The Methow Valley was well represented at the recent Schutzenski Festival held each year in the Olympic Nordic Venue at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.
The three-day event brings together an elite field of Nordic and biathlon athletes from around the county, with two biathlon races, two roller-ski Nordic races, and trail runs as well.
The event is the culmination of the U.S. Cross Country Ski team’s three-week altitude fall camp, and serves as the trials for the U.S. Biathlon World/IBU Cup first trimester selection. It also provides an opportunity for Juniors to race side-by-side with Olympic athletes.
The Nordic race field featured 2022 Winter Olympian Novie McCabe and U.S. Ski Team member Walker Hall. The biathlon races featured members from U.S. Biathlon Kelsey Dickinson and Eli Nielson and junior biathlete siblings, Aidan and Maren Sands of Mazama.
Friday’s biathlon sprints saw three Methow biathletes on the podium. In the elite women’s competition, Dickinson took 2nd behind Olympian Deedre Irwin. In the open men’s race, Aidan Sands placed 3rd in a large field, while in the open women’s race, Maren Sands took 3rd as well against a much older field. In the elite men’s race, Nielson finish 9th.
Nordic and biathlon were both contested Saturday. McCabe put on a strong race in the 10-kilometer classic race and took 5th place; Hall scratched for the day. The day’s biathlon mass start races brought more medals for Methow athletes. In the elite women’s category, Dickinson placed 2nd again behind Irwin with Nielson finishing 9th in the men’s elite. In the men’s/women’s open 7.5K mass start, Aidan Sands took 1st by nearly a minute; Maren Sands finished 5th.
Sunday races featured skate sprints, with all racers together. “It was pretty cool to be in the start line for my qualifier and see Novie [McCabe] a few spots ahead of me and be surrounded in a race with Olympians,” Maren Sands said. “Being able to go out and race hard and celebrate recovery at the finish line with Novie was awesome.”
McCabe would go on to qualify in 7th place and scratch from the quarterfinals. Maren Sands raced to a 9th qualifier spot and was eliminated in the semi-finals in the junior heats. Aidan Sands would go on to qualify 24th in the men’s overall and was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
This article is based on reporting by Colin Sands.