Michael Murdoch overcame a challenging field to top the 30-kilometre men's race at Sigge's P'ayakentsut at Whistler Olympic Park on Feb. 24.
On a day where over 600 racers strapped up their Nordic skis, the 18-year-old Whistlerite edged Whistler Nordic Development Centre (WNDC) biathlete Kieran Marchand by 55.3 seconds and Telemark's Fran Vukonic by five minutes, 27.5 seconds (5:27.5) to secure the victory.
"It was definitely a lot of fun and nice to have a little cash bonus at the end," he said.
Murdoch expressed confidence in his sprinting ability, which paid off at the end, even if some other elements of his strategy didn't take shape earlier in the race.
"I tried to take the lead at the start and tried to slow down the pace. There were guys that I knew, and I knew I could take them in a sprint in the end," Murdoch said. "But a biathlete from WNDC (Marchand) took the lead and started picking up the pace a little bit, so we stuck behind him for a little while. Eventually, it was just me and him after a lap and a bit, battling it out, switching spots for the lead.
"Eventually, I pushed him a little harder and dropped him on a flat just before the last couple of hills."
Murdoch feels the win will help him gain some confidence heading into nationals, as he raced in higher divisions for much of the season.
"At the start of the year, I was feeling really good and got a little tired mid-season with a busy schedule," he said. "I've been training pretty hard but I'm going to take a rest week coming up and then get ready for nationals."
In the women's 30-km event, Haley Batten ran away with the win, with Whistler's Barbara Turner taking second and Hollyburn's Freya Orban placing third.
In the 50-km main event, Telemark's Greg Kilroy raced to the victory over Brian May of Larch Hills and Tomas Caslavsky. On the women's side, Nikka Kassel emerged ahead of Kamila Borutova and UBC's Andrea Lee.
As for the 15-km events, Hollyburn's Ragan Ross won the 18-plus race over teammate Emily Young and Alison Beamish. Hollyburn also emerged on the men's side, with Marcus Laube edging out Matthias Jakob and Mark Kanson.
There were also a number of youth that raced the 15-km event. In the 16 and 17 event, Joe Davies was the lone competitor on the men's side, while Grace Fetherstonhaugh knocked off Kallie Welter and Victoria Aarre on the women's side. In the 13-to-15 category, Sea to Sky Nordics' Marin Lowe topped the race over Hollyburn's Linnea Uunila and Maude Molgat. Hollyburn swept the men's side, as Reese Critchlow came in first ahead of Ryan Goodwin and Dustin Hay.
Meanwhile, Paralympian Ethan Hess of Pemberton was the lone competitor in the 10-km sit-ski division, while Maya Jonas was the lone competitor in the 15-km female para-standing event.
Full results are online at zone4.ca.