Minnesotan Jessie Diggins led a four-member American contingent with her second-place finish in the 30-kilometer freestyle Nordic skating event to close out the Winter Olympics Games in Beijing last weekend.
The U.S. team placed all of its skiers in the top 20 of the 65-skier field. Rosie Brennan of Alaska finished in 6th place, Sophia Laukli placed 15th and Mazama’s Novie McCabe crossed the line in 18th place, in a pack just 1.3 seconds behind Laukli. No other country had all four skiers in the top 20.
Norway’s Therese Johaug took the gold medal, covering the 18-mile race in 1:24:54.0. Diggins was one minute and 43 seconds behind and Kerttu Niskanen of Finland earned the bronze at 1:27:27.3. Laukli and McCabe are teammates at the University of Utah when they aren’t out on the World Tour.
It was the third event for McCabe, skiing in her first Olympics at the age of 20. She placed 24th in the 98-skier 10K classic, and skied a very strong third freestyle leg of the 4x5K relay for the U.S. team of Hailey Swirbul, Brennan, McCabe and Diggins. The U.S. women placed sixth.
McCabe has returned to the University of Utah and was scheduled to sit in on a Zoom press conference at the Salt Lake campus Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 22).
Juniors ski at National Qualifier
Winthrop’s Jori Grialou doubled as the first-place winner in both the U-18 girls’ Saturday freestyle sprints and Sunday 5K classic races at the Spokane Nordic Cup on Feb. 19-20 at Mount Spokane State Park.
The Methow Valley Nordic Team’s Mariah Lucy placed 4th and Stella Scholz 6th in the U-18 sprints. Lucy claimed another 4th-place finish, and Scholz moved up to 5th, in the Sunday classic 5K.
In the girls’ U-16 division, Dashe McCabe finished 4th in the Saturday sprints and moved up to 3rd in the Sunday 5K classic.
On the boys’ side in the U-18 division, Saturday’s sprints found Graham Sheley placing 8th and twin brother Carter in 9th. In Sunday’s classic, Carter took 9th and Graham placed 12th. Dexter Delaney and Emmett Bondi each skied in the U-16 division on Saturday, placing 13th and 15th, respectively. Sunday’s classic saw them in 7th and 17th, respectively.
Each of the above skiers has qualified for Junior Nationals, according to Program Director and Coach Sam Naney.
“We had seven skiers qualify for Junior Nationals,” Naney said. “Emmet Bondi was named as first alternate for the U-16 boys, which is a great accomplishment for him as a first-year U-16 and his first foray into this higher level of racing.”
In the younger divisions, Aidan Sands and Marit Nelson each came away with wins in the U-14 classic 3K races on Sunday. On Saturday, the sprints saw wins by Maren Sands, Marit Nelson, Dylan Sands and Aidan Sands.
Naney pointed toward Wylie Smith as having a particularly good race on Sunday, but she also managed a 3rd place finish in the U-14 sprints on Saturday, just ahead of teammate Nora Bolinger.
Nils Smith got 3rd-place in the U-10 sprints, as did Thorsen Yahraes in the U-12 sprints.
The Junior National Championships for ages 14-20 are scheduled for March 6-12 in Minneapolis. Minnesota.