Black Jack cross country racers do not disappoint at provincials

Eleven months of training is starting to come to the fore for the Black Jack Ski Club’s race skiers.

Eleven months of training is starting to come to the fore for the Black Jack Ski Club’s race skiers, with six medals mined at the 2012 B.C. Championships in Salmon Arm last weekend.

The championships are the first test of the intensive training the racers undergo in their season, and for some of the older skiers it is an important part of their preparation for nationals.

But for younger racers like Daniel Merlo, said Black Jack coach Dave Wood, it is another step in their development since he is still too young for nationals.

Merlo — who will compete this week at the B.C. Winter Games in Vernon — won the midget boys five kilometre classic event with a time of 17:09.6, nearly 21 seconds ahead of his nearest competition.

“He is in good shape right now and skiing well,” said Wood. “But I think, overall, people are doing well. We’re coming into the time of the year when we’re getting ready for the national championships … and you know how people are training and how they are going to do. People are doing as expected.”

Sage Robin and Michaela MacLean are also expected to compete in the Winter Games. The next week seven of the club’s older skiers will be in Soldier Hollow, Utah, for the U.S. Junior Championships, March 5-9.

“It’s a chance for competition against new people,” said Wood.

That will lead up to the Canadian National Junior Championships March 17-24 in Quebec City’s Mont Tremblant.

Saturday at the Larch Hills Ski Area in Salmon Arm was warm, slowing the course conditions. Even still, the Black Jack skiers who were expected to do well did, said Wood.

“There were no surprises … and it didn’t slow anyone down,” he said.

In the junior girls seven km. classic, Jillian Reynolds and Susanne Fraser finished second and third, respectively, coming in 28 seconds apart and 40 seconds off the first place pace of 26:17.9.

Shawn Degroot was third in the junior boys 10 km. classic, missing the top spot by 31.3 seconds with a 31:50.1 time.

In the junior male 15 km. classic, Peter Locke and David Palmer finished second and third, Locke narrowly missing top spot by 17.9 seconds, while Palmer was 27.9 seconds back at 46:41.2. Julien Locke missed the medals in fourth coming in 2:57.7 off the pace.

A stomach bug for the relays on Sunday meant they had mixed or unofficial teams, with only Palmer and Julien Locke winning silver in the 3.5 km. free relay.