The U.S. and Canada have named their squads for FIS Cross Country World Junior and U23 Championships, set to begin later this month in Goms, Switzerland.
Both countries’ selections include athletes who excelled against the senior fields at recent domestic races (U.S. National Championships and NorAms) which served as selection races for Olympic teams.
In fact, Canada’s U23 women did so well against their senior compatriots that it’s unclear who will represent Canada at the Championships and who will do so at the Games. Anne-Marie Comeau (Université Laval), Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers), and Katherine Stewart-Jones (NTDC Thunder Bay/Nakkertok) were all on the podium in different competitions at Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec, last week at Canadian Olympic Selection Races.
Comeau was second in the 15 k skiathlon and third in the 10 k classic, earning herself a probable Olympic berth when each country’s Olympic quota size is finalized. However, she does not currently have the five sub-100 FIS point races on her resumé which are required to compete in the Olympics.
“Anne-Marie is looking at different options now to find those races in North America,” Cross Country Canada High Performance Director Thomas Holland explained in an email.
Meanwhile, Stewart-Jones is next on the distance ranking list, and could get an Olympic call if Comeau is unable to get those points, or if an additional quota spot opens up after better-ranked countries finalize their rosters. Despite fighting off illness through the race weekend, Stewart-Jones finished second in the 10 k classic at the end of the selection series.
“I know that I have qualified for U23 World Champs,” Stewart-Jones told FasterSkier. “That trip leaves on [January] 15th. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Olympic selection but I will probably not know until the 21st.”
Meanwhile, MacIsaac-Jones was second in the classic sprint final after qualifying fourth in the final, missing taking the open women’s sprint spot for PyeongChang by just one place. That spot went to Cendrine Browne instead, taking her out of the distance rankings and opening the way for Comeau and/or Stewart-Jones.
Some of the men who ended up on Canada’s U23 squad also competed well against the seniors. Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier (CNEPH/Fondeurs-Laurentides) won the men’s classic distance race at the NorAm week, and both he and Olivier Hamel (CNEPH/Skibec) were in the final of the skate sprint. Gareth Williams (Telemark) was on the podium in the 30 k skiathlon, where Philippe Boucher (CNEPH/Skibec) finished fifth.
The U.S squad, meanwhile, is headlined by Hannah Halvorsen (Alaska Pacific University/U.S. Ski Team), Julia Kern (Stratton Mountain School T2/Dartmouth College/U.S. Ski Team), and Hailey Swirbul (University of Alaska Anchorage), who return from last year’s World Juniors medal-winning relay team.
Kern is now a U23, and is competing at the World Cup sprints in Dresden, Germany, this weekend. Back in the U.S., Swirbul finished eighth in the women’s 10 k skate at U.S. Nationals, while Halvorsen was fifth in the skate sprint after qualifying fourth.
Joining Swirbul and Halvorsen on the junior team will be two men who turned heads in the senior races at U.S. Nationals. Gus Schumacher (Alaska Winter Stars) finished sixth overall in the men’s 15 k skate and eighth in the skate sprint. Ben Ogden (Stratton Mountain School) was ninth in the 15 k skate and then qualified fourth in the classic sprint, before finishing the day in 12th overall.
The U.S. U23 team includes Zak Ketterson (Northern Michigan University), who finished just off the podium in fourth in the skate sprint at U.S. Nationals and followed it up with sixth in the classic sprint; Alayna Sonnesyn (University of Vermont), who was eighth in the skate sprint and sixth in the 20 k classic mass start; Lydia Blanchet (Dartmouth College), sixth in the classic sprint; Andrew Egger (Colby College) and Thomas O’Harra (Alaska Pacific University), tenth in the skate and classic sprints, respectively; Bill Harmeyer (University of Vermont), 11th in the skate sprint; Ian Torchia (Northern Michigan University/U.S. Ski Team), 12th in the 30 k classic; and Lauren Jortberg (Dartmouth College), who never finished out of the top 15 in the three senior races she entered at U.S. Nationals.
Luke Jager, Alaska Pacific Nordic Ski Center
Ben Ogden, Stratton Mountain School
Karl Schulz, Univ. of Vermont
Gus Schumacher, Alaska Winter Stars
Canyon Tobin, Alaska Pacific Nordic Ski Center
Hunter Wonders, Alaska Pacific Nordic Ski Center
Antoine Cyr, Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre-Harvey / Skinouk
Félix Longpré, Club Nordique Mont Sainte Anne
Etienne Hébert, Alberta World Cup Academy / Montériski
Graham Ritchie, National Team Development Center Thunder Bay / Big Thunder
Reed Godfrey, Canmore Nordic
Margaret Gellert, Alaska Winter Stars
Hannah Halvorsen, Alaska Pacific Nordic Ski Center / U.S. Ski Team
Kathleen O’Connell, Montana State University
Hannah Rudd, Univ. of Alaska-Anchorage
Sofia Shomento, Dartmouth College
Hailey Swirbul, Univ. of Alaska-Anchorage
Natalie Hynes, Whitehorse
Annika Richardson, National Team Development Center Thunder Bay / Hollyburn
Hannah Mehain, Sovereign Lake Nordic
Catherine Reed-Metayer, Skibec
India McIsaac, Rocky Mountain Racers
Andrew Egger, Colby College
Bill Harmeyer, Univ. of Vermont
Zak Ketterson, Northern Michigan University
Thomas O’Harra, Alaska Pacific Nordic Ski Center
Ian Torchia, Northern Michigan University / U.S. Ski Team
Gareth Williams, Telemark / Canadian National Ski Team
Olivier Hamel, Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre-Harvey / Skibec
Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier, Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre-Harvey / Fondeurs-Laurentides
Alexis Dumas, Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre-Harvey / Skibec
Philippe Boucher, Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre-Harvey / Skibec
Antoine Briand, Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre-Harvey / Skibec
Lydia Blanchet, Dartmouth Ski Team
Lauren Jortberg, Dartmouth Ski Team
Julia Kern, Stratton Mountain School / Dartmouth College / U.S. Ski Team
Nicole Schneider, Northern Michigan University
Anne-Marie Comeau, Université Laval
Maya MacIsaac-Jones, Alberta World Cup Academy / Rocky Mountain Racers
Katherine Stewart-Jones, National Team Development Center Thunder Bay / Nakkertok
Laura Leclair, Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre-Harvey / Chelsea Nordiq
-Chelsea Little and Gerry Furseth contributed