Olivia Ekblad wearing bib No. 19, right, leads the field en route to her first-place finish in the U18 classic sprint quarterfinal race at the Nordic Junior Nationals in Stowe, Vt., last week. Ekblad advanced to the finals where she placed ninth. Photo courtesy of Leslie Hall

Olivia Ekblad wearing bib No. 19, right, leads the field en route to her first-place finish in the U18 classic sprint quarterfinal race at the Nordic Junior Nationals in Stowe, Vt., last week. Ekblad advanced to the finals where she placed ninth. Photo courtesy of Leslie Hall

By Mike Maltais

The five members of the Methow Valley Nordic Team (MVNT) competing in the week-long Junior National Cross Country Championships in Stowe, Vt., closed out their season with races in the classic sprint, mass start skate and team relay events last weekend.

Taya Delong, Maya Seckinger, Olivia Ekblad, Ella Hall and Claire Waichler competed in the chilly morning classic sprint race qualifiers on March 6 to determine who would make the top 30 finishers and secure a spot in the afternoon quarterfinal heats.

Delong and Seckinger advanced to the quarterfinals with respective 13th- and 15th-place finishes in the U16 qualifier. Ekblad placed 19th in her qualifier among U18 skiers and advanced as well. Hall, 47th, and Waichler, 61st, were eliminated in the U18 qualifier.

“The heats were exciting,” said coach Leslie Hall of the afternoon races.

While Delong and Seckinger were eliminated in their quarterfinals with respective 17th- and 21st-place finishes, “Olivia impressed us all in the U18 category, winning her quarterfinal,” said coach Hall.

The victory advanced Ekblad into the semifinal round, where she placed fourth and qualified for the B final to determine 7th through12th places.

“Olivia’s Pacific Northwest Ski Association [PNSA] teammate from Bend, Emily Hyde, pushed hard in the B final and placed 7th,” Hall said. “Olivia lunged for the line for 8th but ended up 9th. A great day for her.”

Friday was devoted to the mass start skate races. “It was another chilly morning but predicted to warm up rapidly, which made for some on-your-toes waxing for the coaches,” Hall said.

The U18 girls caught the middle of that warming trend and “fared decently,” the coach said.

Ekblad ended up 35th, Waichler moved up from her 67th start spot to place 37th, and Ella Hall finished 60th. In the U16 race, both Seckinger and Delong “were feeling the effects of a week of racing and a bit tired,” Hall said. Delong placed 45th and Seckinger 61st.

The team relay races held Saturday found Delong on the first PNSA U16 team that finished 15th in a field of 21 teams. Seckinger skied the first leg for the second PNSA U16 team that placed 17th out of 21 teams.

Ekblad also led off the opening leg for the first PNSA U18 team. Her team placed 11th of the 23 teams competing. Both Waichler and Ella Hall were on the second PNSA team that placed 13th out of 23 teams.

“All in all it was a decent week for most of the MVNT skiers,” coach Hall said. “They have completed their racing for the season but hopefully came back with some lessons learned and excited to step up the game for the season to come.”