Junior Olympics: Reid, Nelson put Far West Nordic on podium
AUBURN SKI CLUB ” Now this is the kind of weather the Nordic crowd expected to find in the Golden State ” balmy with bluebird skies.
“We all want to move to California,” said Team New England wax technician Justin Beckwith, commenting on the abundant sunshine on Day 2 of the Nordic Junior Olympics.
While the sun warmed the hundreds of junior racers, coaches and fans, Joanne Reid and Bernie Nelson made the home team proud by earning Far West’s first podium finishes of the week.
Reid, who lives in Palo Alto, captured a gold medal in the J1 freestyle race. And she did it in impressive fashion, cruising into the finish of the 10-kilometer race in 31 minutes, 14.51 seconds ” 47 seconds ahead of the next-closest competitor, Elizabeth Guiney of Team Intermountain.
Reid also led the host team with a fourth-place finish in Monday’s sprints, and won gold at last year’s Junior Olympics in Alaska in the classic discipline.
Nelson, who suffered leg cramps en route to a fifth-place finish in the sprints, powered through minor cramps Wednesday to earn a bronze medal in her OJ (older junior) girls freestyle race.
“On the second lap I started having leg issues again, but I told myself, ‘I came this far, I might as well see it through,'” said Nelson, who posted a time of 32:07.87 ” about 29 seconds behind winner Becca Rorabaugh of Alaska.
“I wouldn’t say skating is my strongest style, but I’m glad I pulled it out,” Nelson added.
Russell Kennedy recorded the top finish for the Far West boys, outsprinting two skiers on his heels down the final straight-away to hold on to fourth place in the 15-kilometer J1 boys race. He posted a time of 38:38.43; Scott Patterson of Alaska won in 38:05.97.
“I’m dead, completely dead,” said Kennedy, uttering words in short spurts between laboring breaths after the finish. “I’m very satisfied. It was a good race.”
Kennedy said he knew he had two skiers charging hard behind him on the final stretch, but he had no idea how closely they trailed. When the snow settled, Intermountain skiers Max Durtschi finished 0.10 seconds behind Kennedy and Tanner Wiegand 0.20 back.
“I think it was close, but I didn’t really look back. I just skied as hard as I could,” Kennedy said.
Far West coach Jeff Schloss was among the first to congratulate Kennedy in the finish area, where top skiers from across the country sprawled on the snow in exhaustion.
“That was an awesome race for him,” Schloss said. “It’s been a great day for us.”
Austin Meng of Far West followed Kennedy in 25th with a time of 40:12.32, while teammate Daniel Gelso crossed the line in 28th with a time of 40:18.17.
Far West skier Tom McElravey trailed closely behind, finishing 36th in 40:54.69.
“Today was the race I came for,” McElravey said, “and I definitely did as well as I thought I could.”
In the 5-kilometer J2 girls race, Far West’s Annika Taylor placed 11th in 16:36.15 ” 41.3 second off the winning pace ” and teammate Katrin Larusson was 17th in 16:53.54. Taylor took eighth in Monday’s sprint.
Justin Ondry led Far West in the 5K J2 boys competition, placing 23rd in 15:13.79, while Patrick McElravey took 26th in 15:14.74. Far West’s Angelo Raso (36:07.85) finished 25th in the OJ girls race, and Stefan Benier (41:24.91) was 30th in the OJ boys race.
Far West placed sixth on both days of competition and ranks sixth in the team standings with two races left to go ” the classic on Friday and team relays Saturday.
Intermountain sits atop the overall standings with 618 points, according to official results on the Junior Olympics Web site. New England is second with 601 points, followed by Alaska (562 points), Rocky Mountain (320), Midwest (286) and Far West (144). They are trailed by Pacific Northwest (96 points), Mid Atlantic (45), High Plains (43) and Great Lakes (22).
Several racers and coaches agreed Wednesday that the elevation at Auburn Ski Club ” roughly 7,000 feet ” could take a toll on the racers who live and train at low elevations. Especially with the sprint races already in the bag.
“Oh yeah, it’s huge,” Beckwith, the wax tech from Team New England, said of the elevation and its effect on racers. “The kids have to be careful. Our team from New England typically does better in the sprints. When they get to the distance races they’ll have to be careful about pacing themselves.”
Following in the footsteps of her older brother, Allene Kennedy soon can say she competed not only in the Nordic Junior Olympics, but also its counterpart in the Alpine world.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be tiring, but I’m excited,” said Kennedy, sister of Far West teammate Russell. “It should be really fun.”
After competing as a J2 in the Nordic Junior Olympics at Auburn Ski Club this week, the 14-year-old Truckee freshman will head out to McCall, Idaho, for the Western Region J3 Junior Olympics from March 18 through 22.
The Western Region event will mark her third time competing in the Alpine JOs; this is her first Nordic JOs.
Asked which discipline she prefers, Kennedy quickly settled on Alpine ” the opposite of her brother.
“Probably because the practice isn’t as strenuous. You have to be in shape all year for Nordic, but with Alpine, there are periods of the year that are relaxed,” she said.
Asked about her impression of her first Nordic JOs, Kennedy said she didn’t expect such a festive atmosphere.
“I was thinking it would not be this big,” she said. “These are pretty intense.”