Methow Valley collegians Novie McCabe and Walker Hall helped push the University of Utah to the Utes’ fourth consecutive NCAA Nordic skiing championship at the 2023 championships in Lake Placid, New York, last weekend.
Hall placed 8th overall in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle sprint and 17th in the 20K classic, but it was his teammate McCabe who stole the headlines, skiing to titles in both the 5K women’s freestyle and 20K classic races.
In the 20K, McCabe crossed the line 19.6 seconds ahead of 2nd-place Hanna Abrahamson of Pac 12 rival Colorado and 21 seconds ahead of fellow Ute and 2022 Olympian Sophia Laukli. She was out front in the mass start race, wearing bib No. 1, right from the start and led the race from wire to wire. Her victory in the 5K sprint, a staggered, interval start, was by 13 seconds over New Hampshire’s Jasmine Collins. Colorado’s Anna-Maria Dietze placed third.
Also in those NCAA championships were Liberty Bell High School graduates and former Methow Valley Nordic skiers Gretta Scholz and Jori Grialou, both qualifying two weeks ago and taking the total of former Mountain Lions in Lake Placid this year to four, the most ever to ski together in a collegiate national championship. Grialou skis for Bowdoin College, Scholz is at Colby College, both in Maine.
Both Scholz and Grialou were back in the pack at the national championships, Grialou placing 33rd in the 20K and 38th in the 5K, Scholz was 36th and 34th, respectively.
McCabe’s double at this year’s NCAAs adds to her 5K title from last year and makes her one of only five women to win three national collegiate championship races, according to the website fasterskier.com. Three women have four wins at the NCAAs, one other has three. McCabe will have a chance in 2024, her senior year, to at least tie the mark of four NCAA Nordic titles, and possibly become the first to claim five titles.
Local kids ski, shoot well in Canada
Six Methow Valley junior biathletes traveled to Kelowna, British Columbia, for their season-culminating event at the Telemark Nordic Centre last weekend. A combination of just-for-fun events were scheduled on Saturday and a more traditional biathlon mass start race took place on Sunday.
In the Sunday mass starts, Lena Decuir and Dylan Sands each won the U-11 class of racing for girls and boys, respectively. Maren Sands brought home 2nd place in the girls’ U-13 division, overcoming some in-race equipment issues, according to coach Betsy Devin-Smith.
“Maren placed 2nd in the U13 mass start race with strong shooting and skiing after having to deal safely on the range with snow stuck in her rifle sight,” said Devin-Smith. “It was a great example that anything can happen in biathlon, so stay strong all the way to the finish.”
DeCuir and Colin Eschbach were noted as top shooters for their accuracy in the Saturday fun events. Thorsen Yahraes and Parker DeSalvo both hit all five targets in a straight bout, which was, apparently, worthy of a chocolate bar for their efforts and skill.
“The Methow Valley’s biathletes came home with lots of awards, evident of a season of improvement from hard work and focus,” Devin-Smith summarized. “They did well and it was the culmination of a great season.”
Another contingent of nine Methow Valley skiers is up in Alaska this week, Monday through Wednesday, at the Junior National Cross Country Championships in Fairbanks. The 7.5K classics were held Monday, the interval freestyle sprints on Tuesday and the mass start freestyle on Wednesday. The Wednesday race has variable distances, 5K for U-16, 10K for U-18 and 15K for U20 racers. Results and a report are expected next week.