By Mike Maltais

On the heels of an impressive performance at their first junior qualifier event at Leavenworth Jan. 17-18, the Methow Valley Nordic Team’s junior skiers traveled to Mt. Bachelor near Bend, Ore., last Saturday and Sunday for the second in a four-race series of Pacific Northwest Ski Association competitions leading up to the Junior Nationals in March.

MVNT program director and coach Leslie Hall reported that while snow levels at the mountain were “much lower than normal” the venue provided “good skiing and fast conditions.”

Hall added that courses were not only challenging but it was also the first time some of her skiers had ever competed at the higher elevations — 6,000 feet — that Mt. Bachelor presents.

In Saturday’s mass-start skate event, U14 skiers Novie McCabe and Walker Hall finished first in their divisions.

Hall noted that the boys raced so fast that “the organizers were not prepared for them to finish so soon and the lead boys had to dodge spectators and course barriers to get to the finish.”

Claire Waichler won her first ever PNSA qualifier, the 5-kilometer mass start. Ella Hall was a close second, Olivia Ekblad finished fourth and Elise Putnam sixth among U18 girls.

Taya Delong and Danielle Mott placed third and eighth respectively in the U16 division. Jake Harrop was eighth among U20 boys and Geza Sukovaty, competing in his first 10K, placed 19th.

Sunday’s classic race featured a pursuit start, “meaning those that finished first left the starting line first and were chased by all the other racers,” Hall said, adding that “times and awards were based on their actual race time.”

Novie McCabe again placed first in the U14 3K. Walker Hall and Peter Aspholm finished second and third respectively among U14 boys.

The MVNT’s U18 girls had another good day with Ella Hall third, Olivia Ekblad fourth and Elise Putnam fifth. Taya Delong finished third and Danielle Mott fifth among U16 girls. Geza Sukovaty placed 19th in the 10K and Jake Harrop finished fourth among U20 boys.

At this point, halfway through the qualifying series, four MVNT girls — Ella Hall, Ekblad, Waichler and Delong — have qualified in four of a required five races to make the Junior Nationals, and Mott has one qualifier.

Putnam has qualified in two races “but she is focusing on biathlon and will be competing at the National Guard Championships in Vermont while we are there for Junior Nationals,” Hall said. “Then she will travel to Germany for more biathlon racing.”

“Paul Everett will be competing in the biathlon World Juniors so he won’t attend Junior Nationals in Vermont either,” Hall said.

Everett is curently in the Czech Republic for the European U26 Biathlon Championships.

The Methow skiers will be at Soldier Hollow, Utah, Feb. 6-8 for the third PNSA qualifier. The final races will be at Mt. Spokane on Feb. 15-16.