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Sea to Sky Nordics skiers win in Prince George

Pochay-McBain, Lowe snag BC Cup gold

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Sea to Sky Nordics sent just two athletes to a recent BC Cup cross-country event in Prince George, and the duo came home with quite the haul.

Competing in the U16 division, 2005-birthyear Marin Lowe won the 2x3.75-kilometre classic mass start, while winning her age group, finishing fourth overall, in the 800-metre sprint heats. Meanwhile, in the same division, 2004-birthyear Sierra Pochay-McBain won the sprint heats overall and finished second in her age group, fourth overall, in the classic.

It was Pochay-McBain's second consecutive weekend in Prince George as she had attended a biathlon contest in the last weekend of January.

"I had a little bit more experience on the trails. It was some fast snow and nice conditions, so that was good," she said.

Pochay-McBain said she enjoys the sprint heats in particular, as they're not only a thrill, but they allow her to watch her friends competing while she's taking a breather.

"In sprints, you get to battle it out and they go by so fast, but they're so exciting," she said.

Lowe, meanwhile, surprised herself with her mass-start victory, acknowledging that as a trained biathlete, she isn't as well versed in the classic technique. However, with her endurance abilities, she felt strong heading into the final lap and held off the pack.

"I love long-distance racing, so it went really well," she said. "On the second lap, I was ahead and I was in first for the rest of the race.

"I need to pinch myself because this is a dream. It was such a cool experience."

As for the sprints, Lowe said she wasn't the most dominant athlete on the day, but managed to do enough to get to the final, where she came through when it counted.

"In finals, I won, which was pretty surprising because I hadn't been winning the qualifying, quarters or semis," she said. "I had some slip-ups in the previous races before the finals. In the qualifying, I fell going up a hill and in the semis, my basket came off my pole, so those were some hiccups."

Though Lowe still loves biathlon and watches it regularly, she prefers to stick to just skiing when it comes to her own athletic pursuits.

"I didn't have the best relationship in the range. My shooting wasn't the best," she said. "It's a very mental and physical sport."

Pochay-McBain joined biathlon in order to race with more athletes that are roughly her age as several high-achieving Whistler Nordics skiers are now based elsewhere. The additional training has been a boon for her, she said.

"In biathlon, I've been able to at least catch up with my skiing. My shooting is not super great, but I only started biathlon two or three years ago," she said.

While Lowe and Pochay-McBain were the skiers flying the Sea to Sky Nordics flag, the club has established a relationship with Hollyburn Cross-Country Ski Club to lend a hand.

"Hollyburn takes us in and waxes and coaches for us," Pochay-McBain said. "Hollyburn doesn't let us get lonely, for sure. They include us in all their accommodations and we stay with them."

Added Lowe, "We have a very good bond with the athletes. We're kind of like a family. We're all friends and it's really fun."

Next up for Lowe is the BC Winter Games in Fort St. John from Feb. 20 to 23 before provincials in Kelowna and, potentially, nationals in Vernon.

Pochay-McBain, meanwhile, is looking forward to the Coast Outdoors Payak on Feb. 22 before provincials and nationals.

Both athletes hope that the remainder of the season brings more medals and, ideally, spots on the provincial development squad.

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