Novie McCabe of the Methow Valley Nordic Team (MVNT) qualified to represent the United States in the Scandinavian Cup races for 15- to 17-year-olds at the U.S. National Championships in Anchorage, Alaska, last week.
McCabe will join five other U.S. team members in Vuokatti, Finland, on Jan. 20-31. She was one of four MVNT members who competed at the Nationals. Also on the trip were Gretta Scholz, Ella Kuzyk and Walker Hall.
Competing in the senior athletes category for spots on the U.S. Olympics team were Methow native Brian Gregg and his wife, Caitlin.
McCabe also qualified to represent the United States in Switzerland in February at the World Junior Championships competition for athletes 19 and younger. Team director Leslie Hall said McCabe opted for the Scandinavian Cup races to compete with athletes in her age group. She recently turned 16.
Three races were used to select the junior teams: a skate distance race (10 kilometers for women, 15K for men); a skate sprint; and a classic mass start distance race (5K/10K). The first event was on Jan. 3, under less-than-ideal conditions, Hall reported. Because it hadn’t snowed recently in Anchorage, the competitors had to race on a 2.5K loop of artificial snow, Hall said. Then a blizzard hit, which brought needed snow but made race conditions challenging, Hall said.
Of the 150 starters for the women, McCabe finished 15th overall and 3rd in the Juniors class. Kuzyk was 64th overall (23rd among the Juniors) and Scholz was 84th overall (32nd in the Juniors class).
“The men followed the women, skiing six laps on the chewed-up course with 178 finishers,” Hall reported. “Walker Hall finished 113th overall (approximately 60th among the 19-and-under group).
The Greggs were vying for top spots to earn points towards the Olympic team. Brian finished 7th and Caitlin 2nd in their fields. MVNT alum Claire Waichler was also in the race, finishing 81st skiing for Colby College.
The 1.4K freestyle sprint was on Jan. 5, with qualifying heats to start the day. Walker Hall finished 129th in his qualifier (56th among the Juniors) and did not advance.
In the field of 145 women, McCabe and Kuzyk advanced but Scholz did not.
Friday, Jan. 5, was the 1.4K freestyle sprint. The top 30 athletes from the qualifier moved on to the heats regardless of age. Then the next 30 skiers under 20 had a junior round of heats. The athletes skied the qualifier as the sun rose at 10 a.m. Alaska time. With 1 91 men competing, Walker Hall finished 129th in his qualifier (56th Junior) so was done for the day.
“Novie won her quarterfinal and was heading for an automatic advance in the semi-final with a solid 2nd-place spot when she and the leader tangled up coming into the finish and neither advanced,” Hall reported. “That still gave Novie a 14th place among the Juniors for that day. Ella skied a strong race in her quarterfinal but was edged out to 3rd place and did not advance, finishing as the 15th junior skier.”
Brian Gregg finished 20th for the day and Caitlin did not compete. Waichler did not advance past the qualifier.
Enough snow had fallen during the Wednesday storm that the Sunday mass start races were held on a 5K course, Hall said. Senior skiers competed in long-distance events: 30K for the men and 20K for the women. Brian Gregg finished in 11th place, while Caitlin took 15th.
McCabe stayed near the front of the Junior girls’ group of 95, and finished 4th. Kuzyk was 22nd and Scholz 29th.
In the Junior boys’ field of 120 racers, Walker Hall finished 33rd.
After the three events, McCabe was ranked 3rd on the list for World Junior Championships and 1st on the list for the Scandinavian Cup trip.
The last race in Anchorage was a classic sprint on Monday (Jan. 8). Brian Gregg placed 25th in the senior men’s event, while Caitlin took 40th place.
Walker Hall and Scholz were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Juniors competition. McCabe and Kuzyk advanced to the finals, where they finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.
This coming weekend is the Spokane junior qualifier, where MVNT members will work for spots on the regional team that will travel to Utah for the Junior National Championships in March. Results from the U.S. Nationals can be found at www.superiortiming.com.
Methow Valley native Sadie Bjornsen is one of the first three women to qualify for a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Cross-Country Skiing Team at the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, North Korea, next month, according to a report on the www.teamusa.org website.
According to the article by reporter Gary R. Blockus, 2014 U.S. Olympians Bjornsen, Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins have qualified for PyeongChang based on their World Cup results in the events that will be contested at the Games. Several more skiers will join the team in the coming month, the report said.
Bjornsen is ranked seventh overall in World Cup standings, according to the teamusa.org report. Her brother Erik, also a 2014 Olympian, is also slated to qualify for PyeongChang based on his World Cup standings.
At the Valle di Fiemmi, Italy, World Cup competition last weekend, Sadie Bjornsen finished 10th in the women’s 10K classic race, and 9th in the 9K pursuit.