The Methow Valley’s Jori Grialou placed second in Saturday’s 1.25-kilometer women’s U-18 classic sprint and won the Sunday 10K U-18 freestyle in the Race of the Methow at Liberty Bell High School’s Sean McCabe Trails complex last weekend.
Grialou, a senior at Liberty Bell, placed a close second to Sophia Corkran of Bend, Oregon, crossing the line only 6 seconds back in the 2.5K sprint final. Corkran and Grialou went to the head of the pack of 12 skiers and battled it out to the last 150 meters, when Corkran opened up the lead to the final gap. Methow Valley teammates Stella Scholz and Mariah Lucy placed third and fifth, respectively, in the U-18 class.
Plain’s Adeline Loewen won the U-16 division, placing third overall 10 seconds behind Grialou with a time of 3:54.01. The Methow Valley’s Dashe McCabe hit the line as the U-16 class second-place finisher, and was sixth overall among the 26 skiers.
In the closest finish Sunday, Lucy was in a back-and-forth tug of war with Piper Widmer for about 8K of the 10K race, Lucy on Widmer’s heels for much of the course. As they rounded the final turn and sprinted the final 150 meters to the line, Lucy appeared to gain the lead. Widmer found that little something extra and got her right boot to the line inches ahead of Lucy, and it kept the finish line judges busy for a few minutes reviewing the video and still shots before making a final decision. Widmer crossed the line sixth in 32:52.9, Lucy in seventh place at 32:53.0.
The classic sprint is set on a 1.25K single loop course that winds its way through the Ponderosa pine forest adjacent Liberty Bell, using undulations in the terrain for topographical relief to challenge the racers in their ability to climb hills, descend slopes and negotiate several turns and hairpins, not always on a flat surface. The familiar skating motion of the freestyle event is forbidden in classic. Skiers must keep their skis on the snow and mostly parallel. The course is certified and sanctioned by U.S. Ski and Snowboard for scoring and qualifying season points leading to regional and national competitions.
The Sunday 10K freestyle is eloquent in its simplicity: Skiers line up in a chevron-shaped starting grid according to season performance results, the field starts in one mass start, and the first one to the finish line at the end of four laps around a 2.5K course is the winner.
Meet favorite Derek “Buster” Richardson of Plain swept both men’s U-18 races, taking a 5-second victory in the Saturday 1.25K sprint and pulling away from the lead pack in the last 1,000 meters to a 10-second margin in the 10K freestyle on Sunday.
Locals finish well
Graham Sheley was the Methow Valley’s top finisher in mens’ events, placing fifth in the Saturday sprints and seventh as the lone Methow Valley competitor in the U-18 10K for men on Sunday. Sheley’s twin brother Carter placed 10th in the sprints, but did not ski in the 10K on Sunday. Other Methow finishers in the sprints included U-16 racers Dexter Delaney (10th), Baker Smith (12th) and Emmett Bondi (13th).
The younger divisions, U-14, U-12 and U-10, were highlighted by some notable Methow Valley performances on Saturday in the sprints. In the boys’ U-14, Ben Kaufman and Aidan Sands placed first and second, respectively. Marit Nelson took top honors in the girls’ U-14 race. Nora Bolinger was placed second and Sisu Clark claimed fifth place. Anja Merkens earned the first-place ribbon, Maren Sands was third and Madison Williams placed fourth in the girls’ U-12 division.
Final results for the Sunday freestyle races in the U-14, U-12, and U-10 divisions were not available as of Monday evening.
Nordic Team Director and head coach Sam Naney was impressed and pleased with his team’s performance at the Race of the Methow.
“Graham Sheley fought a great race in the older boys’ 10K,” Naney said. “He was in a battle the whole time with another skier, Catcher Kemmerer, from Teacup (Mt. Hood), swapping leads and trying to drop one another. Graham managed to dig deep and find the speed to win the finishing sprint, a great testament to his fitness at this point in the season.”
Another example Naney offered came out of a younger group of racers in the U-14 girls’ mass start freestyle race. Josie Bollinger got tangled up with another skier and fell to the snow early in the race. She wasn’t going to let that ruin her day and, according to Naney, “popped right back up and pushed hard to the finish, leaving it all out there.”
“Comebacks from something like a big fall take grit. It’s great to see her demonstrating that in her development,” Naney said.