaskans Stephanie Kirk, Sarah Freistone and Hannah Boyer ruled the podium.
“All three of us have come back from our colleges,” said Kirk, a freshman at the University of Vermont. “It’s been fun reuniting with friends in the hotel and hanging out, but to be able to reunite on the podium, too, that was just pretty amazing.”
In J2, New England’s Katharine Ogden, Julia Kern and Leah Brams took the top three spots. Ogden, one of the final finishers, snatched victory from defending J2 champion Kern by 1.6 seconds in 15:35.7.
Spectators, athletes and coaches crowded around a large flat-screen monitor that provided near-instant results in the sunlit stadium.
“One of my coaches told me,” Ogden said. “I was so excited because it was a sweep and amazing.”
But the most amazing performances were reserved for the Wengs, who easily bested skiers up to three years older. Tiril Weng was 17.9 seconds faster than sister Lotta’s mark and 1:01 speedier than Kirk, the OJ winner.
“The track was different from Norway,” Tiril Weng said. “The downhill was much more corners. (I had no problem) but it was scary.”
The Wengs are not related to current World Cup standout Heidi Weng but they also seem destined to make a future mark on the international stage.
“Lotta and Tiril are (among) the five best juniors in Norway and they are only 16 years old,” Team Norway head coach Per Ola Gasmann said.
Kirk, who had never before cracked the top 10 at Junior Nationals, was impressed.
“It’s cool that Norwegians could compete with us,” she said. “It kind of also humbles you a little bit knowing that there’s always going to be someone faster, but it also motivates us.”
Alayna Sonnesyn of Midwest (15:20.8) prevented a Norwegian sweep in J1 by skiing 4.5 seconds faster than Norway’s Kvamme.
Because Norwegians are ineligible for medals and team points, Annika Miller of Intermountain was second in J1 in the U.S. standings and Katrin Larusson of Far West placed third.
The younger J1 skiers showed their mettle by tallying six of the first seven spots in the combined J1/OJ results.
“That just shows the future has good potential with all those younguns,” Kirk said.
For more photos from 2013 Junior Nationals, visit bertboyer.zenfolio.com. Proceeds go to the National Nordic Foundation (NNF).