It’s March 13th and we’re expecting 12-18 inches of snow tomorrow! Madness…..but we’ll take every inch of it.

Kat returned yesterday from US Junior Nationals in Lake Placid with Olivia, Rena, Greg, Nick, Walker and Elliot while Colin made the trek back from Maine where Tanner, TK, Brian and Carl skied for team Vermont in the New England U16 Festival. Here’s a quick synopsis of each event, our results, and some photos.

Lake Placid was awarded the 2017 JN’s when FIS awarded Soldier Hollow, Utah this year’s World Junior and U23 Championships. SoHo had been on tap for JN’s but three big events (Senior Nats were moved to SoHo as well) in one year is just too much for any organizing committee so Lake Placid stepped up to the plate. With half the time an OC usually has to put together an event of this size the ORDA (Olympic Region Development Authority) put together a spectacular week. It helps of course to have a backdrop steeped in Olympic history from both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, but just about everything went off without a hitch.

The hitch, the big one, was Mother Nature. Less than a week before the first races kicked off the entire northeast was dealt a meltdown that left Van Hoevenberg, the Lake Placid nordic ski and sliding sports venue, without enough snow to host JN’s. Luckily their ski jumping and biathlon (summer training) venue has snowmaking and ready to go as backup. Within three days everything was moved (including a giant waxing trailer for each team – so 11 of them) to the new venue and teams arrived on site. The New England team had a very convenient setup, staying just 2 minutes away at the US Olympic Training Center where we had access to not just sleep quarters, but a full dining hall available to our athletes 7am-9pm daily, conference rooms for team meetings and study halls, and their world-class training facilities. The gym (think basketball courts and yoga mats, not weight room) came in very handy during the second half of the race week when weather turned warm/wet and then frigid.

Nick took the Athlete’s Pledge for Team New England at the opening ceremonies.

The schedule featured a skate individual distance event on Monday, classic sprints in balmy temperatures on Wednesday, classic individual distance (changed from mass start due to limited width on the revised race course) on Friday, and closed with skate 3 x 3k relays on Saturday in frigid temperatures with howling wind. The new venue offered a significant climb from the base of the ski jumps up onto the new rollerski loops that have been built as summer training terrain for the US Biathlon team. The longest, a 2.5k loop, was used for the distance courses while a 1.5k version (pretty much just big climbs) was raced for the sprints and relays.

Walker (318) skiing with future Dartmouth teammate Adam Glueck during the skate 10k on Monday.

Rena climbing toward the top of the 2.5k course in Monday’s skate race.

Olivia all smiles at the start of her first Junior Nationals race! 

Olivia striding side-by-side in the sprint heats with NE teammate Laura Appleby who skis for Cambridge Sports Union.

Rena smiling after capturing silver in the classic sprints!

Nick pushing through a snow flurry during the classic 10k.

Greg working hard at the top of the 2.5k course during the classic 10k.

Elliot striding with a pack on his last loop of the classic 10k.

The second lap of the U18 women’s relay on Saturday

Our Gumbies did well, coming home with five All-American (top 10) finishes along with two relay medals (awarded to the top 5 teams in each age group). New England won the Alaskan Cup again (which they are finally considering renaming), beating out Intermountain (athletes from CO, UT, ID, MT) by about 300 points. Full results can be found here.  Lots more photos from Team New England can be found here….enjoy!

Team New England receiving the Alaska Cup at the final awards banquet!

Farmington, Maine played host to this year’s U16 Festival (for kids ages 14 and 15 only), which pits the top 22 boys and 22 girls from each New England state plus New York and a team from the Midwest against one another. Usually it’s four races in three days but this year the sprint event was canceled due to the cold temperature and winds that plagued the east coast on Saturday, March 11. Our Gumbies did well, with one top ten finish in both the 5k skate on Friday and Saturday’s delayed (pushed back to noon due to frigid temps and dangerous windchill) 5k classic. Sunday the racing closed out with a 4 x 3k mixed relay and Carl was lucky enough to be on Vermont’s top relay team which captured first place. Full results from U16s are here.

U16s are the first big team trip that New England juniors can go on where they are expected to travel and race with athletes and coaches that aren’t necessarily from their home clubs. It offers great learning and growth opportunities as a stepping stone to the Junior National or Eastern High School Championships, while also giving the kids a chance to meet racers from further afield.

Carl leading a NY skier in the skate race on Friday.

At U16s starts are traditionally done in waves, with one similarly ranked skier from each team. Here’s TK taking the lead for his wave out of the start in the skate.

Brian pushing hard on his way to a 5th place finish.

Tanner leading his heat before hitting the woods.

March isn’t over yet and we still have more races coming our way. This coming weekend six Gumbies will compete at Mountain Top Resort in Chittenden, VT in the Eastern High School Championships. The final weekend in Vermont plays host to the US Biathlon Championships and the Craftsbury Sprint Fling events. We are hoping to have a few athletes who still have the energy to compete in those events. Stay tuned!

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