The Black Jack ski club pulled off another successful Haywood NorAm and Kootenay Cup event despite a conspicuous lack of snow and a change of venue to the higher-elevation biathlon course.
“It was very good,” said Black Jack Nordic ski coach David Wood. “It was a huge effort by the organizing committee to, let’s say, resurrect the courses.”
An army of volunteers prepared the Biathlon site for competition, buffeting the track with additional snow, until sunny skies and cooler weather did the rest.
“We shovelled and shovelled and shovelled, it was melting, but the temperatures dropped enough on Friday night and the courses actually ended up being quite good.”
Organizers were forced to move this year’s event from the Black Jack ski club to the Biathlon course due the recent Pineapple Express that brought warm weather and rain to the region in the weeks leading up to the NorAm. However, come Friday it was sunshine and blue sky, and Black Jack skier David Palmer said the track was in surprisingly good shape.
“It’s probably in the best condition of any track we’ve raced so far this season,” said Palmer alluding to tough race conditions at the NorAm in Bozeman, Mont. the previous week.
The two-day NorAm event brought close to 300 of North America’s best skiers to the Golden City, with Black Jack skiers looking for good results on their home track.
Black Jack’s Julien Locke was the top Canadian in the sprint qualifier last week in Bozeman, but race organizers had to forego the sprint portion of this weekend’s race, turning it into a three-loop 11-K event.
“The only thing that limited us was the melting snow,” said Wood. “We couldn’t hold the sprint because we lost that part of the course, so that was the only limitation.”
While it didn’t play into Locke’s specialty, for Palmer and Colin Ferrie the change was welcome.
“Distance is more my race,” said Palmer. “So it was fine for me.”
Palmer was the top Black Jack skier in Saturday’s race coming in 17th in the open men’s 11k, while Ferrie was right behind him in 18th. U.S. skier Kris Freeman finished first in both events winning the 11-k classic in 26 minutes 45.9 seconds, almost 50 seconds ahead of fellow American Welly Ramsey, and third-place Michael Somppi of the Lappe Nordic club in Canmore.
On Sunday, Freeman clocked a time of 31:56.5 in the 15-K race beating out Mathew Philip Gelson by 29.7 seconds, and Ben Lustgarten both of Sun Valley, while Somppi came fourth. Ferrie had a great race finishing 10th overall and second among Canadian U23 skiers, while Palmer came in 13th and third among U23.
“For Palmer and Colin and Julien their focus is on making the U23 championship, so right now they are right in the mix,” said Wood.
Up to five skiers will make the Canadian U23 team and the 20-year-old Palmer realizes that, while the competition is fierce, the team has been training since May to prepare for the Jr. And U23 qualification races in Duntroon, Ont. Jan. 8-11, and is ready to make the jump. The Revelstoke native qualified for the Canadian National Jr. Team in January, 2013, and traveled to the Czech Republic to compete at the FIS Nordic World Junior championship.
The World Nordic Jr. and U23 championship will be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan Feb. 2-9.
Black Jack results: Geoffrey Richards finished 30th in the 11-K and the 15k, while Locke had a 36th and 29th place finish and Daniel Merlo finished in 18th in the 11k Jr. Mens. In Junior girls, Sage Robine finished eighth in the 7.5k classic, and ninth in the 3.75-k classic, while Remi Drolet raced to first place finishes in the Juvenile Boys 7.5 and 3.75 races. Michaela McLean came second in the 3.75 classic and fifth in the 7.5 in Juvenile Girls.
Paralympian Brian McKeever raced to eighth in the 15k and 13th in the 11k races.