March 19, 2021
2021 Western Regional Junior Championships in Soldier Hollow, UT by Sophie Corkran
The junior racing season is over! Junior Nationals were canceled this year due to COVID, but luckily the Western Regional Junior Championships were held at Soldier Hollow, Utah, the Nordic skiing venue created for the 2002 Olympics. Junior skiers from all over the West had the opportunity to compete in three final races for the year without having to qualify. Catcher and I were the Teacup skiers that attended. We had a blast racing on the Olympic level courses while wearing the white and blue race suits representing the Pacific Northwest Ski Association (PNSA).
The day before the races began, we previewed the courses. They were similar to the SoHo races in years past, but the first major downhill went over a feature called the terrain park. It stood about 20 feet above the ground with three big rollers. It was easy to lose your balance and almost fall off the side! Some kids even caught air over the last roller. Because the climbs are so difficult in SoHo, we had been hoping that we could recover on the downhills. We weren’t in luck! If anything, the descents took more energy to stay in a tuck and keep from crashing.
For the first event on Thursday, all age groups raced a 1.5k skate sprint qualifier, with the top 30 in each age category moving into the heats. There were grey skies and the course had a couple inches of fresh snow. The day started with a temperature around freezing, eventually warming to 35°. My dad Doug was acting team coach for Karl at SoHo. All teams were required to use the same Swix HS8 glide wax so Doug tested different structure patterns for Catcher’s and my skis with insight from Karl. Doug’s structure tests were successful and we were always seen passing others on the descents!
The classic discipline race on Friday was a 5k for both Catcher and me. The temperature in the morning was 26° and the snow was firm and fast. The sun peaked through once in a while and warmed things up for later. The course consisted of two 2.5k laps with difficult climbs and fast downhills. The wax for the day was klister and Doug, using Karl’s excellent test ladder, was able to find a wax combo that worked. The sun came out for a couple minutes right during Catcher’s race so his grip wasn’t quite right, but the next wax up on the test ladder worked well for me.
On the final day, about 6 inches of new snow fell overnight and was hard packed onto the course. It was again overcast and around freezing. The 5k skate course for the U16s stayed the same as the previous day. U18s and U20s raced together in a 10k skate which had three laps. The course was the same as the 2.5k loop but with an added steep climb and descent. The downhills were especially slick and staying upright proved difficult. In the time between my race and Catcher’s, a snow squall dumped a couple more inches of fresh snow on the course. It let up before Catcher’s race began, but created slow conditions. The structure tools Karl provided were very helpful for Catcher’s skis and both of us passed others on the downhills again.
Catcher had three great races in which he often placed ahead of some of his biggest PNSA competitors. In the skate sprint, he had a bit of a rough start. The snow was choppy and the cue to begin the race was confusing. However, once past the first section, Catcher raced well, finishing only 3.6 seconds away from qualifying for the heats. He placed 40th. In the 5k classic, Catcher paced himself well with very consistent splits for both laps. Although his grip wax gave him some trouble, Catcher stayed strong with his double poling and quickness up the hills. He finished in 39th place. On the last day of racing, Catcher participated in the 5k skate. The conditions were much slower than in the previous races and after two hard days, he felt a bit fatigued. However, he was very strong on the final climb and in the end he felt proud of his effort. Catcher finished 49th in the group of highly competitive boys. After the races had finished, Catcher said that he missed having to qualify in order to attend Nationals. However, he worked hard during the training season and had many great races this year. Without a doubt, he’s a strong competitor against other high-level skiers!
I was very excited to be racing against so many high-level skiers in SoHo once again. In the skate sprint, I felt that I didn’t use enough energy and had a lot left to give. However, my skis were very fast, allowing me to speed past others in a tuck. Despite my lack of effort, I had my best finish of the three events, placing 40th. In the classic 5k, I felt strong on the uphills and had great grip wax. On the first downhill, I ran up on another racer’s skis after calling for the track twice. In a split moment, I had to hop to the right to avoid crashing, and got a bit crossed up. I managed to stay upright and in the end finished in 47th place, feeling that I used my full effort. The last race was my most difficult. I had a good first lap, but just about half way through the race, I ran out of power. I pushed through it and by the last couple of hills on the last lap, I felt my strongest. I powered as hard as I could over the last climb and placed 46th. I was glad that I could race against so many fast skiers and I’m now beginning to form goals to do even better next year.
On the way home from Utah, we stopped at Anthony Lakes ski area. The elevation is about 7,200 feet and there are 30 kilometers of groomed trails. The Elkhorn Crest Highway had been specially groomed that week, so we skated along it until coming to a smaller groomed road. This road then took us to the top of a downhill ski slope. Sporting our nordic gear, we skied back to the main trails alpine style! We got some stares from people on the chairlift wondering why we looked so out of control! The trails at Anthony Lakes have lots of variation in terrain with hard climbs and wicked fast downhills. It’s a great place to ski with excellent grooming so stop by if you get the chance!
This season has been a fun one for the Teacup junior team despite not being able to travel to the JNQ races in Spokane and Methow. Having so many racing opportunities this year has been incredible. Thank you to all of the Teacup board and volunteers as well as MBSEF for putting on such great races this season. Also, we appreciate Harold for taking so much time to groom the Teacup trails so perfectly for the races. Finally, a special thank you to Karl for being the most amazing coach and for his awesome ski prep! I always have a great time at practices and races thanks to him. During the past few years that I've raced for Teacup, I've learned so much from Karl about technique, waxing, and above all how to have fun while skiing. It's been a blast!
It’s always great to see more people skiing on the trails at Teacup so keep getting out there while there’s still snow! Thanks for all of the support this season!
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