Eight Methow Valley Nordic Team (MVNT) members traveled to Craftsbury, Vermont, on New Year’s Eve to compete in the 2019 U.S National Ski Championships. The races are used to select reams for junior skiers to go to World Junior Championships or on the Scandinavian Cup trip.
The top six in the U18 age class, as ranked in two out of three races, go to the Scandinavian Cup trip in Estonia. The top six juniors overall (U18 and U20, ranked in two out of three races) go to World Junior Championships in Lahti, Finland.
Competition began on Jan. 3 with a classic interval start race — 10 kilometers for the women, 15K for the men. With close to 600 racers, it was a busy day on the trail, MVNT director Leslie Hall reported.
“The men led the day off in the new snow, which made for some messy tracks,” Hall said.
Garrett Butts led the way for the MVNT skiers with a solid ninth place in the U18 class, followed by Travis Grialou finishing 25th among the U18s and Walker Hall taking 47th in that group.
The women were up for their 10K next, with MVNT’s Novie McCabe skiing strongly for a second-place overall junior finish, Hall reported. She was followed by Greta Laesch finishing 22nd in the U18 class, Ella Kuzyk finishing 26th in that group and Hadassah Lurbur finishing 25th in the U20 age group. Gretta Scholz struggled with her healing foot on the uneven tracks but toughed it out for a 52nd place finish in the U18 women, Hall reported.
“This was a good day for Garrett [Butts], who pushed well from start to finish and put himself in a good spot for the team selection,” Hall said. “Novie also set herself up well for the week.”
Jan. 4 featured classic sprint racing, with a morning qualifier in which the skiers tried to finish in the top 30 overall (against all juniors and adults) or in the top 30 juniors (U18/20), Hall said.
“Novie skied great, surprising herself with a 16th-place finish overall in the qualifier, meaning she would advance to the senior heats,” Hall said. “Ella Kuzyk fought hard in her qualifier to be the eighth seed for the Junior heats (six juniors made the top 30 overall, and Ella placed 58th overall in the qualifier); Hadassah Lurbur was 127th overall, Gretta Scholz 146th, and Greta Laesch finished 191st overall.”
“The men’s qualifier was fast and furious with none of our skiers advancing to the heats,” Hall continued, “but Garrett finished 123rd, Walker 134th and Travis 194 in this deep men’s field.”
Hall said that in the subsequent heats, McCabe went out with a tough group of older skiers and made a tactical error to finish at the back of the pack, not advancing beyond the quarterfinal for a 27th overall finish. Kuzyk made it through her quarterfinal in the junior heats with a solid second place. She just missed advancing from her semifinal with a third-place, and ended up seventh overall in the junior heats.
After a day off, Sunday (Jan. 5) featured mass start skate-skiing races. “The adults raced longer-distance mass start events so that left the juniors to battle it out amongst themselves in the 10K for the boys and 7.5K for the girls,” Hall reported, “and 189 junior boys lined up for their mass start with starting positions based on the USSA points of the skiers.”
Walker Hall started in 69th position but was able to move up throughout the race for a 14th-place finish in the junior boys. Garrett Butts placed 37th and Travis Grialou 52nd.
Team selection happened after the race, though there was still a skate sprint scheduled for Jan. 8. McCabe qualified second overall for juniors and was able to choose which trip she would take part of. McCabe opted to head to Finland for the World Junior Championships and will compete there Jan. 20–27.