Ski Report, Sports

Circosta Skis to Victory at Vermont High School Qualifier

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photo by Eric Hanson
The classic race provided great spectating at Coaches corner as Roy Powers 142 (Mount Mansfield Union) and Frazier Patterson 153 (Champlain Valley Union) head out on course, and another skier from Stratton Mountain School comes down the hill into the finishing lanes after racing 3 km.

CRAFTSBURY – Most of Vermont’s top high school and junior skiers raced in the high school and Under 16 (U16) qualifier race this past Sunday at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

The top 20 high schoolers and top 24 U16s will represent Vermont at the Eastern High School and U16 Championships racing with teams from New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and sometimes New York and groups from the Midwest. The format is challenging with a 3 km classic race in the morning and a 3.4 km freestyle race in the afternoon. This year was especially challenging with 55 F and rain the day before turning the snow to slushy, sugar-like mash by race time. Simply, it’s like skiing up hill in 3-6 inches of loose sand. The skiers gritted it out and everyone was in the same boat.

In the girls’s race, Amelia Circosta of Greensboro, had the fastest classic (8:22) and freestyle (10:47) times of the day. The times of both races were combined to determine the final placing. Beth McIntosh (Middlebury) came in 2nd followed by Gillian Fairfax (Burlington). Craftsbury’s Anika Leahy came in 13th with Isabel Linton 15 (Coventry), Emily Linton 34 (Coventry), Ava Purdy 55 (Wheelock), and Nora Demaine 61. These are overall placements with the high school and U16 skiers combined.

In the boys’ race, Niko Cuneo (Champlain Valley Union) won both the classic (7:41) and freestyle races (9:33) with James Underwood 2nd (Woodstock) and teammate Uva Quinn 3rd. Charlie Kehler skied his first race since last March after sustaining a stress fracture during the running season in November. He placed 19th. Max Demain (Lake Region) was 34, Silas Robins 53 (Cabot), and Oryon Hart 57 (Craftsbury). Hart finished about 15th in the U16 group based on my calculations.

courtesy photo
Jack Young (Jay, Vt.) skis to 5th place in his World Cup quarterfinal in Canmore, Alberta, less than a second behind winner, Elia Barp (25 Italy), Janik Rieble (13 Switzerland), and Jules Chappaz (15 France). Martin Jolkotsky for Fasterskier.

Young Qualifies 11th and Freed is 29th on the World Cup

CANMORE, ALBERTA – Dreams do come true. Twenty-one year old, Jack Young of Jay, Vt., had a few fast races in the past two months, and as a result, the U.S. Ski Team asked him to ski in the sprint races in Canmore, Alberta, this past weekend.

Young grew up skiing and training at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. The U.S. and Canadian teams were allowed to enter five to six extra skiers because of the Cross Country Skiing World Cup races being held in North America for two weeks. With no expectations in his first-ever international racing event, Young skied his heart out and placed 11th in the freestyle sprint qualifier. Yes, 11th among the fastest Norwegians, Swedes, Germans, Italians, and U.S. skiers. He finished half-a-second ahead of the World Cup leader, Harold Ostberg Amundsen of Norway. He finished ahead of U.S. phenom Ben Ogden (currently ranked 4th in the world in sprint racing).

With his top 30 finish, Young then skied in the quarterfinals going head to head with five other skiers, including Amundsen. The sprint course in Canmore is unlike most courses as it has two climbs before a long, fast descent into the finish. The race is almost always won on the downhill, who has the best draft, and who can find the best positioning to slingshot into the lead.

photo by Eric Hanson
Anika Leahy (45) of Craftsbury at the start of the Vermont High School qualifier freestyle race. Nora Demaine (46) of Glover waits 15 seconds for her interval start.

Young skied calmly in the back of the pack, staying out of trouble, and trying to be ready when the lead skiers started charging hard down the hill at over 30 mph. He might have been back a bit too far to stay in contention for a top three finish but he charged from the back missing 4th place by 0.05 seconds behind Amundsen.

Six U.S. skiers finished in the top 30 in the qualifier race, a first in history, but only Ben Ogden would move on to the semi-finals where he had the same fate as Young, just a bit too far back in the homestretch to make the finals.

Julia Kern, the veteran U.S. sprinter, said Young’s result is impressive not just on its own, but also underscores the level of skiing in her home country—and the value of bringing the World Cup circuit to North America, which provides opportunities to new U.S. talents.

“I think there’s a lot of people who, if they were given the chance—that can really just bolster your confidence and help you make that jump,” she said. “It’s so cool to see that the depth is there in the U.S (Fasterskier Feb. 11, 2024)”

Four Craftsbury Green Racing Project (GRP) skiers earned starts for the U.S. team as well. Margie Freed skied to 29th in the 15 km mass start freestyle race with Alex Lawson 36th. I think this is Freed’s first World Cup start. To grab a top 30 in a world cup is a remarkable show of determination and training paying off. Braden Becker finished 45th in the men’s race. Lawson finished 49th and Michaela Keller-Miller placed 54th in the freestyle sprint race. In the third race at Canmore, a 20 classic mass start, Becker placed 53rd. Freed skied to 33rd and Lawson 35th in the women’s 20 km race. I’ll report on the final sprint race in Canmore next week as well as the two upcoming World Cup races to Minneapolis, this next weekend.

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