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Peiffer strong at U.S. Nationals

Local Nordic skiers enjoy encouraging start to season

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Benita Peiffer was keeping her expectations tempered entering the L.L. Bean U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships in Utah this week.

But even if they were higher, she'd likely have met or exceeded them.

Battling through some challenging conditions in Soldier Hollow, the 16-year-old won her under-18 class in the 7.5-kilometre classic mass start on Jan. 10 to cap off her week of racing.

"I was trying to put myself in a mindset of not comparing myself to anyone, because if I do that going into a race, I psych myself out. Especially going into this big of a group of girls, I don't know any of them, so it was easier for me to go in without expectations. I don't know how good any of them are," she said. "I just go and race how I usually race and hope it goes OK."

Classic is admittedly one of Peiffer's weaker disciplines and because of her biathlon commitments, a style of racing she's barely even had a chance to practice so far this season.

"I'm very weak in my classic skiing and that's something that I need to work on, so the fact that I had good results today means a lot to me and I was happiest with that," she said.

However, Peiffer also took a ninth-place finish in her division in the 10-km skate race. That was a big result as well given it was her first-ever competition of that distance.

"I was kind of scared about how I was going to pace myself, that I was going to go out too hard and then crash, but I reminded myself how I normally race," she said.

Her other race of the competition was the classic sprint, an event she wasn't even expecting to qualify for. Peiffer ultimately was third among the under-18s.

She pulled off the results in some less-than-stellar, not to mention less-than-familiar, conditions. Peiffer sought to minimize the effects of elements she couldn't control and went ahead slicing through them.

"It's been cloudy, snowy, rainy — not what I'm used to at all. Whistler is usually sunny," she said. "There are so many racers going through that the conditions are just so slushy. There were no tracks to ski in whatsoever (on Jan. 10). I'm definitely not used to not skiing in any tracks. The visibility's not great, either.

"I try not to think about it too much. I get super nervous before races, so if I think about anything else, it's going to make me extra nervous and not going to help me. I just try to think about positives and what I can do in the race."

Peiffer will return home for the Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships at Whistler Olympic Park later this month before heading to Slovenia and Czech Republic for International Biathlon Union Junior Cup races.

"I'll be racing at a very high level over there. I'm not expecting to do great over there, but it's an experience that I'll never be able to get (otherwise)," she said.

While Peiffer was in Utah, other members of Whistler Nordics attended the Teck B.C. Cup #1 in Salmon Arm.

In the juvenile girls five-km classic race, Mila Wittenberg took the win, while Michael Murdoch topped the junior boys 7.5-km classic, edging teammate Mads Groeholdt. Joe Davies, meanwhile, placed third in the juvenile boys 7.5-km classic race.

Murdoch was the lone Whistlerite to medal in the sprints, taking second in the one-km free. Davies was third in his age group and sixth overall, while Wittenberg was fifth overall. Groeholdt, meanwhile, took 11th.

Complete results are available online at zone4.ca.

Deadline for Westerns, Teck Coast Cup approaching

Those looking to compete in the upcoming Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships and Teck Coast Cup events must register quickly.

The deadline to sign up for the races, which will take place at Whistler Olympic Park from Jan. 20 to 22, is on Monday, Jan. 16.

Racing options, in order, will be: free technique sprints, classic interval starts and team relays.

There are also volunteer opportunities that still need to be filled.

For more information or to register, visit http://callaghanxcski.ca/events/westerns2017.

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