A cohort of Yukon nordic skiers will be up for the competition of their lives as they begin racing this weekend at the L.L. Bean Cross-Country Ski Championships in Park City, Utah.
The competition doubles as trials for spots on the Canadian junior, under-23 and senior world championships teams.
Yukon’s team: Amanda Thomson, Hannah Jirousek, Hannah Deuling, Caelan McLean, Mira Mason and Michael Kishchuk will take on the best juniors from Canada for spots on the junior team.
“For many of the skiers on the team, this will be the most competitive race of their life,” said team Yukon’s coach Alain Masson.
Natalie Hynes and Marcus Deuling will do double duty, representing both their university team, University of Alaska at Anchorage and the Yukon on their quest to qualify for world championships.
The Yukon team was selected based on results from previous races this season.
The trails at Soldier Hollow, Utah are part of the 2006 Winter Olympics legacy from when the nordic centre hosted the cross-country races.
“The courses are challenging as you would expect as it is a former Olympic venue,” said Masson. “The racing will be challenging for everyone and a great opportunity for the Yukon skiers.”
The Yukon’s national team athletes will also be in attendance.
Thanks to her top-30 performances on the world cup before Christmas, Dahria Beatty has pre-qualified for the USANA FIS Nordic Junior and U-23 World Ski Championships, which will be hosted at the same venue from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5.
“It has been snowing a bunch since we arrived (Wednesday) so it definitely feels more wintery than where I was racing in France and Switzerland,” said Beatty. “The trails seem really nice, they are very hilly and will be tough race courses.
There is a strong and deep women’s field racing here with a good mix of Canadians and Americans so my goal is to go out and race as hard as I can every day and try to fight for that top spot on the results page in each race.”
Knute Johnsgaard, who aged out of the U-23 world championships this year will be racing for a spot on Canada’s senior world championships team. That race is being held in Lahti, Finland from Feb. 21 to Mar. 5.
Johnsgaard said he is feeling confident heading into trials.
“I’ve just come off the world cup where I’m one of the underdogs so it’ll be nice to be one of the favourites again, fighting for the top spot,” he said. “Of course there’s some pressure that comes with that but I’m hoping I can put that aside and just go out and lay down some good races and hope for the best.”
Racing begins this weekend.