In her final year of junior eligibility, Whitehorse skier Natalie Hynes saved her best individual performance for last.
Competing for Canada in her third consecutive Junior World Ski Championships, Hynes finished 24th in the skiathlon race – her top place finish in her three years of world competition.
“I was really happy with where I placed today,” Hynes said in an interview with the Star Thursday from Goms, Switzerland. “I was definitely hoping I could crack the top 25.”
In the 2017 event in Utah, Hynes placed 28th in the skiathlon.
With 65 finishers, Hynes was the top Canadian in the combined classic and free technique race.
Coming out of the classic technique in snowy conditions, Hynes was in 27th spot before the free technique where she had the 19th best time to move up three spots in the overall standings.
“That was probably the tightest mass start I’ve ever participated in. We were only in five tracks and lined up pretty closely,” the University of Alaska Anchorage athlete said of the race. “It was a patient game of just waiting your turn and finding openings and skiing smart at the beginning to work your way through the back to the front.”
Even though she is competing across the ocean, Hynes is surrounded by home at the championships.
Her Yukon ski team head coach Alain Masson made the trip with Team Canada as part of the waxing support team.
She was also joined by two of her teammates from school representing the United States.
“It’s a pretty cool experience. All the way across the world and seeing so many familiar faces,” she said. “It’s really great to have that support system here with me.”
Masson who coached Hynes growing up was able to watch her races and said she had two excellent races, especially considering roadblocks she faced this season.
“She has not been able to race very much this fall, she was sick and had health issues,” Masson said.
Hynes said because she couldn’t train up to her full potential, she was not expecting to qualify for the national team.
“Training was a hit and miss and I went in with no expectations, went in with a lot of drive to do my best,” she said.
And she did just that qualifying in the first race by winning the skiathlon.
Hynes isn’t quite done with her junior career yet. She has one more race Saturday to don the maple leaf on the Canadian relay team.
She will be racing the second classic leg for the team.
In the first race of the championships on Tuesday, Hynes was also the top Canadian finisher in 36th spot in the five-kilometre classic race.
About halfway through the race, Hynes sat in 52nd spot having a much faster second half to move her way up with a final time of 15:29.2.
The second Canadian finisher was Hannah Mehain in a time of 15:52.
With a tough start to the season, Hynes said she is now happy with how her season is progressing and is set to return to her university team continuing their season in the NCAA.
“I’m racing myself into shape. Each race I’m gaining more experience, becoming a little more set for the year and I’m feeling confident where I’m at,” she said.
Hynes said her ski season with the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves will continue through March with the team travelling to competitions in other parts of the country pretty much every weekend.
With her junior career coming to a close, Hynes is ready to look ahead to her next goal – the Canadian Under-23 team – which competes at the same national and world events but in a different division.
“It’s definitely a goal of mine. Going into it I will be the youngest year so I look at it as a shoot for the moon goal,” Hynes said. “There are lots of factors, but I’m looking to make it next year or within the next couple of years.”