Improving as the week progressed, the Intermountain Division buoyed by strong Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation efforts finished third overall in the team race of the USSA Cross Country Junior Nationals at Presque Isle, Maine.
Sloan Storey, 15, highlighted Intermountain's charge with a second-place silver medal finish in Friday's 5-kilometer freestyle race for the J2 (14-15) girls. She was just eight seconds off the winning time of New England's Corey Stock, 15.
Erik Fagerstrom, 19, had SVSEF's other individual podium in third place in OJ men for the 10k freestyle racing.
New England (1,660 points) got 603 points from its core of Older Juniors (ages 18-19) to out-distance Alaska (1,275) with Intermountain (980) coming in third of 10 teams. Showing signs of future promise, Intermountain had 471 of its 980 points in the J2 classes.
All-Americans in Friday's skate races were Storey, Fagerstrom, fourth-place J2 Maggie Williams and seventh-place Daniel Sundali in J1 boys.
Storey and Williams added a podium All-American finish by finishing second in Saturday's J2 relay, and Sundali was third in the relays.
It was a week that started slowly for Intermountain with its long plane trip from the West, plus seven-hour ride from Boston to remote Presque Isle, and also due to full-on Klister conditions for the early-in-the-week classic races.
"We weren't quite ready to go," said SVSEF head coach Rick Kapala about a week that started with a thud in Monday's classic sprint. "But then Sloan and Maggie started to ramp it up, and across the board the guys started to find their form. We came on strong as the week went on.
"Some near-misses early on fueled the fire of the kids to keep going. We got a lot of medals, and the kids are already talking about what they have to do to get ready for next year."
Jump-starting the late-week charge was Annie Pokorny's eight-second triumph in Wednesday's 10k mass start classic for the J1 (16-17) women's class. Pokorny, 17, officially raced for her hometown of Spokane, Wash., but she has been training with the SVSEF this past winter.
"We didn't have the depth of New England, but we stayed healthy allowing us to keep improving," said Kapala. "Saturday's relays were real exciting because we were in the hunt in several of them.
In the J2 girls' relay, Storey and Williams teamed with Anika Miller of McCall's Payette Lakes Ski Team to win the silver 13 seconds off New England's top time. Maggie Williams put down the fastest time in her segment. Storey, Miller and Williams had placed 2-3-4 in Friday's 5k freestyle race just 11 seconds apart.
Here are SVSEF results from Friday's freestyle racing and Saturday's freestyle relays:
JO men, 10k: 1—Sam Tarling (New England) 22:43. 3—Erik Fagerstrom, 19, 23:04 (53 racers). Relays: Fagerstrom on the 6th place team and Scott Schoen on the 13th place team out of 21 in the field.
J1 (ages 16-17) men, 10k: 1—Scott Patterson (Alaska) 22:27. 7—Daniel Sundali, 17, 24:24. 24—Scott Schoen, 17, 25:27. 49—Torin Tucker, 16, 26:26. 71—Will Spiller, 17, 28:19 (84 racers). Relays: Sundali on the 3rd place team and Tucker on the 14th place team out of 24 in an event dominated by Alaska.
J1 women, 5k: 1—Michaela Frias (Steamboat Springs) 13:31. 31—Emily Williams, 16, 14:20. 34—Morgan Atkinson, 16, 14:27 (80 racers). Relays: Williams on the 4th place team and Atkinson on the 17th place team, out of 26 in the total field.
J2 men, 5k: 1—Patrick Caldwell (New England) 11:42. 19—Zachary Lindahl, 15, 12:47. 42—Jackson Long, 15, 13:29 (55 racers). Relays: Lindahl on the 7th place team, Long on the 12th place team out of 18 in the race.
J2 women, 5k: 1—Corey Stock (New England) 13:18. 2—Sloan Storey, 15, 13:26. 4—Maggie Williams, 14, 13:37. 15—Maranda Stopol, 15, 14:10 (55 racers). Relays: Storey and Williams on the 2nd place team with Anika Miller of Payette Lakes, 13 seconds behind the winning New England threesome, and Stopol on the 5th place team out of the 16-team field.
Report from New England's Nordic trails
Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation cross-country ski coach Ashley McQueen wrote this report about the team's recent trip to the New England J2 Championships.
She said, "Kelley Sinnott and I brought 10 Sun Valley J3/J2 cross country skiers across the country to Jackson, N.H. We were there for the New England J2 Championships. This race series brings some of the top J2s from throughout New England—New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York, and Massachusetts.
"We competed as guest team along with Washington and Quebec. Competing as "Team Idaho" we showed up ready to race sporting our handmade camo "IDAHO" headbands.
"Jackson had a low snow year so the trails were very thin, and with temperatures into the high 40s it kept getting thinner. But Jackson XC and a lot of volunteers did a great job of maintaining the trails so the races could continue.
"Friday afternoon we started the J2 Championships off with a 5 km skate race. For most of our J3s this was their first 5 km race, and it was a slushy one. They started in heats of five and powered around the course.
Saturday was a big day for everyone. The morning started off with a 5 km classic race. Ketchum Wilt had a great showing with a 21st place and Haley Montgomery led the Idaho girls with a 36th.
After lunch the kids had a 1 km classic sprint, again Ketchum led the Idaho boys with a 23rd and Haley pacing the girls with a 31st.
After a long, long day of sun, slush and Klister, Team Idaho race-waxed for its final day of competition, the 4x2k medley relay.
Sunday morning brought another beautiful day and 51 teams in a mass start. The format of the relays was great. The first two legs were classic with a boy starting and tagging off to a girl. The third leg was a boy skating and he tagged off to the last girl skating into the finish. Lots of fast hectic fun.
We had one pure Idaho team made up with Ketchum Wilt, Haley Montgomery, Jake Adicoff, and Katie Feldman. They skied strong and Katie won a sprint finish to keep the team in the top 20, finishing 19th.
Kaitlyn Landis, Sarah Williams, Kailey Wilt, Nate Nasvik, and Elana King-Nakaoka were on the two Idaho/Washington teams and Montana Tucker got a chance to work on her French with her new Quebec teammates.
After more sun, slush, and Klister we cleaned our skis and packed up ready to head home.
Of course this came after team Idaho's dance party in the middle of the stadium. In the end Vermont took home the championship with Maine in second and New Hampshire in third.
The Sun Valley group left New Hampshire with a lot of new experiences. They competed in much larger fields than they ever have. Instead of having their one "Klister training day" for the season, they had three days of racing on Klister.
Finally, the group learned that not all snow is dry, fast Idaho snow. Sometimes it is icy, wet and slushy all at the same time. We had a fun trip and a great season."
Boys' 5-kilometer free (105 racers): 1—Sean Doherty (New Hampshire) 12:47.6. 40—Ketchum Wilt 14:47.7. 81—Nate Nasvik 15:54.3. 87—Jake Adicoff 16:06.4.
Girls' 5k free (104 racers): 1—Frederiqu Vezina (Quebec) 14:56.4. 35—Katie Feldman 18:12.2. 38—Haley Montgomery 18:17.5. 50—Kaitlyn Landis 18:39.6. 57—Elana King-Nakaoka 18:49.3. 72—Montana Tucker 19:18.5. 87—Kailey Wilt 20:12.6. 93—Sarah Williams 20:34.0.
Boys' 5k classic (103 racers); 1—Thomas Rabon (Maine) 14:40.5. 21—Ketchum Wilt 16:12.9. 72—Jake Adicoff 18:20.4. 101—Nate Nasvik 20:46.5.
Boys 1.2k classic sprint (106 racers): 1—Thomas Rabon (Maine) 3:27.1. 23—Ketchum Wilt 3:48.1. 74—Jake Adicoff 4:10.2. 106—Nate Nasvik 4:54.9.
Girls 5 km classic (104 racers): 1—Frederiqu Vezina (Quebec) 18:11.4. 36—Haley Montgomery 21:55.9. 51—Kaitlyn Landis 22:51.1. 67—Elana King-Nakaoka 23:43.6. 82—Montana Tucker 24:36.9. 93—Sarah Williams 25:11.1. 96—Kailey Wilt 25:35.6. 100—Katie Feldman 26:38.4.
Girls 1.2 km classic sprint (105 racers): 1 Frederiqu Vezina (Quebec) 3:52.1. 31—Haley Montgomery 4:29.0. 65—Elana King-Nakaoka 4:43.2. 67—Kaitlyn Landis 4:43.8. 74—Sarah Williams 4:48.0. 84—Katie Feldman 4:53.1. 87—Montana Tucker 4:56.3. 101—Kailey Wilt 5:19.7.