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Far West Nordic skiers fare well at U.S. Nationals

Special to the Sun
Far West Nordic skier Julien Bordes competes in the 15K skate race at U.S. Nationals in Houghton, Mich., earlier this month.
Courtesy Christopher Schmidt |

Far West Nordic was well represented at the recent U.S. Cross Country Skiing Championships in Houghton, Mich., in early January.

Those who competed in Michigan’s frigid Upper Peninsula included Emily Blackmer and Spencer Eusden (Far West Elite Team), Julien Bordes, Aaron Deeter and Dylan Syben (Team Unleashed), Hannah Halvorsen and Brandon Herhusky (Sugar Bowl Academy), and Lizzie Larkins (Auburn Ski Club Training Center).

They joined a group of Far West skiers currently in the college ranks to make up a strong contingent of Californians competing for top honors in the country, including Peter Holmes and Annika Taylor from the University of New Hampshire, Joelle Romo from Montana State University, Bria Riggs and Laurel Fiddler from Bates College, Jacob Volz from Middlebury College, and Shane Christian from Bridger Ski Foundation.

In sub-zero temperatures and heavy snows, the racing series started with a 15K freestyle for men and a 10K for women. Syben was the sixth U18 skier in the race. Halvorsen finished the day as the 11th U18 skier. Blackmer was the 17th senior racer. Bordes was the 19th U18 skier. Deeter was the 27th U20 skier. Herhusky was the 38th U18 skier. And Fiddler was 14th in her age group.

Several former Far West ski racers recorded strong performances as well: Matthew Gelso took fourth overall, Joanne Reid was ninth overall and first in her age group, Fiddler was 14th in her age group and Romo was 38th.

The second race, postponed a day due to the cold weather, snow accumulation and wind chill, was the classic sprints. Halvorsen, qualifying 23rd overall, heated up as the day went on, winning her quarterfinal race, coming in second in her semifinal and capping her already impressive day with a fifth place in the finals. Other top results included Holmes qualifying 12th overall Taylor qualifying 18th overall.

With lighter winds and temperatures holding steady at 3 degrees, the classic distance races kicked off on Thursday. In the 20K women’s race, Blackmer was 16th in her age group, Taylor won her age group and was ninth overall, and Reid was 14th overall and fourth in the U23 age group. In the senior bracket, Eusden raced to 18th and Gelso was seventh in the grueling 30K race. Holmes raced to an impressive

fifth place overall in the Men’s 10K.

Other 10K results included Syben (18th U18), Bordes (32nd U18), Volz (33rd U20) and Christian (39th U20). Late in the day was the women’s 5K race, and Halvorsen had another commanding performance, coming in fourth in her age group and fifth overall. Larkins was 18th for U18s, Fiddler was the 27th U20 and Bria Riggs was the 33rd U20.

The last day of racing was a freestyle sprint race. Halvorsen qualified for the senior sprint heats, advanced to the semifinals and claimed ninth overall. Syben qualified for junior sprint heats, where he took charge and raced to the podium, ending up second overall in the U20 age group (even though he is a U18.) Larkins also made it into the junior sprint heats, racing through the semis to a seventh-place finish. Christain also qualified and raced in the quarterfinal heats. Blackmer was 31st and Spencer Eusden 39th in the qualifier. Reid raced in the semifinals as well.

Halvorsen’s standout performances throughout the week gave her the option of choosing between the World Juniors Competition and her second stint on the U18 team, and she will be heading to the Scandinavian Cup competition in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, in

February. Holmes will race in the World Junior Championships in Kazakhstan, and Reid will race in the U23 World Championships. Taylor qualified to race in the U23 World Championships for Britain, but opted to focus on the NCAAs during her senior year. And as a result of a strong season of racing, Gelso has been named to race on the U.S. Ski Team in the Cross Country World Championships in Sweden this year.


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