Editor’s note: Because of space considerations, publication of this story was delayed.
Nine-year old Dylan Sands of the Methow Youth Nordic team won classic and freestyle races on both Feb. 4 and 5 in the U10 category, while Methow Ski youth Wylie Smith, Anja Merkens and Thorsen Yahares each won a race in their age classes at the Race of the Methow on the Sean McCabe Trails at Liberty Bell High School.
The 2023 version of the Race of the Methow was a contrast of conditions over the two-day event. The Saturday classic sprints ran under clear and cool conditions while Sunday’s longer freestyle event was subjected to overnight snow and slightly warmer temperatures, challenging the groomer and coaches to match the track and skis to the divergent surface conditions.
“It’s a whole different waxing situation today,” said Methow Nordic’s Youth Program Coordinator and head coach Sam Naney on Sunday. “What complicates things is the colder dryer snow gets mixed in with the warmer, wetter snow that fell last night when it gets groomed, so getting it just right for the skiers is challenging.”
Still, some great performances were turned in by youth from all over Washington and the Pacific Northwest over the two days. Approximately 145 skiers hit the course for the Saturday classic sprints. Broken into age groups, the youngest athletes, ages 10 and under, raced a single lap on the 1.5-kilometer course, the U14 group skied a 2K course, the U14+ skied a 3K course of two laps, and the U16+ age group skied a 7.5K race.
Top three in the youngsters’ boys class Saturday were Dylan Sands (Methow), Finn Worden (Plain) and Nils Smith (Methow). The girls were led by 1st-place Mara Kessel of Momentum (Seattle), Neva Clark (Methow) and Esme Michels (Plain).
In the 2K classic for U12, Thorsen Yahares (Methow), Xavier Koch (Plain) and Lochlan Werdell (Plain) were the top three boys. Svea Kessel (Plain), Lena Decuir (Methow) and Luella Michels were the top three girls.
The 3K U12+ top honors for girls went to Anja Merkens (Methow); Wylie Smith (Methow) placed 2nd and Sisu Clark placed 3rd. Maren Sands, Ava Burrington and Sammy DeSalvo completed a sweep of the top six spots for the Methow team. In the boys’ race, Jedidiah Stay and Kolston Breaux (both Plain) took 1st and 3rd, respectively; Aaron Pooler of Spokane was the runner-up.
The Methow Valley’s Suzanne King also skied in the 3K event, placing 16th overall and had the fastest adult time in the race. King is a two-time Olympian, skiing in the 1994 (Lillehammer) and 1998 (Nagano) games with Methow Valley coaching staff member Laura McCabe.
In the 7.5 K classic for U16+, Quinten Koch (Plain) had the overall fastest time of 24:42.36, followed by Zach Shockey (Mt. Batchelor, Oregon) and Silas D’Atre (Plain) in the boys’ race. Delaney Jackson (Mt. Batchelor) was the fastest female (28:31), followed by Caroline Menna (Plain) and Bridget Burns (Spokane).
The Sunday freestyle (skate) racing saw just under 145 racers compete under cloudy and somewhat warmer temperatures. In the younger age classes, Dylan Sands made it a double on the weekend, winning the U10 1.5K with a time of 4:54.2. Fairly close on his heels was the top female finisher, Mara Kessel at 5:15.3. Nils Smith and Finn Worden placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively for the boys; Neva Clark and Elsa Williams completed the top three girls.
In the 3K U14+, Jedidiah Stay also doubled for the boys; Kolston Breaux and Aaron Pooler rounded out the top three. In the girls’ race, they were again led by the Olympian Suzanne King, the top three U14 girls were Wylie Smith, followed by Maren Sands and Sammy DeSalvo.
Closing out the weekend with the 7.5K freestyle, Silas D’Atre, Zach Shockey and Quinten Koch were the top three, in order, on the boys’ side while the girls were led by Plain’s Adeline Loewen, followed by Bridget Burns and Delaney Jackson in third. Methow’s Stella Scholz battled Jackson for the 3rd spot for most of the second half of the race, Jackson pulling away in the final 50 meters for the spot on the podium.