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XC stars turn out to race slushy Quebec nationals

Whistler racers solid in youth categories



Within a day of celebrating their final World Cup medals of the seasons — five in the last two weeks — the national cross-country team was on a plane to Quebec to compete at nationals at Mont Sainte Anne. They arrived jet-lagged and a day late, but ready to race.

Despite the slushy conditions that cancelled alpine and freestyle ski events last week, the organizers managed to stage all of the cross-country races as planned.

In the opening race, Ida Sargent of the U.S. took the 5km classic race, followed by Canadians Perianne Jones and Emily Nishikawa.

In the men's 10km classic the win went to Ivan Babikov, followed by Erik Carleton and Michael Somppi. Colin Abbott from the Callaghan Valley Training Centre, one of four high-performance athlete development centres in Canada, was 16th, Jeffrey Kerkovius 28th and Martin Schrama 30th to round out the top 30.

The next day Emily Nishikawa took the win in the women's 10km freestyle, followed by Alysson Marshall and Ranghild Haga of Norway. Perianne Jones was the third Canadian.

Alex Harvey won the men's 15km freestyle race, followed by Ivan Babikov. Devon Kershaw was third in that race, despite breaking a pole.

For Harvey, who grew up just minutes away, it was like coming home.

"It was hard out there because the snow was soft, but it was super fun," said Harvey. "I heard my name lots throughout the course and it was just so much fun to be racing here at home at the nationals.

"I am really happy that all of the World Cup team was able to make it here this year. It is super important. I remember the first time I saw Beckie Scott and Sara Renner it was at nationals in Carlo, New Brunswick. I was so excited to see them that I missed my start time by 10 seconds."

From Whistler, Geoffrey Richards posted a 12th place result. With Americans and a French racer in the group he was the ninth-fastest Canadian. Thomsen D'Hont was 18th.

Chandra Crawford won the women's freestyle sprint race, followed by teammate Daria Gaiazova and American Jennie Bender.

Alex Harvey picked up his second national title in the men's sprint, followed by Devon Kershaw. Philip Widmer placed third, edging out two-time World Cup medallist Len Valjas in the final. Colin Abbott was 18th and Thomsen D'Hont 25th in an event where only the top 30 qualified for the heats.

In the women's 30km classic mass start race it was Crawford on top once again, followed by Norwegian skiers Britt Ingunn Nydal and Ragnhild Haga. Daria Gaiazova and Perianne Jones were second and third for the Canadians.

In the men's 50km classic mass start the event was a tie between Kershaw and Harvey, who finished over two-and-a-half minutes ahead of their competitors in 2:14:45. Ivan Babikov was third in 2:17:13.

Colin Abbott, who won the 50km Sigge's P'ayakentsut in Whistler earlier this month, was ninth overall. Thomsen D'Hont was 27th.

As well as the open men's and women's categories, several young skiers from Whistler made the trip to compete in their age groups.

None of the Whistler athletes took part in the team sprint, but their frequent competitors at Hollyburn did. Lucas Putnam-Rea and Fred Weaver combined for first overall in the Challenge Boys category.

In the individual classic, Whistler's Austin Reith placed 47th out of 80 racers in Juvenile Boys 1. In Juvenile Girls 1, Lauren Doak was 39th and Jenya Nordin 46th.

Lauren Doak exploded in the women's freeski race, placing 10th overall out of 41 racers and five seconds back of the top six. Jenya Nordin was 35th.

Austin Reith improved to 18th out of 80 in the boys' race, half a minute back of the top 10.

In the junior sprints, Reith improved to 12th overall. Nordin was 16th and Lauren Doak 29th.

In the final classic race, Reith was 17th, Nordin 16th and Doak 35th.