By Mike Maltais

The Methow Valley Nordic Team (MVNT) and Super Tour stars spent Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 14-15) in Rossland, B.C., where NorAm races for skiers 18 and older took place and the Kootenay Cup featured races for those 18 and under.

The team arrived on Friday (Dec. 13) to get in some practice on the challenging courses.

“They are at the legal limit for a homologated course, meaning it has maximum climb and descent,” said MVNT director Leslie Hall. “That was eye-opening for some of our racers but exciting, too.”

Valley superstars Erik Bjornsen, Sam Naney and Brian and Caitlin Gregg were also on hand competing, according to Hall.

“Saturday was the skate sprint for the NorAm racers which included two Methow Valley Nordic Team members, Maya Seckinger and Olivia Ekblad, who ‘raced up’ [out of their age group],” Hall said.

Seckinger and Ekblad both advanced to the junior quarterfinal but a tough Canadian contingent eliminated them from the competition.

Naney encountered bad luck in his quarterfinal when another skier took him out.

Caitlin Gregg advanced to the final and finished in fourth place but was demoted to sixth after officials determined that Gregg had inadvertently blocked another skier.

Bjornsen edged into his quarterfinal race and went on to win both his semifinal heat and the final.

In Saturday’s Kootenay Cup, Jory Grialou and Dashe McCabe raced in the Peewee age group [8-9 year-olds] and took first and second in that event, Hall said.

Lindsay Worrell won her 10-11 Bantam age group skate race.

Ian DeLong and Travis Grialou had a photo finish at the end of their Bantam sprint race, with DeLong taking the win following a video review of the race. Zane Strome followed in third place.

Novie McCabe was second and Gretta Scholz third in the 12-13 Midget class.

Walker Hall led a pack of MVNT boys and finished third, followed by Peter Aspholm and Emerson Worrell.

Taya DeLong was third and Danielle Mott eighth in the 5K mass start skate for 14-15 Juvenile girls.

Ella Hall out-lunged Claire Waichler for the win in the 16-17 Junior division and Elise Putnam placed fourth.

“Sunday’s event was the classic distance race, a10K for NorAm women and15K for NorAm men,” Hall said, and added that warming weather posed some challenges for the right waxing combination.

“Olivia and Maya again took up the challenge of skiing with the older juniors on a tough course,” Hall said. “They put in a hard effort and ended up 13th and 14th respectively.”

Bjornsen gave the Methow crew something to cheer about after placing fourth in the men’s 15K.

“Brian Gregg ended up 17th and Caitlin Gregg had another strong day hanging with the race leader when she passed and placed fourth in a strong women’s field,” Hall said.

In the Kootenay Cup races for juniors, Jory Grialou and Dashe McCabe ended up second and third in the classic.

Ian DeLong again won the Bantam Peewee category followed by Strome in third and Travis Grialou fifth.

Liv Aspholm won in Bantam girls with Lindsay Worrell fourth.

Novie McCabe celebrated her 12th birthday with a win in the Midgets and Scholz again placed third in the strong field.

Walker Hall placed third in the classic event followed by Emerson Worrell, fourth and Peter Aspholm, fifth.

Taya DeLong finished fourth in Juvenile girls with Danielle Mott seventh.

“Elise Putnam had a great classic race and placed fourth in the Junior girls with Ella Hall in fifth and Claire Waichler in seventh,” Hall said.

“It seems like each of our racers had at least one decent race and some had some struggles,” Hall observed. “Liv Aspholm lost her pole in the mass start on Saturday and, not sure what to do, ended up not competing, a sad but good learning experience.”

“Others had trouble getting by people in the mass start so some tears were shed and more racing enlightenment took place,” Hall said.

Hall added that Sunday’s warmer conditions and tricky waxing frustrated several skiers who “had to deal with snow build-up on their skis.”

The race announcer declared the photo finish between DeLong and Grialou in Saturday’s Bantam sprint the “best of the day.”

In World Cup news, Hall reported that Sadie Bjornsen placed 18th in Sunday’s skate sprint qualifier in Davos, Switzerland, and ended up 27th, good for three more World Cup points.